The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning…or How My Brother and I are Tackling the Garage

There are so many new fads out there. Some of them stick and really do provide great results. Methods, procedures, lists,  exercise groups, you name it. You’ve already heard me gush about the Konmari Method…now let me introduce to you The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning.

I’ll admit outright that I haven’t picked up the book and read it, but I’d read reviews and excerpts and think they’re on to something. But since my parents would never be the kind to browse a Barnes and Nobles and pick up a self-help book, especially one with such a title, I will need to…erm…evangelize them a different way. I plan to read the book soon, but it’ll be a library loan not a buy since I’m not needing it for this point in life for myself (not a homeowner).

The family house has a lot of stories in its bones. It has, at some point, housed ever single one of my mom’s siblings and my grandmother. There are rolls of fabric in the rafters from sewing days of old for one of my mom’s sisters. They started life here as refugees with nothing, and without accepting any government aid, just the generosity of a local church furnishing and helping them settle in, they went from an apartment to getting their own slice of the American dream: a nice modest house with a sizable backyard. One by one, however, these siblings married, had kids, and outgrew the living space and pursued a home of their own. That left my eldest Aunt and Grandmother in a home all alone, not really able to afford a mortgage once split 3-4 ways. So with some deep conversations, my parents decided to secure their living situation by moving out of their town and into that house.

Twenty-four years later, this memorable house is piled high with stuff. Stuff accumulates so fast. My grandmother has since passed, and my aunt had moved away for work purposes but intends to retire and live once again at the family house. That leaves three seniors in a home saturated with a lot of…junk. My brother and I are tackling the garage and slowly but surely taking it on knowing we can do it now and improve their quality of life, or let it continue and be stuck one day with overwhelming grief and many dumpsters to unload. So we are “gently” doing it now.

I’ve quietly sifted through the coat and towel closet in the living room and left it with breathing room. Replaced heavy fragile dishes with lightweight and extremely durable Correlle. They’ve installed grab bars in the bathroom for a bit later in life, and a built in shower bench with the last renovation. The newest couch has three recliners perfect for cat naps in the afternoon.

This garage though? It’s seen so many ebbs and flows of a semblance of organization and cleaning and then been filled to the brim again to the point it’s a fire hazard and nearly inaccessible as a route of escape in case of a fire. Last year, my brother and I installed a clothes drying rack for delicate clothes to air dry. We removed a large pesky second bookshelf, and used it to arrange the excess appliances. We piled my aunt’s boxes up high where leaks and spills wouldn’t damage her years of papers (she’ll have to tackle that herself). We did quite a bit, but then a fire blazed dangerously close to my brother’s home and their items ended up in the garage and they spent a few months at the family house. Now it’s the end of the year, and we’re geared up to do round two. Quietly, during times when my parents are away. Tossing and donating things we don’t have to be careful with. And checking between the two of us, what is worth keeping for my parents to sort.

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