The Happy Art of Swedish Death Cleaning

Perhaps nothing is most annoying in the house than clutter.

Toys, clothes, gadgets, appliances…name them all. They all contribute to the clutter in our homes and lives in general. You may have tried decluttering your home before and had some degree of success. However, the success may eventually be overtaken by events, and you end having to deal with clutter again. Perhaps you have tried the famous KonMari method by Marie Kondo, but it just didn’t cut it for you.

Well, there’s a new way to declutter your home, this time coming from Sweden from an 80 to 100-year old someone named Margareta Magnusson. In her book The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, which is available on Amazon, Magnusson presents some radical decluttering techniques that may be just what you need to solve the clutter problem once and for all.

In the book, Magnusson presents the concept of Swedish death cleaning, also known as döstädning. This concept involves organizing your life by permanently eliminating clutter. How do you permanently eliminate clutter? Give away your clothes, appliances, toys, books, and other personal belongings that you don’t need. This method is especially powerful when you accompany it with common organization techniques for places in your home like your closet that often become a receptacle for a variety of items you rarely use. No, this is not another minimalism concept.

With Swedish death cleaning, participants deliberately give out their belongings when they feel that their time on this planet is about to expire. The time may be varied for different people. Magnusson suggests an excellent time to start Swedish death cleaning is when you are 65 years old. Surely, you don’t want to start giving out everything you own at 65 suddenly. People will think you are nuts! This is why the Swedish death cleaning process is so deliberate and far from minimalism.

When you feel that your time on earth is about to end, you can start giving away the belongings that no longer hold any meaning at that stage in your life. Perhaps it’s the baseball cards you collected as a sophomore, or it’s the first laptop you owned that you swore to pass down to your great-grandson. Whatever items you still have that do not affect your life directly or bring any joy, start giving them away.

Preparing Your Family for Your Demise

On the face, Swedish death cleaning sounds morbid. However, when you consider how Magnusson humorously presents it in her book, then you realize that it’s a thoughtful process that makes things easier for everyone.

After death, family members are usually burdened with digging through mountains of books, clothes, and other personal items belonging to their departed loved one. This makes their grieving more piercing when they realize they have to give out large amounts of possessions that the departed may have accumulated over the years. Why not make the grieving process easier while you are still alive by slowly giving out the items that are not essential at your stage in life?

By adopting the happy art of Swedish death cleaning, you will easily organize your possessions before you pass on and, in effect, spare your family the stress of wondering what to do with the things left behind. After all, it is easier to deal with a handful of items you have been living with over the past few years than hundreds of items collected over the decades.

One thing that the Swedish death cleaning concept emphasizes is that it’s not a race to eliminate clutter before you die. Instead, it is a way of organizing your life such that you are only left with items that are meaningful to you before you die.

Ready to Declutter Your Life? Do This!

So, how do you get started with Swedish death cleaning? Must you be 65 years to get started?

Well, each one of us needs to start the Swedish death cleaning. After all, while we hope that we’ll live to a ripe age, our lives are not guaranteed. Therefore, wouldn’t it be nice if we lived our lives to the fullest without the clutter of things that do not help to advance our happiness?

Swedish death cleaning can help us all with this.

Do clothing first

Uncertain about where to start? Try your closets first. Sorting through clothing to determine what fits and what doesn’t or which styles are better off going in the “toss” pile is typically simple. While you’re at it, organize yourself and set up a structure for your closet, such as keeping seasonal apparel at the back or on top and designating the major sections for frequently worn goods.

Declutter by size

Start with the pieces of furniture and other belongings that take up the most room in your home. From there, you can move on to smaller items and unique souvenirs. You might want to set aside a box for sentimental items like letters and pictures.

Don’t let whether or not something makes you happy stop you from clearing out your clutter. Instead, simply assess how many of the numerous products clogging up your kitchen are truly in use on a daily basis.

Think Digital

When we pass away, our loved ones have to deal with more than simply our material assets. You must consider the digital clutter they will also need to go through, so be sure they have the necessary login information for things like online bank accounts and other crucial information sources. Consider spending an afternoon cleaning up your desktop and hard drive while you’re at it—one that’s disaster no one enjoys cleaning up.


The emphasis here is that this is a process. Therefore, do not expect to get done within a week or two. The method may take months or even years, depending on an individual, but you can start slowly and randomly give out the belongings that you do not need at your current stage in life. For example, do you still need that custom high school graduation gown sewn by Grandma Doreen? If not, sell it on eBay or donate it to a charity.

We should practice the happy art of Swedish death cleaning regularly to declutter our lives and minds. Every time you declutter your home and life, you create room for new experiences and opportunities for happiness and adventure.