"We are what we believe we are."
C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Swedish Death Cleaning Magic

 I used the principles behind the Swedish Death Cleaning method to attack my armoire of dishes over this last week.
One of the ideas is to get at these projects slowly and to give oneself a week per room, or in this case, per armoire. I'm normally rushing around and generally exhausting myself when I tackle a de-cluttering project so this attitude made a big difference.

The armoire is in the dining room and held every sort of dish set we own that is not in regular use.  I would occasionally open it to pick out something to use for a dinner party, but I avoided doing that for the most part.   It made me pretty upset to see how crowded and disorganized it looked.

Here is the before picture, it looks like something from a scary tv show called Hoarders: Tipping Dishes Edition.
A scary mess.
 The armoire itself is quite pretty and fits perfectly into the corner of the dining room.  It travelled from Austria with my father-in-law (Poppa) and his family in 1938.  I don't know how old it is, but my guess is that it's at least 200 years old.
 The only change I made to the armoire itself when Poppa gave it to us was to add a tassel to the key. I really love the way the turquoise looks against the wood.
 The original gold silk curtain is still in place behind the glass front, and though it is showing some age with fray and the occasional threadbare hole I won't replace it, I find it so charming.

Here is the armoire after the Death Cleaning Magic:
Ta Da
 I took out rather a lot of dishes and all of the linen.  The linen should be stored in my armoire for fabrics and linens in my laundry room.  "Give everything a place" being another principle of Swedish Death Cleaning.
 I have a set of white dishes that I occasionally use for dinner parties when I want a really clean palette.  You can see the bowls and plates to the set above.
I tried to organize each shelf by colour so that it makes some sense to look at everything, and to find something.
 We have quite a bit of brass and I don't use it very often, but for the most part it was passed down to us by Poppa so it is quite special.  I occasionally do a mantel arrangement with those brass kettles, and I use the brass candlesticks in the fall and at Thanksgiving.
 The red glassware was a souvenir from our trip to Prague in 2008.  It looks lovely at Christmas and in the past I've filled it with port for dinner parties.
 This really sweet set of blue and white was a gift from my friend Laura, she gave it to me after her Aunt Emma died.  I guess it really was a result of a Death Cleaning!  Laura's Aunt Emma had loads of dishes and things and it was up to Laura to sort through everything and find homes for it.  It took her ages.
 This very delicate set of white dishes with the violet raised pattern was also a gift from Poppa.  It came to Poppa and my mother-in-law from their neighbour Ruth.  Ruth was an elderly lady who my mother-in-law was friends with for years, she really looked after her.  I only met her once, and it was about twenty years ago, shortly before she died.  Ruth spent Christmas with us that year, she really adored my mother-in-law and she left her these dishes in her will.
 I like to mix them with blue and white, to me they are very spring-like and look stunning with purple tulips and grape hyacinth for a dinner party.
 This asparagus set is from France, something I bought on impulse one day while shopping in Elora.  I couldn't resist them!  The large platter holds loads of steamed asparagus and the individual plates are meant for the melted butter and aioli served with the asparagus, for dipping.
 Here is a case of not even knowing what I owned because the armoire was such a cluttered mess.  I completely forgot about these mismatched antique teacups!  This is bad because my Aunt Deb asked me a couple of months ago if I had any I could lend her for my cousin's bridal shower this May.  I said I didn't own any!  I'll have to phone her today to see if she still needs some.
The teacups I totally forgot about.

 These interesting pieces were more gifts from Poppa, that soup tureen with the wee flowers is so pretty on the table at Easter, I love it.  We have a few gold-tipped dishes, a set that I split with my sister-in-law.  I use it in addition to my white dishes to fancy them up.

This little Rosenthal dish was a recent gift from Poppa.  Sometimes I bring him food in little stoneware containers that are perfect for transporting dinners.  He likes the containers for his leftovers and asked if he could keep them, but only if we made a trade!

The trade.
 I removed a giant set of Lenox toile print dishes from the armoire.  They took up loads of space and I never use them.  They are boxed up in a wooden crate for my Ole Rascal son, I think he'll like the colours.
Waiting for Ole Rascal to take them.
Now that I'm finished the armoire/dining room project I'm on to the basement storage room, aka the dumping ground of the house.  I've already started the process and I'll continue to work on it for the next week or so, bring out the paper shredder!
If you missed my original post on Swedish Death Cleaning you can find it here.

Have a lovely day today, I hope it's clutter-free.


  1. Oh, Dani! What a beautiful post! I love your armoire, dishes and the stories behind them all. As you know, I'm downsizing...and I have already deemed a current armoire for what I've always called my entertaining arsenal. It's an old piece, not antique, but vintage and the loviest shade of distressed green. You didn't mention anything about the inside shelves decorated with the lovely floral & blue/green? wallpaper/fabric? I like the look & I may consider lining mine! Have a beautiful day! x x Alicia

    1. Alicia your armoire will be perfect for the arsenal! It's so good to just open something and see everything there. The wallpaper lining is really charming and I'm not sure how old it is, it's likely not original but I think it was there when the armoire travelled to Canada from Austria. I love a lined cupboard and what a great idea to line yours, I think wallpaper would be the easiest choice? Something to complement the distressed green, how lovely.
      Thank you Alicia xx

  2. I love that. And Hoarders: Tipping Dishes Edition made me laugh out loud. I reorganized the china at Christmas but have a few drawers and cupboards that need the Death Cleaning touch! Xx

    1. Jen the Death Cleaning Magic works! Good luck with the drawers and cupboards. xx

  3. Oh yes. I'm reasonably good with china - we use a mix of my Nan's kitchen set (the remains of a Royal Crown Derby pattern) and vintage pieces I've picked up over the years. When/if they finally get broken, I've Nan's Wedgewood, which is currently the Good Set. Because, dammit, it's meant to be used!!! My downfall is crystal and glassware.

    I do love the idea of handing things on while you're still alive. You get to lighten your own belongings, see the pleasure they bring to someone else (bonus points if it's something they need and can't afford) and know you're lessening the burden for your executor.

    1. Erika so true everything should be used! I just found my silver flatware in the storage room, I have to start using it for dinner parties because what is the point of hanging on to it otherwise? I love crystal but nothing survives in my house, glasses break so easily with my family. I buy glassware that is fairly sturdy and just replace it every couple of years.
      Love the look of crystal on a set table though! xx

  4. I had RUTH's dishes in my shop and SOLD them!I LOVED THEM TOO But NO MORE ROOM IN THIS HOUSE!It is so nice to SEE what you have by opening a door!
    I should be de cluttering THE BOYS OLD room instead I'm sitting HERE!
    OFF I GO............YOU INSPIRED ME!

    1. Contessa I can't believe you had Ruth's dishes! They are so pretty with the raised pattern. I'm thinking my older daughter will take them eventually.
      It's nice to see what is there, for me out of sight is completely out of mind! Hope your de-cluttering went well xx