Swedish Death Cleaning?

Oops! It happened again. I came across the phrase “Swedish Death Cleaning“. Not having heard of it before, it piqued my curiosity! And down another rabbit hole I go.

Swedish Death Cleaning seems to be the next big thing in the organizing world. I’m pretty good at organizing, but getting rid of stuff….not so much. So this idea really struck a cord with me. I felt like I was being given permission to purge the items that I felt like I needed to hold on to and couldn’t let go.

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The Backstory….

Hubby jokes that I’m a hoarder. Partly so, but not really. We lived out of state for Hubby’s work, for months at a time, only being home for very short periods of time. We acquired stuff (lots of stuff) while living in motels and small rental homes. Mostly kitchen and bedding items, such as dishes, pans, microwaves, bedding, towels, etc. I would usually acquire a box or two full of craft supplies to occupy me while Hubby worked the long hours, sometimes six and seven days a week. Occasionally, I’d find some really cool organizational or decorative items that worked perfectly for our “temporary” homes, but not in our permanent home.

When one job was done, we’d come home for a couple of weeks, stash the stuff we brought back, do a few things that needed to be done at home, then off on the next adventure.

Not wanting to let go of some of this stuff, I kind of became a master at organization. We also had keepsakes and memorabilia from our parents who have passed, our kids growing up, several tubs full of photos (before the digital age) and things we wanted to pass down to the kids and grandkids.

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My Ah-Ha Moment

But living in a small home, I already knew that I really needed to get rid of a lot of STUFF. That realization really struck home recently, when we emptied the kitchen to put in a new laminate flooring. The kitchen looked twice as big, when it was empty.

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” 

That is exactly what happened! Discovering this book came at the point when I needed it most! I had tried ALL of the purging techniques at one time or another. But this one was such an eye-opener!

How to get organized with Swedish Death Cleaning.
Downsize Collections

Swedish Death Cleaning

In the book  The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter , released in December of 2017, the writer Margareta Magnusson explains in detail what it is and how to do it. 

Although the idea is geared more for older adults, it can easily apply to any age group. Thinking ahead towards your future, this plan can be used by anyone who wants to simplify and organize their life.

Basically, the idea is to deal with your belongings before you die, so your family doesn’t have to. Your family is already going to be emotionally distressed dealing with your death and funeral. I know that sounds morbid, but think about it…

We live in a mobile society. Our grown children sometimes live hundreds of miles away and have busy lives of their own. It’s not fair to expect them to deal with STUFF that is of no significance to them. And honestly, they probably don’t even want your STUFF! Like most adult children, I don’t imagine my grown kids have the same sentimental attachment toward my belongings, or for my parents belongings that I am holding on to.

I have experienced parent’s deaths both ways. After my Dad passed away, and Mom’s health got bad enough that she was needing to go into a nursing home, I stayed with her and we spent a couple of months sorting through her home, deciding who she wanted certain items to go to, and having numerous yard sales. Yes, there were some things that she wanted to hold on to and they were stored in my brother’s shed. My sister-in-law rotated things in and out of her room at the nursing home until she passed away. My brothers and I did not have to sort through and decide what to do with everything. I don’t know what my brother finally did with Mom’s things after her death, but it doesn’t matter.

Hubby’s mother died unexpectedly. It was terrible having to arrange her funeral, and then going through her home, knowing that so much was so important to her, but no one else really wanted. Except for the only granddaughter, who loaded almost everything up and hauled it across the state to her home. And now her Granny’s possessions are in storage, because her life is taking a different route as her kids are leaving the nest.


Purge clothes using Swedish Death Cleaning.
Get rid of old clothes.

A good time to begin this process, is when you retire. It can help ease you into retirement, as you get use to all the extra time on your hands. Maybe start a few years earlier, if you have the time.

A lot of the same organizational tips apply: bags or boxes for trash, donate, etc. As you complete one area, get the boxes and bags out of the house. Start a give away box for items that you don’t really use, to give to someone that would be tickled to have it. Items such as books, porcelain dolls, figurines, jewelry, a treasured item, etc. Let them enjoy the things now!

For those items that you want to keep for now, with the intention to later be given to someone in particular after your death, make a note and possible take a picture, and keep the list in a notebook.

This allows YOU to make the big decisions about your belongings. 

Take it slow and easy, and start small with areas of your home that don’t contain a lot of items that you are emotionally attached to, such as clothes closets and dresser drawers. Build up on your successes, and then move on to those “storage areas”, like attics, basements and sheds. Those areas probably contain many items that should be easy to get rid of. Since they aren’t in your home where you can enjoy them, you probably forgot about them. Gradually go through all of your cabinets and closets.

Downsize any collections you have sitting around and taking up space. They may be beautiful, but give someone else the opportunity to admire their beauty.

Save the sentimental stuff for last. Do you have boxes holding your children’s school papers and keepsakes? Lots of photo albums to sort through? Invite the family over to help sort through those things. Let them take the keepsake boxes home. Go through the photos as a family, reminiscing and sharing stories about the pictures. Pick your favorites and make online photo albums, or have them put on disks to share with family members.

Organizing old photos for Swedish Death Cleaning.
Upload old photos to online albums or disks.

You might consider putting together ONE special pretty box for your personal memorable things, such as love letters, dried flower corsages, little trinkets, etc. that you want to hold on to. Things that are only important to you. Attach a note to the top that says it is full of personal items and to destroy after your death.

Let people know of your intentions, so they are aware of your wishes. They can also help keep you on track.

According to Funeral Zone, it can be therapeutic, too, remembering special moments and memories of your life.

When you are done, reward yourself with an experience with someone special. Maybe a little trip, a movie and dinner, or possibly that painting or cooking class that you always wanted to do. Resist the urge to buy new items to fill the empty spaces in your home.

Enjoy your new simplistic lifestyle! With less material items in your home to take care of, you will have more time to do what you want to do. And know in your heart, that you are saving your loved ones the grief and burden of going through your processions after your death.

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How can Swedish Death Cleaning get you organized?

What do you think about this?



30 thoughts on “Swedish Death Cleaning?

  1. Robin, I think I need to get this book for me & my mom to read. She has expressed a desire to start going through things now, and I promised to help. I’m hoping to start soon, and I know a lot of it will be hard because of emotions and some will be hard because “what on earth should we do with THIS thingiemajiggiebober?”

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  2. We have a rule in the house about clothes: One thing in, one thing out. This way, we don’t run out of closet room, but I think we should be downsizing other things too. When we moved into our condo, we got rid of lots and lots of “stuff”. Unfortunately, I like to craft, and do things with the grandchildren, so my supplies multiply. Our storage room is so full!

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    1. I understand about the craft supplies. 🙂 We’ve gotten rid of a lot of stuff already, but still have lots to get rid of. A friend and I had 2 large yard sales….but it was sure a lot of work for a couple of old gals. LOL

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  3. Great post! I definitely have a lot of STUFF all over my house, and now that my kids have grown up and moved out, there’s no reason to keep all of it. I do keep some of their old toys to remember those days, even though my kids would be happy to see them in the garbage. Other times I think, maybe they’ll want to see those old toys someday far in the future? In other words, they won’t smile and appreciate their old toys right now, but maybe they will someday if they have their own children? In any case, your post was really helpful, thank you!

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    1. My sons each had a rocker and those are now at their homes with their sons. The rocker that I was rocked in, and so were they, is still at my home and one day they will decide what to do with a mahoghany cricket rocker that was bought by my parents in 1949 for their first home. Yes, it’s an antique now but they are millennial children and their lives are different.
      Otherwise I am trying to rid my four walls of things they will neither want nor need. I did not know that I was following a Swedish custom!

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      1. It made things very simple. I could deal with her remaining belongings without bring overwhelmed with an enormous task. She also simplified her finances to eliminate the need for probating a will.

        The best part though was the time we spent together before her death doing some of the downsizing together which gave me better insight into her life. I was grateful for the chance to ask questions about times in her life I knew nothing about. It would have been sad to have to make those discoveries when it was too late to ask.

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  4. I think we’ve been doing this without realizing it. I live with my mom (91), my brother (64), and me (54). There’s a lot of things we’ve got boxed up we’re slowly selling at flea markets and rummage sales. We realized about 4 years ago we want to move, but money and health issues have really slowed that down. We also realized that many items were gifts to us by people who talk about how important we are, but prove by actions we aren’t. We don’t want those memories anymore. We tried giving items that we wanted to certain family members to have, but they wouldn’t take them. So off they either went or are going. Our goal (the 3 of us) is to have very little left for anyone to have. The things that we are choosing to keep we’re going to find someone (some items we already know who’s getting them) who appreciates them. Sad but true. I’ve literally taken 25 jam packed carloads to Goodwill. I’ve taken 4 other carloads to other thrift stores. We’ve done 4 flea markets with another one we’re doing 15 September 2018. We’ve had 9 rummage sales the last 4 summers & given countless items to neighbors, friends, and former colleagues of mine. At first it was hard, but now even many of the items we did want to keep we’re getting rid of. We decided we just didn’t want them anymore. A lot of it does hurt, but it’s time to let go. There’s only a handful of items we’ve gotten rid of we wish we hadn’t, because they were items we wanted and bought ourselves. This was a really good blog. It makes sense. Thanks for sharing with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so glad to hear you liked the idea! And thank you for the wonderful comment! It is hard, but look at the three of you go! I am so proud of you!


  5. Perhaps because there are a bunch of health care professionals in my family, we have always been open to talking about death and dying and making things easier for those that follow us/have to go through our things. This now includes downsizing from a farm to an “empty nester” home, and now three years later we are still selling, giving to family or friends, or donating items. I guess it never stops with the cleaning out, but why keep the stuff that we don’t use or need. Another appreciated article of yours Robin!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I recently lost my husband very suddenly after 45 years of marriage and was at a loss of what to do with everything we had accumulated over the years. It was a very trying time and would have been able to handle .things better if I had read this article sooner. We always talked about getting rid of “stuff” but never did. After losing my father a few years ago I should have known better because of how hard it was clearing out his “treasures” but just like most people, I put it off – too long as it turns out. Now thanks to this article, I am putting all of these suggestions to work immediately. Thank you so much!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awe Betty, I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine how hard that must have been. I worry about that happening with us too. we also have no family close enough to come take care of things, so we are working on our own cleaning out. (((hugs to you)))

      Thank you for commenting. I am so glad you found this post helpful!


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