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Self-help author gives straightforward and humorous hints on how to declutter in a gently Swedish manner – to leave things tidy after death

If your family doesn’t want your stuff when you’re alive, they sure won’t want it when you’re dead. 

That’s the blunt assessment of yet another self-help author from abroad who is trying to get Americans, who have an addiction to collecting and storage units, to clean up their acts. 
The latest volley in the decluttering business comes from
Stockholm, where 80-ish artist Margareta Magnusson has just published a slim yet sage volume, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death
Cleaning. While Marie Kondo gave us strict instructions to keep only things that spark joy in The LifeChanging Magic of Tidying Up: The
Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising, Magnusson’s book is straightforward and unsentimental, with a bit of humour. 
The main message from this mother of five is: Take responsibility for your items and don’t leave them as a burden
for family and friends. It’s not fair. Magnussun says you can keep things that evoke good memories; there are no hard-and-fast rules such as folding your remaining T-shirts to stand upright in your drawers, as dictated by the KonMari method. 
The concept of decluttering before you die, a process called “dostadning”, is part of Swedish culture. (It comes from the Swedish words for death and cleaning.) Karin Olofsdotter, 51, the Swedish ambassador to the US, says her mother and father, who are in their 80s, are in the midst of it back home. 
“My parents and their friends are death cleaning and we all kind of joke about it,” Olofsdotter says. “It’s almost like a biological thing to do.” Olofsdotter says part of Swedish
culture is living independently and never being a burden to anyone. 
How you keep your home is a statement
of that. Magnusson, who has moved 17 times, says women often end up doing the death cleaning. After her husband died, she had to declutter their house; it took her almost a year before she could downsize to a two-room apartment. 
Although it was overwhelming at the time, she says, she is glad she did it herself as  her husband would have wanted to
keep everything and her kids would have disagreed about what to keep and what to toss out. 
Getting rid of all your useless clutter before you die is part of Swedish culture. Picture: Jens Meyer/AP
This way, she
made her own decisions. Now she continues to do it regularly. Magnusson suggests that 65 is a good time to start death cleaning,
but the process is liberating at any age. 
A few of her tips: 
*Don’t start with your photos, as you’ll get bogged down in your memories and never accomplish anything. 
*Make sure you
keep a book of passwords for your heirs. 
*Give away nice things you don’t want as gifts, such as china or
table linens or books, as opposed to buying new items. 
*Keep a separate box of things that matter only to
you, and label it to be tossed out on your death. 
*It’s okay to keep a beloved stuffed animal or two. 
Magnusson and one of her daughters filmed a video in which she talks about why she decluttered and how it’s not a
sad process, but more of a relief. 
Her daughter asks whether her mom would help her begin death cleaning.
They go to a storage locker overflowing with luggage and clothes and blankets topped by a garden gnome. “Oh, my God. What are you
going to do with all this crap?” her mother says in perfect English, taking a look around. 
discuss how long it’s going to take. “You are never ready with your death cleaning because you don’t know when you are going to die,” Magnusson says. “So it goes on and on.” When you are dead, then it stops, they agree. “Finally,” Magnusson says.
Washington Post

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