Swedish Death Cleaning

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A client of mine recently brought up “Swedish Death Cleaning,” which is a concept that is trending with the fairly recent release of a book entitled The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnusson. I had not heard of it, but I was curious because of what I do and because of the people I had the pleasure of making friends with when I was an exchange student in Sweden a long time ago.  Based on the Swedes I know, it comes as no surprise that they would be good at doing this.

Of course, you don’t have to be Swedish to participate in Swedish Death Cleaning, nor do you have to be “good at it”. However, Magnusson’s approach is that you don’t want to create a hardship to whoever handles your estate by having massive amounts of stuff they have to deal with. Magnusson says “A loved one wishes to inherit nice things from you. Not all things from you.”

Here are a few tips from her book for you to consider:

  • Death cleaning doesn’t have to be done all at once. It is a process that takes time, but once you adopt the mindset, it can help keep you on track to purge and not acquire more unnecessary things.
  • Don’t start with photos. It is too easy to get bogged down in nostalgia. Start with larger items in your closet. The space freed up by getting rid of larger items provides instant gratification to spur your motivation.
  • If you let others know you are doing it, it can provide an opportunity to give things to people that they want, and also keeps you accountable to keep going.
  • Get rid of things that are not important or meaningful to anyone else.
  • Get rid of things that could be hurtful or embarrassing to your family.
  • Reward yourself for your progress, but not by buying things.