A beginner’s guide to Swedish death cleaning

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‘Döstädning’, or the art of death cleaning, is a Swedish phenomenon by which the elderly and their families set their affairs in order.

Just when you think the Konmari phase has fizzled out, a new one emerges.

Make way for the newest trending cleaning fad: Swedish death cleaning.

No, it has nothing to do with being Swedish or cleaning your house so much till you pass out.

Swedish death cleaning is known as intentional decluttering, the process of clearing out one’s space with the intention of preventing clutter from burdening loved ones after you’ve passed on.

The beauty of death cleaning is that you can start at any stage or age in your life.

Swedish death cleaning is based on a book, titled “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family From a Lifetime of Clutter” by Margareta Magnusson.

Magnusson is a Swedish artist who began this journey when she was grieving the deaths of her parents and husband.

During her grievance, she struggled to find ways to part with their personal possessions.

The author refers to this method as a Swedish idea of “döstädning”, which translates to death cleaning.

“Dö” means death in Swedish and “städning” means cleaning.

If you want to practise this cleaning style in your home, here are some tips to get you started:

1. Identify which items hold value

You might have accumulated many items over the years, thinking someone might want them later on, but by doing this you may be hoarding without even realising.

Always keep in mind that what you consider a treasure may be a burden to others.

Swedish death cleaning is particularly useful for hoarders and collectors.

2. Organise important documents

The Swedish death cleaning method always involves others. Be it family or friends, it’s important to keep them in the loop of your purpose.

This process will be useful because it gives you the opportunity to inform the ones closest to you of your wishes.

This will also be a good time to jot down personal information, numbers and passwords to allow the ones closest to you to know how to access it when the need arises.

Jot down important information such as passwords as it will be beneficial to those who need to access important accounts in the future.

3. Sort from easiest to hardest

The last thing to sort in the Konmari method is personal possessions such as letters and photos, and Magnusson’s teaches you the same way.

She advises to first start off with your clothes as it is the first entry point to the Swedish death cleaning method.

This way, you would feel less inclined to be emotional and subsequently achieve what you’ve set yourself to accomplish.

The gateway to Swedish death cleaning begins with decluttering one’s clothes.

4. Donate unnecessary items

Have an old scarf you don’t use anymore?

If you’re feeling charitable and need to clear out some space, you may donate the items.

You may even invite your friends and family over to let them choose what they want from you most and give it away.

You may also try to sell your items on apps specially dedicated to selling your pre-loved items such as Carousell or Mudah.my.

Donating your things will make getting rid of them easier, as you know they will bring joy to someone else.

5. Think of others, not yourself

The purpose of the Swedish death cleaning method is to declutter in a mindset that you’re cleansing your space in consideration of how others would feel.

The author states that keeping sentimental items such as handwritten notes, postcards or even memorabilia will only mean value to you and not to others.

If you must, keep only the most important letters and place them in a dedicated box only if you think it would be valuable for your loved ones to read later on.

6. Get help

Swedish death cleaning is an organised effort. Once you are done, you may not have the energy left to clean up your home from dust and debris.

What are your thoughts about this decluttering method? Does it sound too morbid?

Or is it a practical step towards minimising the war against the build-up of what seems like never-ending clutter?

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