Swedish Death Cleaning, the Latest Minimalism Craze

Swedish Death Cleaning book cover

“Death cleaning is not about dusting or mopping up. It is about a permanent form of organization that makes your everyday life run more smoothly.”

– Margareta Magnusson

I haven’t yet read The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter, but it’s all over the news. (According to Amazon, the book, by Margareta Magnusson, will be out in the US on January 2, 2018).

Instead of asking yourself whether an object sparks joy, Marie Kondo style, Margareta Magnusson says there’s one question that can help you decide whether to get rid of an old possession: “Will anyone I know be happier if I save this?”

The idea of Swedish death cleaning (döstädning) is that we’re all going to die someday, and we should think about the work we’re leaving for our friends and family. Grief is terrible enough without the burden of sorting through a lot of junk. As Magnusson says in the video below, “Who’s going to take care of all this crap?”

Worse than spending untold hours reviewing paperwork, will your heirs find something that hurts them? For example, when you die, might your spouse find love letters from someone else?

Or will they find things that embarrass them? You might think it best if your kids don’t see those racy photos you and your spouse took of each other.

As you might imagine, like minimalism in general, Swedish death cleaning is not a one-time decluttering event, but a lifestyle change.

Magnusson points out that you don’t necessarily have to throw away items such as old photos and letters that you know no one else wants. She keeps hers in a box marked “throw away,” so they’re available for her to look at, but her heirs won’t have to deal with them.

What do you think about Swedish death cleaning?

2 thoughts on “Swedish Death Cleaning, the Latest Minimalism Craze

  1. Gives different feelings to look at items with her question in mind. I asked my only surviving son (age 39) what he might want from our home. He needed nothing. My 9 year old grandson lives with us. His “must keep items ” involved video games! A strange dilemma. I look forward to getting her book.

    • It is a challenge. None of our kids are interested in the vast majority of our “sentimental” stuff, so once I finish a big project I’m working on now, I plan to re-go through what I’ve saved and get rid of a bunch more and make sure what I do keep for them is clearly identified so they can make a educated decision before throwing things out.

I'd love for you to share your ideas and experiences.