What Is Swedish Death Cleaning?
You may or may not have ever heard of it, but Swedish Death Cleaning is the latest cleaning method, developed by Margareta Magnusson. Before you guess how it works, it is NOT a style of cleaning that involves listening to Swedish Death Metal music.
The purpose of this cleaning method is to free not only yourself but your family, from a lifetime of clutter.
Brief History Lesson Breakdown:
- Döstädning is Swedish for the phrase ‘death cleaning‘. Once you reach old age, it is a Swedish tradition to gather up your most important belongings before you leave this world.
- Margareta Magnusson (who claims to be aged in the 80-100 age range) is a Swedish author who wrote the book – The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter.
- Magnusson started writing the book after going through her late husband and parents’ belongings when they passed and was trying to figure out what to do with what they left.
Why does the method name sound so morbid?
As sad as it may be, at some point, we’re all going to die. But if you think about it, this method is actually to alleviate any stress that our family members will encounter in the future. When our time has come and gone, our loved ones will have to go through the daunting task of sifting through our belongings.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s better that we do the hard work for the sake and future of the family we will leave behind.
How Is It Different From The KonMari Method By Marie Kondo?
If you’ve never heard of Marie Kondo at this point, I’m shocked! Marie Kondo introduced her minimalist methods of decluttering and organizing your life by adapting to her own method, which she calls KonMari (yes, it is a combo of her last name and first name).
- Organize your items by category, rather than by room.
- End goal: Only own items that “spark joy” aka make you feel happy and grateful that you own them.
- Commit to tidying up
- Imagine your ideal lifestyle
- Finish discarding first – Thank your items for serving their purpose
- Tidy by category, not location
- Follow the right order
- Question if the item sparks joy
- Komono (Miscellaneous items)
- Sentimental Items
Are There Any Similarities?
Yes, the KonMari method may have a different set of rules compared to Swedish Death Cleaning, but they do have something in common – Minimalism! You don’t need to keep things that serve no purpose for you – keep what you love and get rid of what you don’t.
While Swedish Death Cleaning might seem a little bit more of an emotional process, it’s not as potentially awkward as thanking your items out loud. Magnusson recommends to get rid of as many material items as you can and, instead, keep the items that have the most meaning!
The Guide To Swedish Death Cleaning
What To Toss:
- Unworn Clothes
- Unused Presents
What To Keep:
- Meaningful Love Letters
- Art Projects Made By Children/Grandchildren
- Important Documents
- Do NOT start with photographs/home-videos – All it takes is one photo or video to get trapped in memory lane. Save yourself the heartache and time by going through the photos and videos later.
- Start in the closet – It’s easier to say goodbye to clothes that don’t fit you anymore or maybe wouldn’t be suited for your family.
- Give away your important items in person – Rather than having friends and family claim your items because they feel obligated, go out and hand-deliver them. It will make the process that much more special!
- Sell items that have no meaning – You might as well make a profit off of the items your friends/family may not want!
- Question the importance of the item – No, you don’t have to verbally question the importance! However, Magnusson wants us to think to ourselves: “Will anyone be happier if I save this?” If the answer is no, pitch it.
- Keep track of important documents – Organize any personal documents, log-in information, and financial information that you have. Also, it would be helpful to include an instruction list as to handle any of those documents.
- Make it a habit – After decluttering your life by adapting this Swedish method, it can be easy to repurchase items or refill a “void”. Magnusson says to reward yourself with an activity rather than another material item.
Magnusson also says that keeping a throw-away box can be good for storing your personal items that you want to keep “just for yourself”. But, eventually, it will be known to your family that they can simply throw it away after you pass. One woman, who adapted this cleaning practice, mentioned that when she put together her throw-away box, she left a note that said: “If I die and you find this, you must throw it away, no peeking or I’ll haunt you…seriously.” I personally LOVE this idea because it adds a sense of humor to the heartbreaking experience your family will go through.
If you feel like having family members around you while you clear your items, that’s more than ok! It’s completely understandable that, since this can be an emotional process, being surrounded by immediate/close family members can make the process less depressing. Obviously, don’t feel like you have to include all of your extended family. However, if including extended family would make you feel better then, by all means, do it.
Can this method be used by just ANYONE?
Technically, the answer is yes. However, this is what Magnusson has to say:
“This practice should be a necessity for anyone over 50, but younger people should consider engaging in this de-cluttering process, as well.”
If you haven’t reached an age in which you, personally, consider old – it’s still a practice that you are 100% capable of tackling.
When I was packing up to move to my new apartment, I went through some of my clothes and set aside 2 full bags of clothes that I hadn’t worn in YEARS or had just simply outgrew (but was holding onto for some strange reason)! And I don’t know about you but, growing up, my sister and I both had ‘junk drawers’ which we basically put all of our meaningless material items in. Eliminating the ‘junk drawer’ in the new place has been not only rewarding, but, personally, stress-relieving! Take it from me, adapting even the smallest aspects of this death cleaning practice can definitely make things easier when moving!
No matter what your opinion is about the name of the cleaning method, the method itself has many positive factors surrounding it. It can also help bring families closer and keep those beautiful memories alive for decades to come!