Dying to Downsize

I have to admit … the book title really caught my attention: “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Make Your Loved Ones’ Lives Easier and Your Own Life More Pleasant.”

“Death Cleaning” … what was that all about, and what could it possibly mean to me?

Turns out the author, Margareta Magnusson, is really on to something. A resident of Stockholm, she makes the argument that “death cleaning” is not just about sorting through a deceased person’s belongings after they have passed on. Instead, she suggests this process as a permanent form of organization that can make each of our everyday lives run more smoothly.

Rightsizing … downsizing … getting rid of “stuff.” Whatever one decides to call it, the process of minimizing possessions can be liberating. And as Magnusson makes clear, undertaking this process earlier rather than later can also be a favor for those who survive us. None of us, after all, is immortal, so taking on this important task while we are still able makes perfect sense.

When Bonnie and I decided in early, 2017, to sell our house and move to a 55+ apartment community, we knew we had to get serious about winnowing through the mountain of baggage accumulated during our more than fifty years of marriage. Very quickly we determined that the most expedient way of handling this task would be to divide our possessions into four categories … take with … give away … donate … and discard.

Once we had decided upon what we would bring to our apartment, we offered the remainder to our children. We were pleased that they accepted a number of pieces of furniture, wall hangings and assorted other decorations and household items and, needless to say, we are thrilled that many of the things we have collected and loved over the years now rest in the homes of those who mean so much to us.

Magnusson’s book makes perfect good sense, and it is a delightful coincidence that Bonnie and I only recently did exactly what she suggests. Getting rid of a vast collection of unneeded items was cathartic, and is something we should have done years ago. We are pleased to report that we love life in our new apartment and community and, most especially, the reduced stress and increased personal contentment that come with living a less-encumbered lifestyle.

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