Review: The Gentle Swedish Art of Death Cleaning

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning cover art

I’d like to start with a quote from reviewer Rachel Conner of The Conversation, another interesting website I should look at more closely.

There has been a trend in recent years, both in literature and in life, for Scandinavian concepts that are encapsulated in a single word. Hygge, for example – which is Danish for cosiness, contentment or well-being – dominated the publishing industry in 2016.

Now, the new buzzword on the block is “dostadning” – a hybrid of the Swedish words “death” and “cleaning”. How much these fad words are actually a part of Scandinavian culture is debatable, but dostadning is the new phenomenon outlined in Margareta Magnusson’s The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning. In Europe, the book has already occupied a good deal of reviewing space and according to Time magazine, dostadning will be the hot new trend stateside in 2018.”

I ran across this book recently and knew I had to see if there was anything new under the sun, really. The answer is kind of. None of the actual recommendations are earth-shattering or new territory for those people that really know their own personal death is coming…sometime.

The issue is whether or not we are ready to start a process that will improve our lives and home now as well as the experience of our loved ones after we’re gone.

I enjoyed Magusson’s direct and yet sweet approach. She frames all her advice through the lens of her own experience and does so with plenty of humor. Her delivery is much better suited to American readers than that of the well-known Marie Kondo and her “Magic of Tidying.” I believe that Magussen’s western European roots are just more familiar to us. While reading Kondo the voice in my head kept snickering that she has probably never set foot in a 3500 square foot split level in a suburb.

Magnussen has something most Americans do not: a willingness to talk about death as another stage we humans can’t avoid.  The tendency to avoid this reality can be a money-maker for me, since every time I mention what I do in public the chorus starts:

  • I have all my parents’ boxes in my garage and I can’t face them.
  • How do I help my mother let go of things that I do not want without breaking her heart?
  • We want to downsize but our children refuse all the treasure we have stored for them!

Now, I am more than happy to help anyone with this process, in fact I ENJOY doing it. It may be too late to help your parents, but for those you will leave behind, it could be a blessing!

Read the book and get cracking!!