Not intended to be depressing, this guide helps clear the junk for future generations.
For anyone who somehow missed out on Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” a Swedish author “between the age of 80 and 100” has come out with her own take on the subject.
In “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning,” Margareta Magnusson uses a dry, unsentimental and sometimes dark Scandinavian sense of humor, and writes with an older set (and their younger relatives) in mind.
“Aging is not for weaklings,” she says. “That is why you should not wait too long to start your downsizing. Sooner or later you will have your own infirmities, and then it is damn nice to enjoy the things you can still manage to do without the burden of too many things to look after and too many messes to organize.”
“Death cleaning” is translated literally from Swedish (“doestaedning”). Magnusson says it’s a de-cluttering tradition generally undertaken by those 65 and older. The purpose is to streamline your belongings while you’re still healthy enough to do the job — thus saving relatives the difficult task of sorting through them after you’re gone.
The concept, she writes, “is not sad at all,” and can be uplifting and rewarding. The focus is not so much on keeping what “sparks joy,” as Kondo advises, but on finding the right homes for beloved possessions so they can spark joy for someone else.
The diminutive book — complete with playful drawings by the author, a professional artist — meanders from subject to subject like a conversation over tea with a friend. It addresses how to approach “death cleaning,” how to encourage an elderly family member to do so, what to keep when downsizing, and even how to arrange the furniture in a smaller space once you do.
Magnusson says she has done “death cleaning” for parents, in-laws, friends, and, after her husband died, for herself. She downsized from a five-bedroom house in the country to a two-bedroom apartment in Stockholm.
“To do your own death cleaning can really be very hard,” she admits, quickly adding, “I have death cleaned so many times for others, I’ll be damned if someone else has to death clean after me.”