These words capture the essence of the message of the latest international best seller written by a wise woman in Sweden, aged between eighty and one hundred, and surrounded only by possessions she loves. Her delightful writing style and charming hand drawn illustrations immediately engage the reader as if sitting in her cozy living room enjoying a cup of tea.


She describes the Swedish tradition of “dostadning” or “death cleaning” which simply involves taking the responsibility of sorting out your life possessions—so that someone else is not burdened with this job. As she states in her Forward, “You have collected so much wonderful stuff in your life—stuff your family and friends can’t evaluate or take care of. Let me help you make your loved one’s memories of you nice—rather than awful!”


Her gentle, yet direct, style quickly captivates the reader so much that it is quite possible to read this short book in one setting. She shares personal details and stories that make you think about your own situation. As you read, you realize that sorting through your own stuff is a wonderful gift to give to your family—and to yourself.


Of course, this “death cleaning” can be done at any stage of life, but she highly recommends sooner rather than later.  It takes time and energy to sort through your stuff. You often don’t realize just how much you really have. And you can’t expect other family members to automatically have the same sentimental attachment that you have. As she says, “They may want to inherit some of your nice items, but they certainly don’t want it all!” We all need to hear that advice.


So “death cleaning” comes down to this:

  • Taking responsibility for sorting out your life possessions
  • Making decisions about what to keep/share/sell/donate/ or trash
  • Choosing to keep only the best loved items


She maintains that this “death cleaning” is not a sad process! Rather, it gives each person the opportunity to revisit and reflect upon a lifetime of experiences and memories. You remember; you enjoy; then you pass it on. Doing so will eliminate a burden for your family and make the rest of your life easier!

Keep in mind that all of your cherished possessions do not need to be shared with a blood relative. Sometimes no one in the family wants or needs the item. That’s OK! There are plenty of other people who do.


In the second half of the book, she briefly deals with different categories of typical household items. She recommends starting with clothing and finishing with photos.

Her strategy is to deal with the less sentimental items first so that you actually make progress and don’t give up. She does not recommend hiring someone to come in and do this for you, as she maintains that each person should set their own pace and process their own experiences and memories.


You might not agree with everything in this book, but you really can’t deny that it is a necessary topic for every person and every family. It’s the kind of book that lingers long in your mind—even if you think you have many years before dealing with death.


Releasing an abundance of stuff, at any stage of life, may be what opens the door to new opportunities and adventures and to the life that you really want to be living. 


Olive Wagar

Author Olive Wagar

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Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • I haven’t read this book, but it sounds like she covers a potentially emotional subject in a very practical way. I just might have to check it out!

  • Olive says:

    It should be easy to get a copy at your local library, bookstore, or online, Janet. I appreciated her gentle, yet direct, message. I would so much rather pass along wonderful memories and the best of my possessions to my family rather than a random assortment of junk and clutter that no one really wants or needs.

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