Decluttering with a Purpose: Discover the Swedish Death Cleaning Method

Decluttering with a Purpose: Discover the Swedish Death Cleaning Method


Cleaning out your home can be a daunting project that easily becomes overwhelming if you’re tackling it alone. If you need some tips for organizing clutter or a little extra motivation, the Swedish death cleaning method might be for you. Here’s everything you need to know to get started.

What Exactly is the Swedish Death Cleaning Method?

Sometimes called the Scandinavian death cleaning method, the process is not nearly as intense as the name would suggest. The basis of this method is keeping the purpose of cleaning at the forefront of your mind. At its core, Swedish death cleaning is taking the time to sort through all of your material belongings so your family members won’t have to handle it after your death. We can thank Margareta Magnusson for popularizing this method through her book The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning.

It might seem morbid but none of us will be around forever; the chances of our stuff outliving us is high. Swedish death cleaning is somewhat similar to Marie Kondo’s KonMari method though instead of just focusing on what “sparks joy” for you in the moment, it also implores you to consider how you’ll feel about your possessions in the future.

Furthermore, the Scandinavian mindset asks you to consider how your loved ones may feel about your possessions when they inevitably have to sort through them after your passing. It’s a great idea to get started early even if you’re not in any danger of passing any time soon; there are aspects to this method that you can implement to declutter your home no matter the stage of life you’re in.

Swedish Death Cleaning Steps

First, you want to make sure you go into cleaning with the right mindset. This is a long process that will take a while to complete and it might be difficult at moments. Be patient with yourself but don’t give into the temptation to give up. The best way to declutter is sometimes the hardest way but pushing through any difficulty will be well worth the benefit that the Swedish death cleaning method will bring you in the end.

If possible, involve your loved ones in this process to help you out. As you clean and go through your belongings, ask your loved ones if they want to keep anything you’ve been holding onto for them. You may find that they don’t value it the same way that you do and they’d likely get rid of it after you pass away anyway. If that’s the case, there’s no reason to keep it around while you’re alive, either; it’s time to find another home for it.

This is also a great time to give away heirloom items as gifts to your friends and family, especially if they’ve expressed interest in a particular item before. It can be incredibly rewarding to both you as the gift giver and the one receiving such a personal gift, especially when giving to someone who will appreciate the item as much as you have.

It’s suggested to go through your most personal and sentimental items last. If you try to start with these it will be way too easy to feel overwhelmed and it might be more painful to try to part with anything. If you tackle them last, after you’ve already experienced some of the joy and relief that can come with getting rid of your stuff, you’ll be able to approach it with the proper mindset and willingness to let go.

Keep the Swedish death cleaning method in mind going forward in your life as well. When you find yourself collecting clutter again, ask yourself: “Do I really need this? If I keep it, will it inconvenience or pain my loved ones if they have to deal with it in the future?”

Swedish Death Cleaning Checklist

It can be hard to know where to start without some guidance, so let us help:

1. Start with items that are out of sight and out of mind. If you have clutter that’s been at the top of your closet or under your bed for years, you likely aren’t going to use it and can let it go.
2. Go through clothes. Clothing inevitably takes up a lot of space but is also easy to donate. Most of it probably doesn’t hold too much sentimental value.
3. Don’t forget furniture. You want to go through everything in your home because that’s exactly what your loved ones will do once you’re gone. You don’t have to toss all the furniture you own but maybe that uncomfortable chair or fourth lamp that doesn’t really serve a purpose can go.
4. Make a list of your online info. Write down your usernames and passwords both for your own convenience and for your loved ones to deal with any of your online accounts after your death.
5. Clean up digital clutter. Do you have a bunch of screenshots still saved on your phone and computer that you don’t need anymore? Delete them. Old documents that no longer serve a purpose? Shred them. Approach your hard drives with the realization that your loved ones will end up going through all of this and think about how to make the process easier for them.

While Swedish death cleaning forces us to face the reality of our mortality, it doesn’t have to be a sad process. It will benefit you in a practical sense by giving you a cleaner space and can be a healing journey to go through sentimental items, revisit memories you associate with all of your possessions, and decide you’re ready to pass them along for someone to create new memories with.

Inevitably, such a thorough cleanout will generate a lot of junk items that are unwanted by family and not able to be donated. When you’re cleaning out your home, contact Oaks Dumpster Rental and book a dumpster for all of your junk removal needs.

Author | Jen Burton, General Manager
Oaks Dumpster Rental