Swedish Death Cleaning

The title alone sparks a curiosity to know more. The author, Margareta Magnusson, was in a position many daughters and spouses eventually experience: standing in the house with the overwhelming task of cleaning after parents or a spouse passes.  In a state of grief and exhaustion, you must figure out what to do with their possessions.  Rather than place the task on someone else, Swedish Death Cleaning can become a positive experience to declutter the home and organize items based on value and need. Whether you are 94 or 36, the time spent preparing your affairs may result in feeling less stressed to enjoy life and its adventures.  The purpose of Swedish death cleaning is to live simply through thoughtful decluttering and preparation.  Here’s how to get started.

  1. Assemble the “Death Kit”: If you secretly hide essential items such as jewelry and documents, there needs to be a means to guide your loved ones to the hidden treasure. From banking and mortgage records, usernames and passwords, consider the relief when family members not only find, but can easily access your information and wishes.  In the moment of an emergency, creating a riddle or puzzle to find the secret on page 28, your birthday, of your favorite book will not work. The kit should contain your specific requests to all health situations and your final wishes.
  2. Entering Rarely Visited Locations: Hidden in storage, perhaps, located in the attic, closets, garages, basements, and detached buildings are a plethora of various items. Why wait?  Invite the family over to help in cleaning and to claim pieces of interest before they are either donated to charity or thrown away.
  3. Giving a Special Gift: In spending time with members of the family or good friends, consider gifting long admired possessions, which may be a classic book, a hand-painted bowl, a specific figurine, or a plant.  Select items will bring joy to the recipient and a fond remembrance of you.
  4. Eliminate Upsetting Items or Papers: Private letters between husband and wife, pictures, or objects, for instance, may not be well-received by your family. While it may mean a lot to you, the receipt of items may be upsetting for your family to find and read.  It is better to save your family trouble and discard.
  5. Make Some Money: Have too many chairs in your home? Or clocks?  What about copper pots or handmade quilts?  You have options to reduce clutter, and one is making a profit. While consignment stores may offer a 40% profit to sell your items, you also can elicit a grandchild to help you post various pieces online.
  6. Deal with Photographs and Journals Last: From the first page of a photo albumto the final page of the 25th-book, time stops as memories of nostalgia prevent any further act of cleaning.  Swedish Death Cleaning advocates the notion of honoring the past without clinging to it. There are 1000s of photos that are blurry or replicas.  Do you need every moment of every annual trip to the lake and the mountains?  The value is having, perhaps, a hand-full of photos to enjoy and celebrate. Another option is to mail a few pictures with a quick message to a member of the family, friend, and especially the family genealogist.

Living the life of a minimalist can create a life of joy and happiness.  Rather than the constant need to clean and dust, collect and expand your possessions, the idea of Swedish Death Cleaning applies to every age as a means to keep only the significant and useful belongings, while enjoying the present moment with loved ones.  Taking a new approach to a new concept is never easy.  While it takes roughly two months to form a habit, the formula of living a joyous and clutter-free life is rewarding!  Why not give it a try! Start today! Open a drawer or cupboard and start cleaning with a distinct purpose!


Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Stay up to date with our events and get exclusive article content right to your inbox!

Latest Stories

Other Featured Articles


All Article in Current Issue

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Stay up to date with our events and get exclusive article content right to your inbox!