The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, Margareta Magnusson & Minimalist Living: Decluttering for Joy, Health and Creativity Genevieve Parker Hill

Yes, a double book review! Why? These books just go together, aligned in the quest to support the simplification of life by jettisoning possessions. In our American culture we experience constant propaganda to convince us to get the latest of everything. When we are young we are in high gear acquisition mode, ticking off items from the ‘I want’ bucket list. When we get older we shift into low gear acquisition mode, yet we may not get rid of things. What do we do with all our stuff? Often we rent storage, because we have too much stuff to fit in our homes. The urge to purge the excess is especially keen as we consider downsizing our living space as empty nesters.

The authors of these two books approach the paring down of our possessions from two very different perspectives. In the book The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, Magnusson a senior citizen shares the ethic underpinning the Swedish practice of periodically, throughout one’s life streamlining your possessions. Parker Hill on the other hand began her young adulthood having lost most of her possessions in a fire when her family home burned to the ground. She flourishes in the personal freedom that comes from carrying a light load and delights in the responsibility of leaving a smaller footprint on our environment by minimalist living.

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning clarifies that this is not just the work of decluttering that comes at the end of one’s life. Although, she does make it clear that none of us are so special we should leave this work as a burden to our love ones. Magnusson stresses taking responsibility of getting “rid of things to make life easier and less crowded”. She also suggest we be objective in our appraisal of the value of our things. She outlines a step by step process for clearing out your home, while keeping the essentials.

Minimalist Living focuses on what is really important in living your life well and experiencing happiness. Research on happiness clearly states it does not come from having lots of things. Parker Hill makes the connections between happiness, living unencumbered, personal well being, supporting the environment and nurturing relationships. She focuses on being fulfilled by clarifying and pursuing your purpose in life. She offers guidance on how to get started being minimalist, facing resistance and maintaining minimalism.

The books are inspiring and informative, pushing the reader to consider their lives and the place all their possessions take up those lives. When my parents died it was a long, arduous process of clearing our family home. I swore I would not leave such a task for my surviving family. Now I am purging all things unused: clothes, DVDs, CDs, artwork, travel mementos and more. I am scanning documents with a goal of becoming paperless. I have given away hundreds of my beloved books; someone else can enjoy them now. I am determined to contain my urge to acquire. I am feeling lighter!