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What is Swedish death cleaning?

If you’re in the early stages of making end-of-life plans, you might be starting to give some consideration to things like funeral arrangements and your final resting place. As you further explore your final wishes, you might come across a concept known as Swedish death cleaning. But what exactly is death cleaning, and what role does it play in end-of-life planning? Learn more about this practice below. 

A guide to Swedish death cleaning and decluttering your home 

While Swedish death cleaning — also known as a Swedish death purge — might at first sound like something dark and ominous, it actually refers to a beautiful and fulfilling tradition of downsizing and decluttering. 

What is Swedish death cleaning? 

Swedish death cleaning doesn't involve actual cleaning like dusting, mopping, and vacuuming. Rather, it’s the act of decluttering your home and getting rid of belongings you no longer need before you pass away. Death cleaning offers a lesson in minimalism, providing you with an opportunity to assess what you already have and what you actually need. 

Why is it called death cleaning? 

In Swedish, this exercise is known as “döstädning.” The first part of the word, “dö” means death, and the second part, “städning” means cleaning. It’s called this because it offers you a way to prepare your home and get your belongings in order before you die. 

Why is death cleaning important? 

Many people choose to declutter before death to make it easier for their relatives after they pass away. Often, this is because they don’t want to burden their family members with the task of sorting through their belongings. 

However, in her book, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, author Margareta Magnusson explains that anyone can do this exercise at any stage of their lives — not just those preparing for death. After all, death cleaning is simply a form of downsizing and organizing your space. 

When you organize your belongings, it not only saves your family the hassle of deciding what to keep and what to toss after you pass away, but it also can provide you with a sense of peace. A clear space can lead to a clearer mindset. In fact, some studies suggest that decluttering your home can help lower your stress, fight off feelings of depression, and even sharpen your focus. 

How do I start death cleaning? 

When embarking on your own purge, it helps to create a death cleaning checklist. Start with a small section, like your closet or garage, and slowly work your way to other areas of your home. Remember; you don’t have to declutter your entire space at once. 

When organizing your items, place them into categories:

  • Items to keep
  • Items to donate
  • Items to sell
  • Items to throw away
  • Items to gift to friends and family

Once you’ve made these piles, you’ll have a better idea of what you want to hold onto, helping to clear your space of what no longer serves you. From here, you can begin making further arrangements, such as dropping your donation box off at your local charity organization or writing special possessions into your will. 

While Swedish death cleaning may seem like an overwhelming task at first, you don’t have to do it alone. Consider telling your friends and family members about your intention and asking them to help you with this endeavor. Going through your belongings with them can create a special bonding moment that invites peace and comfort.