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The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter

3.34  ·  Rating details ·  13,173 ratings  ·  2,342 reviews
A charming, practical, and unsentimental approach to putting a home in order while reflecting on the tiny joys that make up a long life.

In Sweden there is a kind of decluttering called döstädning, meaning “death” and städning meaning “cleaning.” This surprising and invigorating process of clearing out unnecessary belongings can be undertaken at any age or life stage but
Hardcover, 117 pages
Published January 2nd 2018 by Scribner (first published October 6th 2017)
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RavenT This is a real book; I own it in hard copy. It's a translation from the Swedish, so there is a slight feel of that in reading the book. But the advice…moreThis is a real book; I own it in hard copy. It's a translation from the Swedish, so there is a slight feel of that in reading the book. But the advice in this slim volume is sound. Having dealt with the home of my hoarder mother when she needed to go to a nursing home, I can say that everyone should think about the stuff they have stored away from sight. Go through it and be ruthless.(less)

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Average rating 3.34  · 
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 ·  13,173 ratings  ·  2,342 reviews

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Start your review of The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter
Right. Well, first of all, you can't make available a galley of a book on my favorite guilty-pleasure topic (decluttering), call it "The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning" and expect me NOT to download it.

Secondly - would someone please call their band Swedish Death Cleaning? That cannot just be left on the table.
Jan 31, 2018 rated it it was ok
Other than being utterly adorable, this book doesn't offer much insight beyond "get rid of your stuff before you die." My two favorite quotes from the book:
"Life will become more pleasant and comfortable if we get rid of some of the abundance."
"I have gone skiing in a bikini on a wonderful, sunny winter day."
"Funny, wise, and deeply practical..." Yes, yes, and yes! That last one may throw some people off, but if you're not discouraged by the title or thinking too deeply about mortality, this may be the right book for you. For anyone who is intrigued by the Marie Kondo method of tidying-up, but not on board with the "magic" and "life-changing" aspects, this book is probably a good fit for you if you're drawn to a more practical philosophy on why you should let go of the clutter.

This book entered my l
j e w e l s
Dec 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio

It's no secret I've been on a minimalist kick for the last year or so. I've read lots of decluttering how-to books and aside from Marie Kondo's way-out wacky 🤪 method, they're all basically the same.

This book was a sweet surprise. I downloaded the audio version from the library and didn't know much about it --except that it was short. (YESSSS, no snide comments please! I'm trying to meet my reading goal and short audio books count, too.) The book is impressively written by a debut auth
Feb 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: sweden, 2018
A nice reminder to occasionally pare down your possessions and discard those that no longer have value. In short, be considerate of those who will have to deal with your things once you’re gone. At least make a start so it isn’t so overwhelming for your loved ones to deal with someday. A quick and inspiring read about a seldom thought of, yet relevant topic. 3.5 stars
Jan 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
Alrighty, so not what I was looking for. This is a gentle nudge about getting your house together with basic breakdowns of clothing, furniture, knickknacks, and personal items. Unfortunately, either I have my act together or am way more neurotic that this provided nothing new for me. I routinely clear out closets and always have three piles: keep, throw, and donate. Since other members of my household tend towards hoarding I implemented a rule: Buy something, get rid of something--actually, in o ...more
Gretchen Rubin
A frank, bold term for this kind of clutter-clearing! Short and inspiring.
Feb 26, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: series
Upon spying me talk about this book on Instagram and Facebook, my mother asked if she should be worried. I was like "Mom, take this as advanced notice that you and Dad need to declutter the basement, the two woodsheds and like your entire house. My sibling and I would really appreciate." Sibling response " Haha, yeah right, I am not helping! Isn't there a reason you were born first?" Ladies and gentlemen, all kidding aside it is for this purpose that Margareta Magnusson wrote this little book. A ...more
Oct 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was excited when a great reading friend brought The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning to my attention. The title made me laugh, but it really does make sense. Döstädning is the Swedish word for the concept; dö is translated as death, and städning means cleaning. This can mean clearing out after a loved one has died, but it's so much more. Margareta Magnusson encourages people to downsize and begin to responsibly clear out their own things as they get older so relatives aren't stuck doing it ...more
Jun 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: simplicity
This is a quick and gentle read on ways to declutter your home, with the spirit of making it easier for your loved ones to deal with your possessions after you die.

I was a bit anxious about reading this book, because my mother passed away two years ago and I still have a lot of her possessions that I need to sort through, but I was relieved by the author's calm and soothing tone. She tells stories of the "death cleanings" she's experienced, and the steps she's taken to sort her own things so th
Sep 05, 2017 rated it liked it
"Save your favorite dildo--but throw away the other fifteen!" is a jarring bit of advice from this brief and rather charming book by Swedish granny who gives her age as "between eighty and one hundred years old." In it, she explains her philosophy of downsizing and giving things away to reduce the work (emotional and otherwise) of cleaning up after her death.

I've never read the primary comp title for this book--The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up--because I am already a clean person and don't
May 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read about this in the New York Times awhile ago and it sounded like it might be the right thing for members of my family. Margareta is a friendly guide but she can be refreshingly tart. She’s completed death cleaning three times in her life, twice for other people. She is matter-of-fact about death, the most predictable thing about our life. She allows us to see how this death cleaning can concentrate the experience of life, and can often increase our pleasure by forcing the recognition that ...more
I’ve been practicing döstädning (death cleaning) for years without knowing it. My two sisters and I were responsible for cleaning out our parents’ home 20 years ago and we were all inspired by that experience to cut down (or at least try to cut down) on our own clutter load. We’ve had varying degrees of success.

Spring may arrive someday soon here in Western Canada and I needed some inspiration to get me back in the swing of things, purging the unnecessary accumulations of the past year, sorting
May 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: practical
Recently one of my sisters told me that our mother had started sorting through her desk and throwing out old photos—those she could no longer recall where they’d been taken and/or who was in them. “You know, that Swedish death cleaning thing,” my sister said. Just after that conversation I happened upon Trish’s ( excellent review of Margareta Magnusson’s book and decided I needed to read it for myself.

It doesn’t take long—a couple of hours—but is no less
Jan 31, 2018 rated it it was ok
I love the gentle art of Swedish death cleaning. The idea of it, that is. Not so much the book, though. I gave it two stars just because I think it's a good idea, even if really poorly executed. Thankfully, I won this book in a giveaway and didn't waste my own money on it. As a public service, I will save you the the cost of the book with a quick summary. I'd say that I'm also saving you time, but this book took literally 40 minutes to read - and that included my husband interrupting me to come ...more
Jan 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: home, my-copy, memoir
I loved this book. The gentle voice of the writer reminded me so much of my German mother in law. It was lovely and inspiring. It is funny because I disliked Marie Kondo’s book so much I really couldn’t read it at all. But this I loved. It is kind of inspiring and I feel like I need to do some death cleaning of my own.
Laurie Anderson
A short and delightful book written by an elderly artist who has had a full life and is downsizing. She takes the reader through her processes of sorting, donating, destroying, repurposing and keeping the objects in her home. There are just enough anecdotes to keep the writing lively.

I was very sad when the book ended and desperately wish I could invite Margareta Magnusson over for coffee and cake.

Fans of Marie Kondo will like this one, too.
Alex ☣ Deranged KittyCat ☣
I thought this would be something like Marie Kondō's throw away everything style, but I'm not ready yet for death cleaning. Maybe some other time. *shrug* ...more
Oct 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is a helpful, fun, quick read for anyone intrigued by the Kon-mari craze of "tidying up."

I have watched my parents "death clean" after their parents and one of their siblings (although they did not use that term). They were overwhelmed by the tasks left to them and seemed determined not to let history repeat itself with their own belongings. Only time will tell if they succeed, however. It already seems that as each year passes, they become more attached to their belongings - or worse
Emma Sea
Jan 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pn-library
I love Magnusson's voice in this: very unique and quirky. I'd like to be like her when I am "between 80 and 100". ...more
Leigh Anne
Jan 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
More a why-to than a how-to, but definitely gentle.

Readers expecting the next Marie Kondo guide will find themselves disappointed by this short, sweet little treatise on tidying up. Everyone else will be charmed by Magnusson's musings on mortality, and the pearls of wisdom that come scattered therein. Death-cleaning is a thing Swedish people do: it's very important to them not to leave a mess behind for other people to deal with. From their pov, this is an act of love, sparing whoever deals with
Jan 25, 2018 rated it liked it
It might seem macabre to read about getting rid of excess items from your life in preparation for your death, but really - look around you. If you were to die tomorrow and your partner or child had to go through your stuff, would it be a pain in the ass for them? Would they say to themselves, “Why the hell did Dad have 2 cast iron pans?” or “Why did he keep this DVD player when he already had 2 Blu-Ray players?” Ok those are me specific. This book is part memoir, part musing and part instruction ...more
Oct 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
What will happen to all your stuff when you die? Will your spouse have to spend years mucking out all the junk in the house? Will your kids send it all off to a dump?

Margareta Magnusson suggests a better way: take your own stuff into your own hands. Don't keep stuff you don't use anymore. Find good homes for the things you don't need. Make it easier for your family after you're gone.

The author starts out by describing the cleaning she does after loved ones' deaths, and then outlines what she ha
Susan Underbrink
Aug 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A big thank you to NetGalley and Scribner for the ARC for my honest review. The name may be off putting but it is well worth the quick read that it is. I had just gotten back from a trip to Sweden and the name caught my eye. What the heck? I have been to Sweden loads of times and have never heard of curiosity aroused I requested it. I have just gone through an unwanted divorce and so am clearing and cleaning out my house. Not for the same reasons but sort of-I feel like its a sort of d ...more
Feb 01, 2018 rated it liked it
I read this in one sitting. It was funny, with good hilarity about death and preparing for death. I enjoyed the challenge to think about "giving away" your meaningful stuff before you that you can pass along the messages and "feelings" or energy attributed to that item - the receiver will be more mindful of the gift, as well as its place once you pass away. We have found "notes" in heirloom jewelry and quilts that were written by the previous owner (a grandmother) and discovered by acc ...more
Jan 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this. My kind of person. I've already completed most of the steps in her book. However, I still need to transfer all those photos to the USB flash drives I bought for this purpose a couple years ago. Taking this a bit further, I've written my obituary, have notes with links to buy a coffin at Costco, etc. I did the death cleaning for my mother, step-mother, father and I too don't want leave this burden to those dear to me.

Thank you Margareta Magnusson for inspiring me to do just a bit m
Vicki Cline
Mar 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: other-nonfiction
This is a very short and interesting book about cleaning up your stuff before you die, although we could probably all use its advice no matter where we are in life. Basically, look over stuff you no longer want and try to give it to family, friends, charities or just trash it. One unusual suggestion was to have a box where you put things you like to look at and reminisce about, perhaps, but which no one else would be interested in. Just label the box "burn this" so your legatees won't even have ...more
Silvia Cachia
It's a short and inspiring book. Nothing new, but a good conversation about an unavoidable fact, -death-, and a choice, -do we want to deal with our possessions to better aid those who will deal with them when we are gone?

It was a light and pleasant read.
Once or twice a year I listen to an audiobook about cleaning or organizing while I clean and organize some of the most cluttered parts of my home. (My husband has asked me not to read the Marie Kondo books because he thinks they will make me want to be a minimalist.)

Advice from this book that I found useful:

* Instead of emphasizing efficiency, organization, style, or the benefits of donating items to charity, Magnusson focuses on what a boon it will be to get rid of unwanted items now so that yo
Kaethe Douglas
It's not that she's wrong, it's that I have now done the death cleaning for five people: she just didn't have anything to say that I didn't already know. Sweet though, and I really like the idea of people tackling their stuff before they die, in a thoughtful way.

Library copy
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Nonfiction Nerds: December 2020: The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning 7 13 Dec 31, 2020 08:37AM  

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Margareta Magnusson is, in her own words, aged between 80 and 100. Born in Sweden, she has lived all over the world. Margareta graduated from Beckman's College of Design and her art has been exhibited in galleries from Hong Kong to Singapore. She has five children and lives in Stockholm. The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning is her first book.

(from publisher's website at http://www.simonandschu

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