Learning to look at things instead of owning them

Owning something — locking it away in your house — doesn’t help anything. Leave it in the wild!

A Swedish artist and grandma called Margareta Magnusson has a nice way of putting this in her book, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, a very nice little book written to remind us that we can’t take our things with us when we die, so let’s tread lightly in the meantime.

Beautiful things such as an African wooden bird, strange things like a singing magnetic pig, and funny things like a solar-powered waving bear are all things that I adore. My vice really is things. It took me a while to understand this, but you can enjoy all these things without owning them. Even though this may sometimes seem quite hard to do, training yourself to enjoy only looking at things, instead of buying them, is very pleasing and also a good habit. You really can’t take everything with you, so maybe it is better to try not to own it all.

When I browse through an interior design magazine I sometimes get so tired! Many of these homes look as if all the furniture has been supplied by the same shop. Colourless, plain, perfect and without any charm at all. Too many pieces for decoration arranged on parade or in strange, affected compositions. Who will want to dust them I wonder.

But there are many homes that have a lot to teach. Beautiful, practical and sparsely furnished. Truly inspiring homes that are easy to keep clean. I still try to learn from these rooms. I reflect and maybe rethink my own living space, and then probably will get rid of a few more things!

And here’s a short conversation with Margareta on video. Isn’t she fab? The interviewer takes her to see her storage unit for the purposes of death cleaning and Margareta says “what are you going to do with all this crap?”

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Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at www.wringham.co.uk/about.

2 Responses to “Learning to look at things instead of owning them”

  1. Matt Smart says:

    This is just the sort of thing I’ve been trying to coax my parents into doing having as they do a house full of knick-knacks and other assorted sh*t that I don’t want to have to deal with.
    Thanks for the video link – a woman with her head well and truly screwed on.

  2. Yeah, she’s a really cool lady. I like her a lot and I’m glad you do too. There’s actually a chapter in her book about how to talk tactfully to older family members about their stuff. On the other hand, she says you can just get an auction company to come in and take care of everything too, which is probably how most people handle it. If you’re interested, here’s a piece I wrote about “death and stuff” a couple of years ago (though Margaretta’s book has far more personality and is more in-depth).

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