I finally got hold of the book, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson and here is my review.
The book is very gentle in tone and leaves the message that “death cleaning” can be started at any age and the sooner the better. Death cleaning being the sorting and organizing process to cull, reduce, recycle and discard your worldly possessions.
Margareta continually describes herself as between the age of eighty to one hundred. Initially, I found this very endearing at the onset but rather repetitive towards the end. The author has moved internationally many times and has performed the process of sorting and reducing many times during her life journey.
Her approach is very toned down and “gentle”. This is a good book for professional organizers to recommend to their clients over 50. Margareta looks at death cleaning as an opportunity to spare your relatives and others from difficult decisions and the actual hard work of clearing out your stuff.
Margareta does bring the traditional gender roles attitude towards death cleaning – believing it to be more of a woman’s job than a man. I think we can forgive her for this since she is between eighty and a hundred years of age. However, I think she understands this is changing with the younger generation.
In the latter part of the book, she discusses written communications, photographs and even digital communications. Margareta says “Although our belongings can bring memories to life, it becomes much more difficult with photographs and written words. She asks “Will anyone I know be happier if I save this?”. If she answers no, then it goes into the shredder. However, before it gets shredded she takes time to reflect on the even or feeling to know that it has been part of her story and life.
Having just spent several months, working on compiling my father’s memoirs, I have some mixed feelings about waiting to sort photographs and letters. I’d like to suggest we put some time aside, perhaps in the cooler weather months for sorting photographs and letters as a middle age project instead of at the very end of our life or when in the elder years. The volume of letters and photographs are still extensive in the pre-digital age. There is an abundance of treasures for family history or genealogy waiting to be gleaned. Waiting too long means the potential loss of valuable information.
The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning is the book to help you get motivated to start your cleaning and help save your loved ones their own precious time to take care of stuff you do not want anymore.