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The Swedish “soft art” of household before death

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Swedish Cleanse of Death is meant to ease families from the burden of sorting through possessions after a loved one dies – Copyright AFP BULENT KILIC

Viken KANTARCI

In her stylish apartment in central Stockholm, 84-year-old Lena Sundgren looks at her crowded, candle-lit library.

With a deep sigh, she lifts a stack of gardening books and sets them aside. “The feeling of getting rid of it is a relief,” she admits. “This death cleanse, which I do a few times a week, calms me down. ”

Death cleaning, or “dostadning” in Swedish, is the name given to the practice of sorting your personal belongings before your death.

The concept has somehow gained worldwide cult following since it was invented by author Margareta Magnusson in her 2017 bestseller “The Gentle Art of Swedish Cleaning to the Death: How to Free Yourself and Yourself. your family, from a life of disorder ”.

“I think you should mind your own business so that no one else has to do all the work for you with all the crap you left behind,” the author told AFP.

Sorting through a lifetime’s possessions “takes you back to times you might want to remember, and if you don’t, just throw it away,” she says.

Cleaning up Death differs from the decluttering approach to a tidy house associated with Marie Kondo, a Japanese celebrity who gained worldwide fame for promoting the idea that people should only keep items that bring them life. joy.

The Swedish Cleanse of Death is intended to relieve families of the burden of sorting out their possessions after the death of a loved one.

– ‘You can’t live forever!’ –

Magnusson’s daughter, Jane, appreciates her mother’s efforts.

“I think most people who have very old parents and busy lives would like to spend less time with their parents’ things when they are gone,” she says.

“I am grateful for the tremendous amount of work she has done … and happy that it is spreading around the world.”

Magnusson’s book made the New York Times bestseller list and has been translated into dozens of languages.

An American blogger who posted a video about her experience with the Cleanse of Death has racked up three million views online.

While Magnusson coined the term, the Swedes have been cleaning up death for ages.

“Forty years ago, a very old neighbor of mine told me she was going to clean up death,” recalls Kristina Adolphson, an 84-year-old former actress who now does it too.

“When you cleanse to death… you must realize that you cannot live forever! “

The Swedes’ pragmatic approach to death helps explain the phenomenon, Magnusson says, suggesting that other cultures prefer to avoid the subject.

“They are afraid of death, and the Swedes too. But we are talking about it. “

Only a few essential clothes hang in her closet, but a few animal and troll figurines still dot her living room.

“I had my apartment cleaned by death several times but I still have quite a few things. So it never stops. “


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