The Swedish word dostadning describes an uncluttering process that begins as people age. In her new book The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, to be released in January, author Margaret Magnusson tries to help Americans free themselves and their families from a lifetime of clutter.

A Washington Post book review stated, “If your family doesn’t want your stuff when you’re alive, they sure don’t want it when you’re dead.”

I get it.

Over the years I’ve felt increasingly overwhelmed by all the stuff stored in our basement. My husband Bill has pack rat tendencies, and he comes from a long line of savers. There are boxes that came from Aunt Elsie, his mother’s sister. When Elsie’s health began to fail in the early 1990s, we moved her belongings from her senior apartment into her sister’s basement. A few years later, when Bill’s mom moved from that house where she’d lived for 60 years, we brought everything to our basement. That included moving his aunt’s boxes for a second time, plus all that his parents had acquired in their lifetimes – plus many, many items that had come from the homes of both Bill’s maternal and paternal grandparents. Three generations of pack rats.

After years of clucking about it – and an occasional foray into the mess – I’m proud to report I’ve made more progress in 2017. Last spring I created eBay and PayPal accounts and started selling items from our vast basement inventory.

Walter'sThe list of items sold could become chapters in a family history:

  • At last count, eight cookbooks (Elsie collected them);
  • A complete set of 1919 encyclopedias (read by my father-in-law when he was a child);
  • Some nice costume jewelry (Bill’s mother always dressed well);
  • A dozen vintage hats she’d worn to church in the 1950s and 1960s (which I happily mailed off to the California buyer).

Some chapters would be mysteries, like the one based on a single coaster advertising “Walter’s Beer that is Beer, Eau Claire, Wis.” found in a box with other souvenirs of the 1930s. What made it a keepsake? We’ll never know. On a whim I listed the coaster on eBay for $5 and it sold in minutes!

I complain a lot about the stuff but to be completely honest, it’s been entertaining to open boxes and research the contents. In fact you can go back and find many blog postings resulting from my discoveries, like the series I wrote in 2014 with titles beginning “WITB” (for “What’s in the box?”). And I will probably tell a few more stories in 2018 based on what I’ve found in boxes recently.

My dostadning will continue, and hopefully I’ll finish the task so our niece and nephews aren’t stuck with the job of sorting through four generations of belongings.

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