This is about decluttering, keeping things that are necessary and useful and a good way to ease out of the hoarding habit. Swedish death cleaning – known as ‘döstädning’ – is sweeping across the globe and far from it being some sort of Scandi gulag where you clean till you die, it’s basically about practicality and preparing for the future.
We all hoard in some way. Perhaps not in the ‘100 frozen cats, every newspaper bought since 1960’ type of way – that’s officially a serious disorder – but we do keep that pair of jeans in case we fit it one day or those books you want to re-read but never do, and it just piles up.
The book is written by Margareta Magnusson, an artist who after the death of her parents and husband, had to deal with all their possessions. This gentle art, as she so eloquently puts it, is something we should all do when we reach a certain age (65 seems to be the go) so that when we die, we don’t leave stacks of belongings for the living to clear out. The concept is so logical but many of us wouldn’t contemplate it because frankly, it’s depressing to start clearing out your house in anticipation of your death.
This isn’t just a book about decluttering before you die though. The author has a dry sense of humour and the main message of the book is to live with less and lead a happier life. There are many ideas of how to do this contained in the book and here are some simple ones to get you started.
1. Declutter regularly and go through the larger items in your house as they are the hardest ones to get rid off.
2. Start giving away things you know you don’t need or use to family and friends. Be thoughtful about it and make sure they actually want those things.
3. Sell or donate anything you can’t give away.
4. Keep a box with personal belongings that only mean something to you – old letters, souvenirs, memories collected throughout your life. Label it as a throw away item so when you die, the box can be got rid off.
5. Inform family and friends that you are death cleaning (not sure how well that would go down with Asians…) so that they can pop round to help or take stuff off your hands.
6. Don’t buy things just for the sake of it. Train yourself to like something without actually buying it.
7. Ask yourself this pertinent question: will anyone be happier if I save this? If it’s a family heirloom that you intend to pass on, then keep it. If it’s rubbish and tat collected over the years, bin it.
Good news: The book is available at Kinokuniya – so grab your copy now and start gently decluttering before it’s too late and you die.