swedish death cleaning

I Tried Swedish Death Cleaning (and it actually works!)

Eventually, we all die.

Stick with me I, swear we’re going somewhere and it’s actually not morbid at all, it’s really good.

Here’s the thing, we’re all going to die. Unless you’re a vampire or a witch put a hex on you to live forever……………….. or you found the fountain of eternal youth………you know, those things aside, those of us who are mortal, we gonna die. And all the stuff you’ve accumulated in your life….you can’t take it with you. 

I recently decided to try out Swedish Death Cleaning. I won’t lie when I first heard of Swedish Death Cleaning, I just thought it meant it was like some type of fight club style cleaning. I just kinda pictured some fight to the death but ……like….. with clutter. I’m not really sure…guess I didn’t think it through all that much. But I just kept hearing about it and hearing about and  I was like I gotta know more. 

So I bought the book that sparked it all. The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnusson. It’s a very easy read, I read it in like 2 days. And I won’t lie, the general theory behind it was the exact perspective shift I needed right now.

If you’ve been around for a while you know I’m a big believer in daily decluttering. I believe in doing a little bit every day to keep your space tidy and organized and free of clutter. And it works really well for me. But eventually, even with daily decluttering, every home needs a good DEEP declutter. This is a time to tend to the spaces that just have gotten away from you and you’re not sure how or why.

2021 was a big year for us, we had our second baby and with lockdowns lifting, we were able to have family and friends visit again. And overall it’s just led to some excess clutter I needed to tackle. Swedish Death Cleaning has been the perfect solution.

What Is Swedish Death Cleaning?

declutter clothing

The basic idea is eventually, we’re all going to die, and we don’t want our stuff to become a burden on our loved ones once we’re gone. In Sweden, there is a kind of decluttering called – “DUE standing”, dö meaning “death” and städning meaning “cleaning.”

It literally translates to death cleaning and it’s the process, usually started between 50 and 65 years old, of clearing out unnecessary belongings so that when you are gone your loved ones aren’t left to sort through it all. When you look at the definition just that way it may seem polite, but you know, a little morbid. It’s actually an extremely peaceful and freeing process and can be adopted by anyone at any point in life. 

The real idea behind death cleaning is just to unburden yourself from your clutter. The origin has to do with decluttering in old age so that your clutter doesn’t become a burden for someone else, but the practice is really about the process of letting yourself let it go.

Throughout life, we become burdened with so many things. So much STUFF accumulates in our life.  And I always say the biggest issue with clutter in our life is that we have SO many methods in which things enter our home and very few ways in which it leaves our home. Basic math will tell you if more comes in than goes out then you’re going to end up with more in.

Why We Hold Onto Things We Don’t Need

why we keep stuff we don't need

So why do we hold on to all this stuff? Why don’t we just let go of stuff as much as we bring it in? In the book, she mentions how we typically hold onto things because of fear of letting go or parting with something or thinking someone might want this, our clutter instinct, and our hoarding instinct, because humans started as hunter-gathers and so we have this deep down instinct to hold onto things just in case of emergencies. 

This is why death cleaning is actually so freeing. Because when you look at getting rid of your things from the perspective of unburdening yourself and the loved ones who would have to go through this stuff when you die, it gives you this amazing new lens to look at your stuff through. It really gives you a lot of perspective about what you really need.

How To Declutter Sentimental Items

cat Christmas ornament

One of my favorite things she talks about in the book is when you get to an item that you’ve been holding on to forever. Some things will be really easy to part with and others won’t. We all end up with these things we just hold onto. We keep them for years and years and years even if they aren’t serving us in any way. And there could be a lot of reasons. 

Maybe it’s a gift someone gave you that you didn’t really love. It can be very hard to part with something that was gifted. Maybe you think you might need it someday at some time. Maybe it holds a sentimental value to you, it’s a memory of some kind. It can be especially hard to let go of things of loved ones who are passed. 

In the book, she poses you ask yourself two questions about an item. Will you use it again? And, will it make someone else happy? You know, is someone going to be happier you held onto this?

Almost a decade ago my brother died unexpectedly. It was really hard, he’s my only sibling. He was in his 20s, living in NYC, and didn’t really have a lot of possessions. Somehow when we went through his things I ended up with this leather jacket he loved to wear and I remembered when he bought it when he first moved to NYC. For years I hung it on my coat rack. I think it was kinda like having him there. We moved houses and I brought it, hanging it in new homes. Finally, when we got ready to move to this house, I knew it was time to part with it. It hung for years but I didn’t really USE it, most days I didn’t even know it was there it was just taking up room and I knew no one else really had this random connection to an old leather jacket that only I had memories of. I would still have those memories even when the jacket was gone. It was hard letting it go. This is my dead brother’s favorite jacket, right. That carries some guilt associated with parting with it. But he didn’t care that I had it. And someday when I’m gone my kids aren’t going to want to deal with what to do with an old jacket. I have so many other more important things to remember my brother by that my kids will want. 

Another example hangs on my Christmas tree each year. My grandfather passed away just this fall, and my mom used some of his old clothes to make these ornaments, he loved cats always had at least one. Now this is something that means something AND I use it, I’ll hang it on my tree every year. It’s a far more practical memento to keep.

How A Tidy Home Makes You Feel More Prepared

declutter dresser

Ok, I know this is a super random thing but I love a good murder documentary. Right, like I could binge forensic files all day long. I had awful pregnancy insomnia with both my kids and I’d be up at 2 am watching murder mysteries. I also notice a weird phenomenon when I watch those. If I watch a murder show at night, that night before bed I always tidy a little more than usual. I go out of my way to tidy things because in my mind, I’m thinking about if I get murdered in my sleep I don’t want all these detectives and police people coming into my house while it’s a total disaster and I KNOW THIS IS A MORBID THOUGHT. I’m aware it’s absolutely ridiculous. But I also know I’m not alone cause I mentioned it to you guys on Instagram once and you all said you totally do it too. Anyways. The point is, when you think “I might not be here tomorrow” it just becomes easier to tidy and clear your space.

I have been using the general idea of Swedish Death cleaning for a few weeks now and I am just totally in love with it. I love how absolutely freeing it is when you can allow yourself to let go of something. When you can look at it and say this isn’t serving me, I don’t need it, and none of my loved ones will want this when I’m gone. You can look at something and say, I don’t want my loved ones to have to sort through all of this, and then you can let yourself let go of it. 

The Benefit Of Decluttering A Little Bit Everyday 

Now listen, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again I’m not a minimalist. I probably never will be, but I have gotten good at letting go of things in my home as a daily habit of decluttering. I know that excess stuff doesn’t make my life easier, but instead, it burdens me. It causes stress, it causes anxiety, it makes it hard to find things you need. Sometimes we think “oh I’ll keep this because I might need it” but we don’t realize how much we’re burdening ourselves with this extra stuff. 

I just love the sort of liberating perspective Swedish Death Cleaning gives you with your stuff. One day you won’t be here and you can’t take your stuff with you. Like I said 2021 has been a big year and this has been just the perfect mindset I needed to tackle through some areas that just had gotten out of hand. 

I hope you guys enjoyed learning a bit more about Swedish Death cleaning if you maybe didn’t really understand what it was before. As I said, the book is a super quick read, I highly suggest it if you want some perspective to declutter from hard areas in your home. 

swedish death cleaning

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I'm Kallie!

Also known as That Practical Mom

I’m all about helping you simplify the chaos of life so you can slow down and enjoy it.

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