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10 Things to Know About Swedish Death Cleaning

Yes, the name Swedish Death Cleaning is off-putting, but it's kind of meant to jar you into action to decrease the burden on your family. Find out what you need to know about Swedish Death Cleaning.

What is Swedish Death Cleaning?Family Handyman

What is Swedish Death Cleaning?

The name “Swedish Death Cleaning” gets a lot of attention for good reason, but once you learn about it, it’s a pretty sensible, practical way to deal with your possessions as you approach your later years. It’s based on a book, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family From a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnusson. It’s generated a lot of buzz.

Magnusson, a Swedish artist, began writing the book after dealing with the deaths of her parents and husband and tried to figure out what to do with their possessions. She writes about the Swedish idea of döstädning, which translates to death cleaning. Dö means death in Swedish and städning means cleaning. The thrust of the book is to slowly begin decluttering so your death isn’t such a burden for those you leave behind.

It’s similar to other trendy thoughts on home organization and approaches to life, like hygge, which caught on last year.

What to Hold on toGrand Warszawski/Shutterstock

What to hold on to

You’ve kept certain items around the house as a reminder of an experience, but you don’t need to have the object to trigger a memory. Your mind still holds onto the trip or special day you had that led you to keep a souvenir.

Take a look in your kitchen cabinets and make a note of how many plates and glasses you keep. Chances are you don’t need them all. Here’s why Death Cleaning is the answer to your clutter.

Things to DocumentFamily Handyman

Things to document

An important piece to Swedish Death Cleaning is involving others. This is helpful for a couple of reasons. For one, it will help keep you accountable if you tell others of your plan. It also becomes a good time to share with your family your wishes after you pass. During this process, you should begin putting together a document that holds any login and password information for any financial institutions or other relevant information that’s going to be tough to find after your death. Make sure your remaining items are packed and stored properly.

Where to StartFamily Handyman

Where to start

Magnusson says to stay away from photographs as the first entry point into Swedish Death Cleaning. Instead, try to start in the closet where you’re sure to find items you no longer wear and things that just don’t fit anymore. Here are 20 spring cleaning tasks you can do in a minute or less.

How to Give Things AwayKirsten Hinte/Shutterstock

How to give things away

Hannah-Rose Yee wrote about Swedish Death Cleaning and tried it herself. It wasn’t as easy as she thought it’d be to give away some of her things. A friend wouldn’t accept a scarf and Yee wanted books she’d given away back within a couple of days.

To avoid that problem, Magnusson suggests bringing your things to friends and family as presents. Instead of a bouquet of flowers, give your friend whatever item of yours they’ve long admired. Get yourself started with these cutting clutter strategies for every room.

When to StartFamily Handyman

When to start

Magnusson urges those 65 and older to start the process of shedding possessions. You can start by selling some of those items first. Yee sold a number her old things and earned around $500, she said. Once you get started, the purge becomes easier. This is how one therapist’s advice helped her patient grieve. 

Make it LastFamily Handyman

Make it last

Taking a new approach to something is never easy. It takes on average two months form a new habit. So, along the way of Swedish Death Cleaning, Magnusson says it’s alright to reward yourself. Go see a movie or grab a cupcake—just don’t buy a bunch of new stuff.

Will Anyone be Happier if I Save This?Family Handyman

Will anyone be happier if I save this?

That note your crush passed you in middle school isn’t going to mean anything to anyone other than you. One of the important questions Magnusson poses in her book is: Will anyone be happier if I save this? It’s a good way to frame the inner monologue debate that will go on in your mind as you start to declutter. These easy storage ideas will help you find a spot for the things you want to keep. After that, check out these 16 tips from professional housecleaners.

Nobody Wants Your StuffGUIDENOP/Shutterstock

Nobody wants your stuff

The Christian Science Monitor reported in July 2017 that children of baby boomers aren’t itching to take possession of their parents’ home furnishings. In fact, they’d rather not.

It’s not only that children don’t want their parents’ possessions; it’s that there’s not a market for that old mahogany furniture pieces. The price of mahogany furniture has dropped considerably in the past few years as people have started to favor mid-century modern designs and cheaper furniture from IKEA.

You’ll want to check out these 12 ways to downsize, and here’s the definitive guide to how often you should clean everything in your home.

Being a Pack Rat has a Financial BurdenAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

Being a pack rat has a financial burden

In a Forbes story, Richard Eisenberg had to unload an apartment full of his father’s possessions after he died in order to avoid paying an extra month of rent. Eisenberg pointed out there are liquidators who specialize in cleaning out estates. There are even move managers for seniors who downsize from their homes to a smaller condo. Some senior move managers charge between $2,500 to $3,000 and others will sell items at estate sales. They’ll take a cut of the proceeds of the estate sale, usually around 35 percent or so. Next, here are 10 cleaning myths you should stop believing.

Originally Published on The Family Handyman