The Hottest New Organizing Trend?

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!

Start Downsizing Sooner and Finish Stronger

As I’ve mentioned before, I helped my mom and other relatives downsize my grandparents.  Even though they kept a normal amount of stuff in their house and had organized it relatively well, the process was still overwhelming and difficult.  I remember being completely worn out when we were finished – and I was only 17 at the time and not doing the bulk of the work!

This article by Ashlea Ebeling is now almost five years old, but remains the best collection I’ve seen yet of tips on how to handle downsizing: Going, Going, Gone.  She offers plenty of great, detailed advice, but I think the most compelling take away from her article is simple: downsizing is A LOT of work. 

What does that mean for you?

1)   Start the process sooner rather than later.

As I outlined here, Boomers who decide not to pare down their belongings themselves place a huge, and one might even say cruel, burden on the adult children they leave behind.  The decision to downsize, and when, is not necessarily easy, but waiting too long makes it harder on everyone involved.

If you’re a member of the younger generation, get realistic with yourself about how much time and effort downsizing is going to take.  Dealing with an entire home of belongings and memories cannot be done effectively in a single day – especially if you want your family relationships to remain intact!

2)   Call in the experts!

Ebeling mentions several categories of experts that can be very helpful in the downsizing process, including professional organizers!  In fact, an organizer can be the one to search for and coordinate these various service providers, removing much of the burden from your shoulders and letting you concentrate on the actual decisions to be made.  As I’ve said before, there is no shame in hiring an expert, even if you could technically do it yourself – the time saved and better outcome achieved will undoubtedly be worth the cost.

Honestly, downsizing isn’t really fun.  My grandmother was quite frankly pissed that she had to leave her house in Los Angeles for a retirement community in Santa Barbara – however cozy we made her new apartment and however close to family she was, she missed the flavors and colors and speed of the city she had called home her entire life.  However, with a little advance planning and the right kind of help, you can make the process bearable and even unearth a few memories along the way.



Downsizing to Millenials?

As an interesting follow on to this post about the cruelty of accumulation, I came across this article from The Washington Post: Stuff it: millenials nix their parents’ treasures.

As much as I hate to admit it, I’m definitely a millennial by definition.  And I do identify with many of the traits characteristic of my generation as described in this article: wanting to live in an urban area, streamlining possessions, not attaching too much meaning to stuff.  My husband and I agree that the only reason we’d leave San Francisco would be to experience a different city, and the idea of taking care of a large house and yard in the suburbs gives us the heebie jeebies.

However, the millennial described in this article is also an extreme: an all-digital minimalist. Personally, I take a middle way.

I love the trappings of traditionalism that turn a house into a home. I love that my home is big enough and well furnished enough to accommodate overnight guests regularly, leading to house parties and boozy brunches. I love polishing my grandmother’s silver and setting a table for a dinner party with it and my wedding china.  I love looking at the beautiful things my grandparents collected over years of travel, encased in a funny old curio cabinet I remember from their living room. I love the art that hangs on my walls, collected by family and adding beauty as well as pieces of them and their taste to my home.

What do I NOT love?  Things that are useless, meaningless, and not beautiful.  No, Mom, I will not be taking the weird gaudy 1980’s bedside tables you have stored in the garage. No, family, I will not store all your photos and papers, many of which I don’t even recognize. No, I will not fill up my storage spaces just for the sake of having somewhere to put things. I’m picky about the objects that inhabit my home, and I’m not going to make space for things I don’t love.