This past fall, I noticed a PR blitz across major media outlets for the hottest new trend in home organizing. It had all the elements of a runaway hit: a universal struggle, a controversial angle, and foreign (even better, Scandinavian!) origin. So of course, I pre-ordered the book on Amazon, eager to find out what all the fuss was about!
My copy of The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter arrived a couple of weeks ago, and I spent a leisurely hour and a half with a mug of coffee enjoying it one morning. I can’t decide if I want to be Margareta Magnusson or become her new best friend, but I can tell you that I was not expecting to shed a happy/sad tear over an organizing manual and I’m weirdly glad I did!
Margareta is a self-described grandmother and artist “between the ages of eighty and one hundred” and her voice is practical, warm, and deeply authentic. She’s the wise Swedish grandma you never knew you needed to bake you cheesecake, mend your old clothes, and teach you how to tend a garden. She’s also surprisingly up to date, waxing philosophical about the pace of change and decrying her contemporaries’ lack of engagement with technology.
Oh, and she’s direct. My favorite quote?
“Many young families have to schedule their lives down to the smallest increment to have time to d what they consider most important. Do not ever imagine that anyone will wish - or be able - to schedule time off to take care of what you didn’t bother to take care of yourself.”
There is so much reality, struggle, potential offense, guilt, and love wrapped up in those two sentences. And they distill a concept that is by definition hard for me to communicate to older clients. After all, I’m 35, I can’t possibly understand what they’re going through!
But at the same time, my clients need to hear Margareta Magnusson’s message: that organizing while you are still alive, both for your own benefit and that of your children, is important and valuable work. I know from experience, both my own and my clients’, that the burden placed on children by parents who don’t “death clean” is significant and incredibly draining.
So, I’ll be recommending this Swedish grandmother’s wisdom to pretty much everyone! After all, as she says, not one of us will make it out of life alive.
P.S. If you’ve read a book about organizing and wondered what a professional organizer might think about it, let me know in the comments and I’ll add it to my list!