I came across ‘The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning’ by Margaretta Magnusson as advertised by one of my favorite little bookstores. Of course the name caught my attention and being that I was in a cleaning mode, I gave it a try. The author is charming and straightforward. It was a quick read, some of which I did not find to have practical applications, but it did give me a few nuggets of wisdom that have been helpful. Here they are quoted below, but I encourage you to read the entire book if these strike a chord with you.
“Life will become more pleasant and comfortable if we get rid of some of the abundance.”
I find this to be true. Even though giving away my things can be painful, once I am through, I feel lighter and my home looks better. There is less to take care and less to manage so clearing clutter becomes the ultimate time-saver.
“In my opinion, all garments in a closet should look good together, and you should be able to mix and exchange them with one another.”
This has been my goal regarding the clothes in my closet. I am in the process of weaning it down to some functional, classic basics. This way I have more options with less clothes. Having a streamlined closet feels great. My rule of thumb is, if I haven’t worn it in a year, it is time to find it a new home.
“When you live in a big city where people seem to replace their kitchen and bathroom fixtures as often as I replace an old sweater, you will see huge dumpsters on the sidewalks filled with bathtubs, sinks and toilets. When the next owner wants to put their personal stamp on the apartment, everything is changed again; it may be one year or two!”
Here the author is making the point about our culture of consumption. This was impactful to me because I have been wanting to renovate our home for quite some time. It made me reconsider how much in my home actually needs to be changed. My home is functional and beautiful even though it may be considered outdated. I plan to eventually update the paint colors, add some new rugs and/or pillows and only change out what I absolutely have to (namely carpet that has seen better days, no amount of accessorizing can make that pretty), and leave the rest. A long while ago I read this blog post by Glennon Doyle which echos these sentiments. You can read it here to help ease any angst over the pressure to redecorate:
“A loved one wishes to inherit nice things from you. Not all things.”
For some reason, this hit home. Maybe it is because I remember how hard it was to clean out my parents’ house after my mom passed away, with much of the burden falling on my sister and dad since I lived out of state. Maybe it is the realization that my things mostly only have value to me. My kids are not going to want every journal I have written in or keep every card I have ever received in my lifetime. It is better, but not always easy, to go through things as they arrive and let them go before someone we love has to do it for us.
We are more than our things. We are loving and loved, kindness given and received, but mostly, what we carry in our hearts is all we ever truly need.
Written by Diana DeVaul, MSW and Parent