Thursday, December 28, 2017

O-souji and Swedish Death Cleaning

There is a Japanese tradition to clean everything in your home and workplace at the end of the year.  There is even a name for this cleaning - O-souji (大掃除).  It symbolizes a new beginning and fresh start.  

I saw this photo on Japan Today, showing people, including Ground Self-Defense Force rangers, engaging in the annual end-of-year cleaning at Himeji Castle.

As I begin to do my end of the year cleaning, I have been reading/hearing a lot about a book called The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning.

It has been featured on a number of sites I read, like Unclutterer and Treehugger.  If you google it, you can find many references to this book, written by an elderly woman named Margaretta Magnusson.  Queenie might be able to explain it better, but I think the basic premise is to start thinning out your possessions when you get to be about 50-ish, so that your family or whoever doesn't have a big job to get rid of things when you die.  

When we moved to Japan, we had to get rid of most of what we owned.  I did a lot of this in preparation for the move, but being in my 50's, I can see it served the same purpose as Swedish Death Cleaning.  As I do my O-souji this year, I'm thinking about how much stuff I have and what I have that no longer brings me joy.  

Do you do end of the year cleaning or spring cleaning?  What do you think about Swedish Death Cleaning? Are you concerned about what another person will have to do with your stuff after your gone?


Anonymous said...

Hi Pamela,hmm very interesting question and one that i will think on,Happy New Year my friend xx

Margaret said...

I love the concept of Osouji and even now, 30 years after returning to New Zealand I still do that every year. My last chores on New Year's Eve are to wash the car and then have a long hot shower then wait for the fireworks display over the city skies. There is no comparable Kohaku utagasen on TV here and I still miss that. Happy cleaning and a happy new year.

Anonymous said...

I always learn something new from you, Pamela. Swedish death cleaning is a great idea I'd never heard of before. I was hoping to start getting rid of things slowly next year and I will call it the Swedish method now!

Vireya said...

I had to get rid of a lot of stuff in 2014 when I sold my house. My challenge is not to accumulate more now.

Mia said...

Althought there is not such a tradition in Greece, Pamela, I love cleaning my house in the end of the year and welcome the new year. Happy Holidays, my friend.

Renee said...

My sister and I were talking about this earlier this year. Both of our parents have had serious health issues over the past year and a half. (One lives on the East Coast near my sister and the other lives here on the West Coast near me.) We are more than a little overwhelmed by the idea of the amount of stuff we are going to be left to deal with some day. I began seriously decluttering early last year and have kind of slacked off, but I already worked on a schedule to renew my efforts in 2018. I do not want to leave that kind of burden for my children to deal with in the midst of their grief when we are gone. I love the idea of Swedish Death Cleaning - thank you for sharing!

kiwikid said...

That is an interesting custom in Japan, that time of the year we are often on holidays. We decluttered whne we moved to the beach twomyears ago, but I can see the gradual increase of "things"happening. I like the sound of that book too. We are off to NZ again in a few days to sort my mothers house out...she did get rid of a few things but there is a lot still to go through. It has encouraged me to start to sort my stuff here and not leave the same for our sons to have to sort through.

Queeniepatch said...

I had a look at some Swedish sites to read up on the author and the book.
The term 'döstädning' can be confused with 'dödstädning'. Although 'dö' is the verb 'to die', it can also be used as an adjective of slang with the meaning 'very'. (Compare 'bloody' in 'This bloody knife'. Either it means a blod stained knife, or a nasty, useless, blunt knife that irritates you.)
So 'döstädning' really means cleaning really well, in a sense like the Japanese year-end cleaning, osoji.
The philosophy of the author is to keep sorting and clearing out things you no longer need already from an early age to have a clutter-free daily life.
The word has been misread to 'dödstädning' which means cleaning out after someone's death.
The author then played on the two meanings and suggest that if we clear out unwanted things ourselves before we die, the people we leave behind will have an easy task of sorting out the last bits.
I agree with the idea of down-sizing, but think it is important to have a 'maybe' box where you place things you are not sure you should part with. Wait a year and see if you have missed or forgotten them. Anything that you have not needed can go.
I also think that parents should consult with their children before getting rid of things the kids might have nostalgic memories of.
Also, fashion and interior trends go from revolutionary, new, fresh, modern,
to ordinary, common,
to dated, boring,
to uncool, awful,
to antiquated, prehistoric
and then suddenly quint, charming
and back to modern.
Imagine you found a chest in your great-great-great-great grandmother's attic with things she though were junk, that you can make a fortune of at an antique auction.
Remember that the quilt you make today WILL be a museum item in 2317! Some things are worth hanging on to!

Leonore Winterer said...

I think getting rid of things that no longer bring you joy is a good idea, not matter what age you are...but then a lot of the things I have do bring me joy (like my crafting stash - I think all of us can probably relate) even if I have no immediate use for it (in this case - way more things than I can ever use) and I think that's okay as well :)