I read The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnusson this weekend. This is a small and very charming book, easily read in one or two sittings. Ms. Magnusson describes herself as being between 80 and 100. I love that!
Death cleaning, or döstädning as they say in Swedish, means removing unnecessary things and putting your house in order when you get to that age when you realize death is inevitable. She recommends starting at age 65 when you’re still young enough to be able to actually do it.
There is something somewhat magical about that age. Maybe it’s that, in this country at least, one becomes a card-carrying person of the senior persuasion. And you become eligible for the discounts. The hardest part of senior discounts is remembering to ask for them. Remember! They add up!
But back to death cleaning. As Magnusson says, it is not sad. “…I’ve discovered that it is rewarding to spend time with…objects one last time and then dispose of them. Each item has its own history, and remembering that history is often enjoyable.”
It turns out I had started “death cleaning” even before I’d heard the term. I’ve been going through stuff and trying to get things to people that might appreciate them. Lots of things came from my parents and their parents and wouldn’t mean a thing to my step kids. But some of my cousins might appreciate getting something that came from their great-greats.
I went through the family jewels–both of them–and gave my mother’s diamond earrings that had no story attached to them other than my mom wore them often, to my stepdaughter because I loved my mother and I love her. Seems appropriate. The ruby earrings Mom told me came to her from her great-grandmother. Those I thought should stay in the family, so I sent them to a cousin.
There are vintage photos I’ve acquired that I’ve copied and sent to cousins, along with the originals. I mean really, what would a baby picture of my grandmother mean to step kids with no connection, biological or otherwise? Would they care about the photo of my dad in full boxing gear standing with Jack Dempsey? Not sure they even know who Dempsey was let alone the skinny guy in the trunks. My dad’s nephews do, though.
The main thing is, I don’t want the stuff with stories to be lost because I procrastinated, thinking I’ve got the rest of my life to deal with this. The stuff may not be that important, but the stories are and some of them, only I’m left to know.
Plus, I don’t want to leave my kids and grandkids with a mess. I’ve helped friends deal with the parental home of a hoarder, and it isn’t pretty. I’d much rather deal with stuff now, while I have a choice and the kids don’t resent me for the mess.
I don’t want the stories to be lost, and I don’t want to be responsible for an excess of stuff. I only want what I use and love. I’m debating about the China and crystal. If I keep it, then I’m going to start using it! Even the too small wine glasses and the even smaller liqueur glasses.
I may start drinking sherry, just so I have something to put in them!