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Swedish Death Cleaning: what it is and how to do it

Yes, it sounds a bit morbid but Swedish Death Cleaning can actually be very positive for you and your home, we promise. We explain all you need to know about the latest decluttering trend.


By Cleanipedia Team

Cardboard boxes, pillows and potted plant on blue background wall

Move over, Marie Kondo – there’s a new way to organise and declutter your home.

First things first: the premise of Swedish Death Cleaning is not pleasant. Put simply, it means decluttering and tidying up your house before you die – while thinking about those who will have the unenviable task of going through your things once you pass.

The method was made popular by Margareta Magnusson’s book The Gentle Art Of Swedish Death Cleaning. She was inspired to write the book after dealing with the death of her parents.

It can, however, be a very positive experience – and an effective, long-term method of decluttering. We’ve put together eight Swedish Death

Cleaning tips to get you started:

  1. Don’t think of it as morbid or sad, says Magnusson. Swedish Death Cleaning is liberating both for yourself and your family. Decluttering at any stage of your life is healthy and encourages you to think about others, which can surely only be a positive thing.
  2. You can start at any age (although Magnusson recommends getting a move on when you’re over 50). It’s not really about imagining your own death: rather it’s a philosophy that discourages you from accumulating and hoarding useless stuff year after year.
  3. It’s not dissimilar to Marie Kondo’s decluttering method. While Kondo encourages you to think about how items make you feel, Swedish Death Cleaning advocates how they would make your loved ones feel. Would they want shelves and shelves of books or old ornaments? Would they keep the furniture that you don’t use? Would they be embarrassed if they came across some of your things? It may be time to donate to charity or sell.
  4. It’s a long process. As the title of her book suggests, Magnusson’s process can go on for weeks or months rather than meaning blitzing everything in one go. But if your Swedish Death Clean is done properly, your organisation and decluttering philosophy should have changed for life and you shouldn’t revert to old habits.
  5. Categorise and work through your possessions. Put your things in different categories then try and list everything that you own in each category. You should then rank them – from the stuff you’re happy to get rid of to the things that are hardest to let go.
  6. Start with things you can’t see, like boxes that have been in the attic for 12 years or bags lingering at the back of the wardrobe. If you haven’t touched it for a while, the likelihood is you’ll be getting rid of it.
  7. Finish with your personal items. This is probably the hardest category for you to work through. If there’s anything that you can’t bring yourself to bin, consider adding it to a box that can be disposed of when you pass away.
  8. Talk to your family about it. It’s not the easiest discussion to have, but as well as discussing your funeral wishes and financial issues you should also let your loved ones know how you’re decluttering your home and leave any relevant instructions. Chances are you’ll actually be making their lives easier by taking away much of the stress of going through your possessions.

Keen to declutter but not sure this is the right method for you? There are other easy ways to declutter your home.

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Originally published