|This armoire of mine needs a Death Cleaning.|
Death Cleaning is a term that exists in the Swedish language ("dostadning") as one word, and it seems like a term that has a fairly common usage. In English associating death with cleaning is rather morbid and grim, but it seems that the meaning in Swedish is not quite so harsh. I wish my Swedish friend Ulrike was here so I could ask her!
Swedish Death Cleaning is a thorough cleaning of all of your belongings, with a focus on passing on items that might be of use or of sentimental value to the younger generation. This does not necessarily include children, the author talks of passing your useful furniture, kitchenware and tools on to young people who are setting up their first place if one doesn't have children.
It also doesn't necessarily indicate the final years, but anytime your possessions are starting to control you in a way that is exhausting you. Is your home easy to clean and tidy? If you often have items around the house that are "out of place" it might be time for a Death Cleaning. Is your home inhibiting you from using it to socialize and have fun? If you feel relief when a friend cancels dinner or an overnight visit because it means you don't have to go to the effort of tidying, then perhaps it's time for a Death Cleaning.
I like that her focus is one of generosity. She was not preoccupied with selling items, but rather thinking of how the objects that had added joy to her life could then go on to add joy to others. She told stories of the objects to the new owners, emphasizing the age and provenance of furniture and therefore connecting the new owners to the object's past. She enjoyed helping younger people furnish their kitchens with the necessary whisks and dishes, and she left many of the tools in her husband's tool shed (which she called his "mansdagis", his "male kindergarten") to the new owners of their house. She also left all of her gardening tools to the new owners, imagining them joyfully keeping up the work of her garden, which she had so loved.
The author offers advice on ridding oneself of secret things before anyone else has to (perhaps unpleasantly) come across it. The examples she gives? Empty bottles of gin and vodka if you are a secret drinker, or the dildos you might keep at the back of your drawer. Hilarious!
There is much discussion of what to do with all of the accumulated paperwork and photographs. As far as the paper, she highly recommends buying a shredder to just get rid of things. She loves her shredder! The photographs are another story, and she does offer tips to digitize and organize photo collections, while also acknowledging that leaving behind albums of photos is not necessarily a bad thing: they don't take up too much space, and younger relatives will enjoy the memories they will evoke.
Where to begin? Clothes!
The author has such a matter-of-fact writing style, I loved it. Her advice for sorting through your clothes? Make two piles: one which you want to keep, and one which you do not. The second pile should be donated, and the first pile should be picked through for items that might need special attention in order to increase their longevity: mending or dry-cleaning.
I recommend reading this book if you have some problem areas of your home (as I do) that you need to tackle. This has given me the push I need to organize my armoire full of dishes. I'm going to pull out a couple of dish sets to box and label, in order to pass them on to my Rascals as they begin to set up more "grown-up" apartments.
I'm also going to tackle my basement storage room with the large, intimidating file cabinet with a new secret weapon: the shredder!
This book would also be useful if you feel you need to do a thorough de-cluttering of your entire house: go room by room and take your time, it doesn't need to be so overwhelming.
Do you think you might read this book? I found my copy at the library, try yours, they might have it.