What Is Swedish Death Cleaning?

The journey through life is an excellent case study for constant adjustment. Whether driven by the pursuit of happiness or new demands from partners and offspring, it is common to pick up many things over time, from furniture to appliances.

However, as people grow older, the less they have in their space, the better. 

Swedish death cleaning is cleaning, albeit on a massive scale. Its goal is to declutter the home and create a system of organization to simplify one’s life.

It is an approach older people take to limit the burden on their loved ones to sort through their things after they have passed on.

The rest of this article will explore the above topic in greater detail. Among the questions answered in this article will be what Swedish death cleaning is and how people can use this cleaning approach to declutter a space.

Also, see Why Do Swedes Pronounce J as Y? to learn more.

Using Swedish Death Cleaning as a Way To Declutter

As the name suggests, Swedish death cleaning is a type of cleaning undertaken by Swedish individuals, typically the elderly or those with terminal diseases.

It helps them prepare their homes for their inevitable deaths, so their family members don’t have to do that for them. 

Sarah DiGiulio from NBC News lauds this approach as a practical cleaning exercise anchored on a very sound rationale [1]

It is an exercise that most people should perform once they reach middle age to get rid of most of the stuff they have collected over time and do not need anymore.

This reduces pressure on their loved ones to perform this exercise after they have passed on.

Save from releasing their loved ones from this burden, Swedish death cleaning is also an excellent decluttering tool.

Essentially, people are more likely to experience a better quality of life as they grow older with less clutter and mess in their space. 

As the NBC News article suggests, messes are an unnecessary cause of irritation, something aging persons can definitely do with less of later in life.

But why the name Swedish death cleaning?

The phrase Swedish death cleaning comes from the Swedish term döstädning (‘dö’ – death, ‘städning’ – cleaning). 

Below is a discussion on how to use this cleaning approach to declutter a home. 

While most cleaning approaches focus on mopping, dusting, and scrubbing, Swedish death cleaning is more of an organization system. 

According to The Spruce, this approach helps people select the more essential items and separate them from those they are willing to let go of [2].

Some of the basics of this cleaning include the following:

  • Sort all clothing
  • Declutter items, appliances, or furniture that takes up the most space in their home
  • Get rid of unnecessary digital files

Accordingly, this approach is a helpful tool for decluttering homes by prioritizing the items they need and eliminating those that they don’t need and those that take up too much space.

What Is Swedish Death Cleaning?

Swedish death cleaning was coined by Author Margareta Magnusson in her book, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family From a Lifetime of Clutter, in 2017.

In this book, Magnusson challenges her readers to put themselves in the shoes of their loved ones after they die.

Specifically, Magnusson contends that after a person dies, their loved ones will be forced to sift through all their possessions. 

Swedish death cleaning thus seeks to simplify this exercise.

If done right, the loved ones will be more at ease because the departed only have the essentials in their home after they pass on.

Swedish Death Cleaning Basics

Below is a summary of the essential items to keep in mind as the Swedish death cleaning checklist.

Sorting Clothing

As explained above, the first item in the Swedish death cleaning checklist is sorting all the clothing.

According to The Spruce, this is an excellent place to start because sorting out clothing is a relatively simple task. 

This involves determining which pieces of clothing a person is likely to keep wearing and setting aside the most appealing clothing styles. The rest of the clothes are simply removed from the closet. 

The next step after sorting the clothes is to create an effective system for organization for the closet. This ensures quick access to frequently worn articles. 

Decluttering Items Based on Size

After sorting clothes, the next item on the checklist is to declutter items based on size.

Here, the main focus is on the furniture and other items in the home that occupy the most space. 

For this exercise, the homeowner will work their way from the larger items down to the smaller things.

This step helps to eliminate non-frequently used items which may cause clogging or hinder free movement. 

Sort Digital Files

The third item on the checklist is to sort digital files. The proliferation of the internet has changed how people live their lives and permeated crucial factors from banking to succession planning. 

For instance, it would help if loved ones had access to important login information such as banking information, wills, and other digital information.

It would also help if loved ones didn’t have to sift through so much digital clutter on the hard drive to access this information.

Swedish death cleaning thus also focuses on reducing digital clutter to make it easy for loved ones to sort through digital files.

Important Things To Keep in Mind 

While it sounds straightforward, there are some essential factors to remember regarding Swedish death cleaning.

These include the following: 

Swedish Death Cleaning Takes Time

One of the things to keep in mind is that Swedish death cleaning will take some time [3].

Downsizing the home is a process that can take several months or even years.

Therefore, it is crucial to start this process early and not wait until later in life. 

Remember, older people tend to be slower and have less energy.

Swedish Death Cleaning Is Not Just About Decluttering

Thinking of Swedish death cleaning as simply a means to clean or declutter a house is incorrect. Instead, Swedish death cleaning also seeks to create a form of organization in the home.

This form of organization should be aimed at making life simpler. 

Sort Emotionally-Loaded Possessions Last

It is normal to feel emotionally attached to some items when decluttering or sorting things.

For some, this may stop the process before it begins, as people are less willing to let go of items for which they have sentimental value. 

Emotional connection should, however, not be a reason to hold on to things.

Therefore, going through such loaded items last is a good idea. These include letters, photos, and even old books that could easily sidetrack the process. 

[1] Source
[2] Source
[3] Source

Christian Christensen

Christian started Scandinavia Facts to explore his family heritage, raise awareness of one of his academic interests as a professor, and civilly promote the region. Please see the About page for details.

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