Do I Need Swedish Death Cleaning?

Theresa Cashman
February 3, 2020

Not feeling the intense purge prescribed by many in the organizing world? Try Döstädning, also known as Swedish Death Cleaning. This gentle act helps you determine which items are important to keep in your life, and which ones to let go of.

Yes, the name of this #decluttering technique can be off-putting, but Margareta Magnusson, author of The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter insists that these small changes to our outlook can increase our #happiness and sense of satisfaction in our lives.

This concept, a life-style really, was introduced to us by the Swedes. It says that we should consider what we can do to ensure the next generation isn’t burdened by the physical items we leave behind. And this concept applies to all generations! “Death cleaning is not about dusting or mopping up; it is about a permanent form of organization that makes your everyday life run more smoothly,” Margareta explains.

Why is Döstädning a good thing?

It happens slowly. You find items to gift out of your home slowly so you don’t come home to an empty house after an intense weekend of purging. Start with large items hidden away in closets or attics and slowly work your way down to smaller items, memorabilia, and photographs.

You’re doing good in the world. Think of all the items we all have in the back of our closets that someone could really use right now. Allowing items to be recirculated into the world keeps other family’s costs down, cuts down on shipping costs and fuel, and is greener all around.

You have a chance to actually ask people if they want your items! Going through a loved ones possessions after they pass should be an opportunity to remember the good times, not an instigator of arguments and exhaustion. “Some people can’t wrap their heads around death. And these people leave a mess after them. Did they think they were immortal?” Margareta writes. This is also an opportunity to shred or discard things that would be embarrassing to your loved ones to find.

Regardless of where you are in life, you get to take stock. Counting your blessings, reliving your story to see how you’ve grown, and discussing your intentions for end of life with trusted family and friends feels good, and is good for you too. The author adds, “it is a delight to go through things and remember their worth.”

Life becomes about focusing on relationships and experiences instead of things. Rosellina Ferraro, PhD, Associate Professor of Marketing at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at University of Maryland says, “If you pare down [your belongings], the argument is that you can better focus on the really important things in life.” There’s so much research coming out about investment in experiences and those we love brings greater levels of happiness than new items do. Consider where you’d like to apply this to your life!

Remember, when you declutter your house, your mind will follow. Be gentle with yourself and call on a #professionalorganizer if you’re struggling!