Throughout this Fall, I will be reviewing two books that have greatly helped me in my own downsizing before a move and rightsizing to enjoy my current home. The first is the international best seller The Gentle Art of Swedish Death-Cleaning: How to Free Yourself from a Lifetime of Clutter (2018) by Swedish artist Margareta Magnusson.

I love the title!  The phrase "Death-Cleaning” can be startling!  Magnusson presents us with a stark reminder of the inevitable — that someone at sometime is going to have to go through our stuff! Magnusson describes the Swedish term döstädning which translates as death-cleaning, a common act among older Swedes to clear their own homes as much as possible throughout their later years and before death.  

However, Magnusson’s döstädning is significantly softened by the earlier part of her title: "The Gentle Art". Death-Clearing is not a frenzy of high-paced downsizing on a negotiated weekend when family members can gather. Rather, it is a methodical, thoughtful activity — that’s the “gentle" in the art — that occurs as an ordinary, every day job for the rest of our lives interspersed with enjoying ourselves as much as possible with all that we like to do.  

This pacing allows each person engaged in the art to remember the meaning of items in our collections, to consider who they might provide value to now, to pass them on, or keep them for awhile longer. Magnusson brings Swedish humour and wisdom to a brief 117 pages. This book can be read in an afternoon and is available in public libraries. There are 21 copies in the Saskatchewan Library system! 

Magnusson describes herself as being somewhere between ages 80 and 100 yet suggests that this gentle act could be started at any age. Those readers who fit into an older age category know what has happened over the decades. We spend the first half of our life accumulating and the second half distributing what we have collected!

Magnusson encourages us to take hold of our situation now so that cleaning out doesn’t destroy or harm our relationships with those we leave behind who need to clear out our stuff. Another book I will review later this Fall sees the value in having one’s children or friends do the cleaning after our deaths. The two approaches are very different.

I love this gentle book and recommend it highly!