The art of dostadning

Cover of The Gentle Art of Swedish Death
A review of The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnusson

The title of this book might put you off, but the topic is real and it is important. There is a kind of decluttering in Sweden called dostadning. Do means "death" and stadning means "cleaning." The author, Margareta Magnusson, suggests ways in which we can prepare our homes and possessions to make the most of them while we are still living and to ease the burden on others after we have died. She promotes minimalist living and choosing clothing, furniture and artifacts with care, especially as we age.

This book offers super practical advice in an extremely diplomatic manner. There is a realistic approach to start this conversation with family and polite methods to give away items you no longer need or accept that other plans must be made. If nobody in your family wants your dining room table, for example, somebody else will. Sell it, donate it, leave it on the curb. It will get used.  

The author also encourages the reader to think about the surprises that might be left behind. Magnusson, who describes herself as between 80-100 years old, lived through times that are very different from today. Her father was a medical doctor during war times when there was a real fear of enemy invasion and what that might mean. A large piece of wrapped arsenic was uncovered by Magnusson while death cleaning her father's belongings that needed to be disposed of. Goodness! What exactly do you do with something like that? You, too, might have items in your possession that could be hurtful or harmful to your family if they uncovered them unexpectedly. It's something to think about. And it's never too late to get started. Magnusson reassures her readers of that. 

There may be times in your life, as well, when you are regularly dealing with the belongings of others, for a wide variety of reasons not related to death, including those of your spouse, your children, and items from your parents and other relatives. Magnusson offers general tips for decluttering as a foundation for getting your house in order overall. I struggle with toys and books at my house and I've got some new organizational guidelines that I've already put to use. 

I personally got a lot out of this book and admire the author's integrity. She's honest about this concept; it's something that everyone should be thinking about. Somebody has to deal with your belongings after you're gone and it's much better to think about it and take care of it yourself rather than leaving a mess for someone else. It's as simple as that.