Swedish Death Cleaning: Thoughtful, Responsible, Candid Decluttering

Swedish Death Cleaning: Thoughtful, Responsible, Candid Decluttering


It’s not as morbid as you think it is.

Everyone is into changing lifestyles these days. Many people have been adopting minimalism, KonMari, and waste-free lifestyle for a happier, clutter-free living. Adding up to the list is Swedish Death Cleaning. No, it does not mean “cleaning the dead”. Introducing, döstädning (literally “death cleaning” in English). It’s not very different from KonMari or Minimalism only that this is a preparation for “when you leave the planet.”

is “death” and städning is “cleaning”,” Margareta Magnusson says in her book The Gentle Art Of Swedish Death Cleaning. Packed with “Scandinavian humor and wisdom” the book aims to guide readers through Swedish Death Cleaning. It is a decluttering method with the future in mind. And by future we meant the “later years”, the end of the line, death or mortality. Not a stark contrast with KonMari, döstädning may not only lead you to a happier life (and death) but also make our own mortality easier for our loved ones too.

“Death cleaning is not sad.” Magnusson makes sure of this at the beginning of the book. The author who describes herself as someone who is “somewhere between 80 and 100 years old” has written the book to share her own journey with döstädning. What hit me in her introduction of the method was when she said she “takes it as a responsibility of her own age” to tell about it. Death cleaning may be working in the same premise as this: taking responsibility for your own life as you do with your death. To get you started with Swedish Death Cleaning, you may want to keep these things in mind.

It Involves Your Loved Ones

When you begin the decluttering process, there are people you would have to notify. Unlike other methods, this is ultimately for the people you’re going to leave behind. As you start doing the act of döstädning, get on the phone, post on Facebook, tweet about it, IG it—just get the word out that you’re starting to declutter. This will also be a great platform for you to ask them if they want anything among all the stuff you’re about to dispose of. Who knows, there might be things in your storage that will make them happy, they just didn’t know it yet. Doing this will also make it easier for you to pass on documents, information, and other reminders

Macro to Micro Decluttering

Just like all methods, it’s always best to start decluttering big items before going down to the tiny little ones. One of the best places to start would be ones you’ve kept hidden for years. Boxes and boxes of unused items, hidden pots and pans, untouched gifts, and clothes towed away for “future use”—you’ll always find something to dispose among these items. Only after you’ve managed the big ones should you try and touch the letters, documents, mementos, and reminders that you’ve kept in a small box or in the bottom drawer hidden away with your high school diary. Will you dispose them? It’s okay not to. You can keep them somewhere else.

Your Own Private Space

Photo from @art_and_letters on Instagram

This is where you put trinkets, love letters, old notes from an old flame—anything you’d like to keep that still makes you happy. What do you do with it? Anything you’d like to but as you pass, this is going to be disposed of as you wish. If you’d like to keep them private, make sure to tell your family that it’s not to be meddled with. It can be your own private space, memories you can take to the grave with you. “I have gathered all these personal items in a box that I have marked ‘throw away’,” Magnusson said. “Once I am gone, the box can be destroyed.”

Take Your Time

There isn’t any time limit to declutter and you can start this at any age. You can be 21 and only beginning to live your life or 80 to 100 just like Magnusson. No one is going to rush you into decluttering these things. The pressure is non-existent as this is a decluttering method that is permanent. “Death cleansing means removing unnecessary things and making your home nice and orderly when you think the time is coming close for you to leave the planet,” she explains in the book. Understandably, there are a lot of things that would be hard to let go of. Take this as an opportunity to come to terms with the reality of your own passing—this alone would require a moment to be realized by anybody.

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