Swedish death cleaning: What is it?
Internet fads come and go, but rarely has one with such an ominous name had such a positive effect.
Swedish death cleaning, known in Sweden as ‘dostadning’, blossomed into popularity in early 2018, and has had a surprisingly wonderful influence ever since. It is practical, cathartic, and most importantly, something kind to do for your loved ones.
Here’s a little more about what it is and why it’s so much nicer than it sounds.
What is Swedish death cleaning?
Swedish death cleaning is the act of slowly but surely clearing out a lifetime of your own accumulated possessions and unwanted items.
Starting in your 50s, it’s the practice of going through your things and radically decluttering your home of all the things that you don’t actively use or treasure.
The idea is, that by the time you eventually pass away decades later, your own family doesn’t have to spend months clearing out your things on top of managing their grief.
It has become popular for many reasons. Firstly, it’s not a call to clear out everything immediately. If you spend just the occasional weekend clearing out one aspect of your home, you’ll slowly but surely remove large swathes of possessions, without the pressure or emotional challenge of doing it all at once.
Not to mention, it can be easier to make decisions when you frame it as helping your loved ones. For example, you might have an attachment to an old collection of National Geographic magazines, but if you know your loved ones would likely recycle them, you can save them the hassle.
Of course, it also offers the benefit of enjoying many years to come in your home without so much clutter around you, and of downsizing into a smaller home without having to move so much stuff.
The Swedish death cleaning method
Margareta Magnusson, author of The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning is one of the leading experts on the topic, and in an interview with Houzz, had a few things to say about how to go about it.
She says that one of the benefits of Swedish death cleaning is taking the time to remember and be sentimental about items you have collected over the years, but then to pass them on to someone who might also create new fond memories with them. This step can allow you to appreciate the items you are removing, without having them clutter up your home.
Get your loved ones involved
She also recommends involving your friends and family. Tell them what you are doing and why, if you offer to give them things, make sure they know not to simply accept out of politeness, but only if they actually want them. You can also ask a trusted friend or loved one if an item is worthy of resale, in good enough condition to donate, or is merely junk – it can be hard to make judgements about your own belongings.
Break it up
It’s also a good idea to categorise your possessions and start with groups that should be easier to declutter. For example, you might spend one weekend going through your books and donating ones you never liked much or don’t intend to read again. A month later, you might go through your wardrobe and donate items you haven’t worn in years. Items such as books, clothes, furniture, and crockery can all be easier to declutter than sentimental items, so are a good place to start.
Highly sentimental items such as letters and photographs should always be last on the list, as they will be the most difficult.
Slow and steady
Magnusson also recommends taking it slowly. You don’t have to declutter all at once, and it will be easier if you space it out. After all, it’s a process that can take years.
Keep in mind that Swedish death cleaning is a constant process. On one hand, you can be more conscious about things that you buy and try to minimise what you accumulate. On the other hand, you can constantly go back to areas you have already decluttered (such as your wardrobe) and pull out a few more items to donate or sell every now and then.
Remember why you started
Finally, remember that this method doesn’t mean throwing out absolutely everything and spending your final years in a home devoid of personal items. Keep the things you love and cherish the most, with the goal of decluttering everything else and saving your loved ones weeks, if not months, of doing it themselves.
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19 Dec 2022