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Book Review: The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning

Amy Praskac - Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Charming is the first word that comes to mind about this slim volume about döstädning, the gentle art of Swedish death cleaning. I had read only a few pages when I thought, “I would love to have a cup of coffee with this woman.” Enjoying her book is the next best thing.

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning book coverMargareta Magnusson proclaims, “I am now some- where between eighty and one hundred years old. I take it as a responsibility of my old age to tell you about my experiences, because I believe this philosophy of death cleaning is important for all of us to know.”

Magnusson assures us, “It is not sad at all. Neither the cleaning nor the writing of the book.”

Her advice is practical. “Start with the large items in your home, and finish with the small.” It is encouraging. “Life will become more pleasant and comfortable if we get rid of some of the abundance” and “you can enjoy all these things without owning them.” 

Her advice can be a bit stern at times. “Do not ever imagine that anyone will wish—or be able to schedule time off to take care of what you didn’t bother to take care of yourself. No matter how much they love you, don’t leave this burden to them.”

However, the reward of döstädning is ultimately yours. “Death cleaning is not about dusting or mopping up; it is about a permanent form of organization that makes your everyday life run more smoothly.”

Magnusson, who was an artist before writing this book, includes whimsical drawings to accompany her musings on döstädning. Published by Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, 2018.

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