What is Swedish Death Cleaning?

Don’t worry, it isn’t cleaning. You know by now that I am not the go to person for cleaning tips. I wouldn’t be asking me how to get stains out of a carpet any time soon.

So what is it then?

This latest wave of interest in Swedish Death Cleaning has come from the release of a book by Margareta Magnusson – The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning (aff link). It gained a lot of interest from the title alone. Put death in the title and people are going to be curious right?

The general principal though is to declutter and organise your home with the end of your life in mind. Margareta recommends anyone over the age of 65 starts decluttering their home in this way and get their affairs in order. She wants to focus on understanding what is really important and removing the stress that families go through when faced with the end of a loved ones life.

Photo by Niki Nagy on Pexels.com

Although a radical approach, it does not just talk about getting rid of all your possessions. It also talks about organising your affairs and making sure everything someone may need once you pass away is ready and as easy as possible for someone to manage.

Many people have used her methods to help them downsize, help make homes more manageable for elderly family members who now need support and to celebrate those special family memories and keepsakes whilst they are here to share those memories with you

The end result is that you are only left with the absolute essentials in your home and anything else has been passed onto family members already if a family heirloom or a keepsake that the family have chosen to cherish in their homes. The key is family here. Getting them involved now so the hard work is already done and you can enjoy all those memories together.

Again, this is a drastic approach but one that is catching on more and more.

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That’s all well and good but what about me?

I get it, you aren’t there yet so you can just ignore this right?

Well, I would urge you to think again. Some of you may have already experienced having to clear a home for a family member who has passed away. If their home is very cluttered, this adds a lot of stress and a huge burden to a family who is already grieving, not to mention the guilt that comes with not knowing if you are getting rid of something that really meant something to them.

This is about to get a little morbid but just stick with me because it gives you some valuable thinking points. It is sad to think of but it really does give us some perspective in our own possessions.

Imagine you were to die tomorrow (I told you we would be getting a little intense here). For arguments sake let’s just say your kids are all grown up and have left home if you have children. What would your family be left with? Would they know what is important to you? Would they know where any paperwork to deal with, well everything, is so it is as stress free as possible for them? Will they know the meaning behind all those keepsakes you kept. Would they mean anything to anyone else?

Told you, get’s you thinking right?

When I talk to people about their belongings, I try and ask if the item is useful i.e. they use it every day or frequently or is it something they love. If it is something they love, I ask, if you were told to put all your keepsake memories on display in your living room, how would you feel about that item being on display?

It also gets you thinking about the value the item really has. Remember the memory is there anyway, it isn’t tied to the physical item. You could journal about the memory, create a photo album and take pictures of those keepsakes. Will your collection of beer mats from every restaurant you have ever visited really mean something to your grandchildren, or will they value your stories more?

How will your family tell the difference between the things you kept and used day to day and something that perhaps has some value and you had kept to pass down through the family due to that. How will they know?

Even though you might not be ready to go to just bare essentials right now, it is an interesting concept to begin asking yourself “does this item really matter” “is anyone going to care about this when I’m not here”

It starts to make you organise those keepsakes with a new purpose and ask yourself are 5 sets of plates for different occasions really necessary or could that money be spent on making memories with the family instead.

Photo by Lum3n on Pexels.com

My verdict

I don’t think you will be surprised to read that I am a fan. I may not practice a “just essentials” approach in my home just yet. I still have small children growing in our home and I am not ready to pass on their first paintings just yet but I keep the mindset with me.

It helps me rationalise what is really important and how will my children know that the knitted snowflake in my sons baby box is because it was given to me by the midwives that delivered him. A knitted snowflake won’t mean anything to him, however the story in his baby book that matches it, just might.

It may not be the right time to get rid of some of my childhood keepsakes like my signed T-shirt on my last day but it is in a box that explains what things are. I may bin it one day, or if someone else had to do it for me, they would know that it was just a memory for me and I don’t expect them to keep it beyond having a quick look through.

Just as you don’t want all of your parents stuff, your family won’t want all of yours.

So there we have it – Swedish death cleaning. Will you be adopting any of these thoughts when you next declutter and organise your home?

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