Swedish Death Cleaning, 3 Benefits & 7 Tips

I have heard a lot about Margareta Magnusson’s book The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, but I wanted to read it for myself. From what I learned before reading it, it was definitely something that resonated with me as someone who has a habit of regularly decluttering. The basic idea of Swedish Death Cleaning is to declutter and minimize your things leading up to your death in order to not leave a burdensome amount of stuff behind for your children or family members to deal with after you pass.

While reading this book I discovered 3 benefits of death cleaning and 7 tips as you embark on the journey of death cleaning. If you’re young, well that’s a relative term since none of us really know when we will die, don’t stop reading! You might find some of the benefits and tips helpful!

The first benefit in death cleaning is just acknowledging your mortality. When you face your mortality, you realize that your children or other family members will one day have to deal with the stuff you leave behind. It’s already stressful to lose a parent or loved one, dealing with their belongings can be an emotional and time-consuming task. It is good to acknowledge that whatever you leave behind will be someone else’s burden.

The next benefit is having a death cleaning mindset, which is you think more about how you can reuse and recycle things rather than bringing new things in.

The final benefit, you learn to appreciate things at the store instead of always having to bring the items home with you. Recognizing that anything you bring home will need to be later decluttered or handled by your children or family members after you pass will slow the inflow of things coming into your home.

Next I wanted to share some tips I learned about Death Cleaning. The first tip I learned was to not start with sentimental items. These items can really slow down your progress in decluttering, making it discouraging to continue on. By starting with items that don’t have sentimental attachment and there is not an emotional connection, you can get the momentum you need to encourage you to move forward.

The next tip is that it is easier to Death Clean when your home is organized. It’s never too early to start decluttering and organizing your spaces. It will make the process so much easier later on down the road. I think it is so beneficial to have a practice of regularly decluttering. We constantly have items coming into our homes. It’s much less overwhelming to deal with items a little over time. In addition to that, as we age it gets more difficult to maintain and manage our belongings. The fewer items we own, the easier it is to manage.

Tip number three is to take your time. This is why knowing about death cleaning is so important. If we acknowledge that it’s a process that needs to be done, then we will have plenty of time to go through our things. There might be circumstances where we are forced to go through things quickly – whether it’s an unexpected move or the loss of a loved one, but it is ideal to go through things little by little. This way you can be thorough.

Another tip I found helpful was to declutter items that are private that family members may not want to find. I am sure you can use your imagination on this one! I will give you an example from my decluttering experience. One time while decluttering my closet I found some old journals from my middle and high school years. It was mostly filled with angst ridden feelings that I guess were easiest for me to process on paper. Skimming through them I realized I really didn’t want to read these journals again, and I certainly didn’t want my kids to one day come across them, so I decided to get rid of them.

The next tip is to not feel bad about decluttering gifts! We can’t be expected to hold onto every gift we ever get for the rest of our lives. That would be ridiculous. Most people would not want their gifts to become a burden to you. For those gifts that you are no longer using or loving, it is okay to let them go. I really appreciated a quote from the book which was: “I will never feel guilty for not keeping presents forever. To be grateful and happy for a present when you first receive it is something different, because that gratitude is not connected to the thing itself but to the giver who gave it to you.”

The sixth tip is that you should save photos for last. Photos fall into that sentimental category, but in addition to that if this project is left undone before you pass it’s not quite as burdensome to family and friends. It can be a positive experience for them to be able to go through all the photos. 

The last tip is to have a “throw away” box. This is a box that you would literally write “throw away” on the outside of it so family members know that the contents of the box are really only meaningful or sentimental to you. This may be childhood toys, special letters or notes from family or friends, or maybe journals you kept.

I hope this was helpful to you! I highly recommend this book! It is a quick and easy read and there were definitely parts that made me laugh!

The video I made in conjunction with this blog post.