Book Review: The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson

Book Review: The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson is a cute little book, only 117 pages, but it is full of ideas for helping you let go of the stuff in your house before you die. It is not meant to be morbid, it is meant to be helpful if you are someone who is planning on cleaning out your house.

This book was written from the perspective of a woman who says she is somewhere between 80 to 100 years old. She did not want to leave a mess for her children to clean up when she died so she started the process of “death cleaning.” She suggests that if you don’t want to get rid of the item, at least leave a little note behind that lets the people that are cleaning out your house, know that this item was special to you.

Here’s what I took away from reading the book:

  • Don’t leave a lot of stuff for your kids to go through after you have passed on.
  • It’s your stuff, so it’s your responsibility to donate or throw away stuff you don’t need.
  • Don’t do this under pressure, do it before you get too old or disabled.
  • Know that this is not a fast process.
  • Death cleaning is a time to reconcile with the past and then to let it go.
  • Give stuff to people only if they want it.
  • Don’t start with the photos, personal mail or something that has a lot of emotional attachment.
  • Create a “throw away” box for your personal memories that you want to keep. Label the box “throw away after my death” because it has things that will have no meaning to anyone else but you. This is a box that you can revisit and enjoy.
  • Throw away anything you don’t want anyone to find. You don’t want to shock or upset your family.

If you are an adult child who needs to bring this topic up with a family member, she has a whole section on how to discuss the topic of death cleaning. This will give you a polite and nice way of introducing cleaning out the relative’s space. Or give them the book.

I highly recommend this book if you are an adult child and have parents or family members whose estates you will be responsible for after their passing. I think this book gives a great understanding of how the older generation feels about their stuff and getting rid of it.

I also enjoyed the book because I am not ready to down size, but it did give me some great things to think about as I am decluttering my own house. The “throw away” box is something that I can definitely start now.

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