The first time I heard about Swedish death cleaning was in 2018 while listening to a podcast about decluttering. The host discussed the newly released book “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning” by the Swedish author Margareta Magnusson.

red coffee cup on red saucer  with a white napkin next to it that says keep, recycle, declutter, trash, donate, and sell. photo is for a blog post about Swedish death cleaning.

He compared it to Marie Kondo and the “Konmari method” I had just finished reading. I liked Kondo’s book very much, which resulted in my eliminating many personal items.

But I didn’t come anywhere near a permanent form of organization in my own home. I guess I like nice things in my daily life, which do indeed give me joy!!

So I downloaded the Audible version of Magnusson’s book. Her main message of Magnusson’s was to eliminate things while you’re still alive instead of burdening your loved ones when you die.

I was excited to eliminate the rest of my unworn clothes, unwanted presents, and unnecessary things from my life forever.

Both books address dealing with a lifetime of clutter. Kondo’s book presents a more joyous method of the decluttering business. (“does this bring me joy?”)

But in 2018, I wasn’t at the life stage to let go of things. I was 60 and not ready to think about my own death or an end-of-life plan.

quote about eating an elephant one bite at a time

My life situation is about to change (retirement, yes!), and Mom is now 92 and in not-so-great health. It’s time to have some sensitive conversations with family members and address this process.

Honestly, the thought of having to declutter two homes is beyond scary, so I recently decided to begin the process with my own home first.

To start, I listened to Magnusson’s book again and learned even more about the process of Swedish death cleaning.

And over the next few months, I’m going to share this journey with you! I’m sharing the process with you for a few reasons.

  1. Like me, you may be going through things, deciding what’s worth keeping and what to do with unwanted items.
  2. A parent or loved one are in their later years or at a life stage where it’s time to assess now what to do with their things after they die.
  3. You want to learn the reasons behind sentimental things that have sentimental value while your loved ones are still living. (i.e., old love letters, personal mementos like photo albums, a dried flower, or hand-written note)
  4. Maybe you are looking for a new home, and it’s a good time to let go of stuff.

And by sharing my progress, I’ll be holding myself accountable to you so I won’t slack off 🙂

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So What Exactly Is Swedish Death Cleaning?

The Swedish word for the Swedish death purge is “döstädning.” It is about implementing a decluttering strategy so you can get your life in order before you die.

It is meant to make it easier for loved ones to sort through all of your personal belongings when you do leave this Earthly planet.

Older generations traditionally practice Swedish death cleaning in Sweden though younger folks are embracing the concept today.

Quote by Margareta Magnusson about Swedish death cleaning and leaving behind a good life

Do You Have to Be Dying To Do Swedish Death Cleaning?

No, you do not. The Swedish death cleaning practice applies to anyone looking to declutter and simplify their living space. It is about regularly assessing and getting rid of unnecessary possessions rather than only doing it at the end of one’s life.

Death cleaning can be helpful whether you are nearing the end of life or just want organization in your home.

How Old Are Most People Who Start Death Cleaning?

There is no set age when people typically begin practicing Swedish death cleaning. Traditionally, older generations in Sweden would undertake the practice as they neared the end of their lives. However, you can apply the principles of döstädning at any stage of life.

In the United States, death cleaning is becoming quite popular with people over 50 who are in relatively good health.

Some people may start earlier in their lives. Others may wait until they are older or face a life event such as moving or retirement.

Ultimately, it is up to the individual to decide when it is right for them to begin Swedish death cleaning.

How Long Does The Process Take?

There is no set time frame for how long it will take to Swedish death clean your house. It depends on the size of the home and the number of possessions that need to go.

It may also take longer if you choose to go through the process slowly and thoroughly rather than trying to rush through it.

But just starting with one room at a time and regularly reassessing and removing unnecessary items can significantly simplify your living space. Death cleaning is a continual process, not a one-time event.

What Are The Benefits of Swedish Death Cleaning?

Simplifying and decluttering your space makes it easier for loved ones to sort through your possessions after you pass away. It creates room for what truly matters in your life, and can bring peace and organization to your life.

Are There Any Health Benefits To Swedish Death Cleaning?

There are several potential health benefits to Swedish death cleaning. These benefits include: reducing stress; improved mental well-being, and increased productivity.

By reducing clutter, you also eliminate the risk of injury by tripping over things!

How Do You Get Rid Of All the Stuff?

When Swedish death cleaning, it is important to consider each item individually and decide if it brings value or joy to your life. If not, you can choose to donate, sell, or throw away the item.

It may also be helpful to involve others in decision-making, such as loved ones who may want to keep certain items after you pass away. However, ultimately it is up to the individual to decide what they want to do with their possessions.

What Should I do With Old Photos & Mementos?

Letting go of old photos and mementos can be difficult, but begin by sorting and deciding which ones to keep.

Consider involving your loved ones to see if there are certain photos they want to keep themselves. If you aren’t ready to part with them, create a box with the recipient’s name and store them there until you’re ready to let them go.

You can also digitize the photos, give away the hard copies, or sell them as ephemera for scrapbooking on ETSY.

If you digitize, Plustek sells a photo scanner that scans and upload photos to your computer in seconds. This scanner can even scan 8×10 photos!

For old negatives or slides, Kodak sells a small scanner that converts them into jpg photos. Load the jpgs onto a thumb drive to give away as gifts for the Holidays!

Are There Any Downfalls to Swedish Death Cleaning?

Some potential downfalls to Swedish death cleaning may include difficulty letting go of possessions. It might also upset your loved ones who take issue with the concept or the decluttering process in general.

It is important to approach Swedish death cleaning with a balanced mindset. Don’t go crazy decluttering and feel like you need to get rid of everything.

Ultimately, it should be exciting to simplify and organize your life. But if it causes stress, visualize what an organized space would look and feel like. Continue doing this until you become motivated to take the first step.

Who Should Not Consider Swedish Death Cleaning?

This concept is really helpful for anyone, though those with hoarding tendencies may want to seek guidance from a therapist or professional organizer before beginning the practice.

It is also important to approach the process with a balanced mindset and not feel pressured to get rid of everything. The process should bring you a sense of peace and organization rather than stress or guilt.

How Often Do You Need to Do This Type of Cleaning?

There is really no set schedule for this type of cleaning. You can make it a part of your regular decluttering and organizing routine.

Periodically check in with yourself and ask if the possessions in your life still bring value or joy. And if you find you are bringing in more things than you’re purging, do a decluttering tune-up.

Ultimately, it is up to you to decide how often you want to incorporate Swedish death cleaning into your routine.

What Is The Best Way to Start?

To begin death cleaning, take inventory of your possessions. Ask yourself what makes you happy or serves a purpose in your life. Keep those items, and consider getting rid of anything that no longer serves a purpose or brings you joy.

You can also think about organizing your belongings to make them easier to sort through in the future. This can include labeling boxes and creating files for important documents.

Remember that death cleaning is not just about throwing things away. It’s also about making room for what truly matters to you. Approach the process with intention, and focus on simplifying rather than getting rid of as many things as possible.

While it may seem daunting, regularly practicing Swedish death cleaning can lead to a decluttered and simplified life. And by doing it now, you’ll be making it easier for loved ones later.

So, consider implementing the principles of döstädning in your own life. Give it a try and see how much peace of mind and joy it brings you.

A photo of a cluttered rack of cloths for a blog post about Swedish death cleaning

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