Swedish Death Cleaning: This is the Kind of Decluttering I Can Get Behind!


Thank you Jamie Dwyer for putting this on my radar. Margareta Magnusson’s book, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter was published yesterday (Jan 2, 2018) by Scribner.

It’s gotten a lot of buzz and in digging into it, I feel it is right up my alley. I will be using its principles for my annual spring cleaning. I haven’t done a major purge in a long time and am up to my eyeballs in stuff I don’t need or want anymore. (Blogging keeps me too busy to declutter apparently.)

Now before you get all gloomy, here are the details:

Swedish Death Cleaning – or the much nicer, Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning – is about decluttering with the end in mind.

But it’s also about living a more streamlined existence today, unburdened by all the junk we accumulate month after month.

I feel anyone, of any age, can get better organized using this method.

And similar to Marie Kondo’s decluttering method which revolves around asking key questions about whether items give us joy, this method asks us to consider the following:

  • What will happen to this item after I die, will it be of value to anyone in my life?
  • Will this item be a burden to my family/friends after I’m gone?
  • Does this item reveal some secret about me that I’d rather not have people know?
  • Is this a meaningful item/keepsake that somebody would like?
  • Will anyone be happier if I save this?

Bottom Line: You keep the items that you enjoy using/wearing/displaying and toss, or donate, anything that doesn’t serve a purpose for you anymore. And same as Kondo, she recommends you start with the least personal items and leave photos and mementos for last since they tend to bog us down and slow the decluttering process.

Read on below for more on this method.



Swedish people do this practice, called  döstädning, multiple times a year. It may sound a bit dark, but apparently, it’s actually quite an uplifting process.

  •  Döstädning or death-cleaning is different from ‘dödsstädning’ (after-death cleaning), which takes place after someone has died when family members are left to sort through their belongings.
  • This is something Magnusson herself was forced to do after her parents and husband died.
  • In contrast, döstädning takes place while we’re still alive, and is a way of getting rid of unnecessary objects so that loved ones aren’t left to deal with the mess.

Margareta Magnusson is, in her own words, aged between 80 and 100. Born in Sweden, she has lived all over the world. She graduated from Beckman’s College of Design and her art has been exhibited in galleries from Hong Kong to Singapore. She has five children and lives in Stockholm. The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning is her first book.

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