No one likes thinking about death. But sooner or later, we all have to deal with it, whether for ourselves or loved ones. In life, death is as natural and essential as birth. The more comfortable we can become thinking about it, the easier it’ll be to reckon with when the time comes.
An often-neglected aspect of death is the stuff that is left behind. People accumulate vast amounts of belongings throughout life. Too often, family and friends are left to clean up the mess when they should be grieving and cherishing the memory of their loved ones. Swedish Death Cleaning offers a solution that can ease the burden on the living so they can truly honor the dead after their passing.
What Is the Swedish Death Method of Decluttering?
Swedish Death Cleaning sounds intense—perhaps even a bit scary. Fear not! The method is actually an intentional, gentle approach to decluttering and tidying your living space that everyone can get on board with.
Swedish Death Cleaning stems from the work of Margareta Magnusson, who experienced first-hand the pain and hardship of cleaning out a deceased loved one’s home. Her experience inspired her to write The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family From a Lifetime of Clutter. The basic philosophy of this approach is to declutter your life before your passing to improve the quality of your life and make things easier for your loved ones later on.
The approach emphasizes how belongings make you feel in tandem with how they might make you or your loved ones feel in the future. Magnusson believes it can be deeply joyful to reminisce as you sort through objects in your home. If an object has no critical function or meaning, it is easier to let go of.
Who Is Swedish Death Cleaning For?
As many as 1 in 20 Americans may deal with hoarding issues. While many of these people do not get to the point of needing professional help, this staggering statistic shows how commonplace clutter has become in our modern world. Swedish Death Cleaning could be an answer.
While the creator of the Swedish Death Cleaning approach targets her work to people over 50 years old, the techniques can be used by anyone who seeks to declutter and live a simpler, more minimalistic life.
Swedish Death Cleaning in 6 Steps
While it requires patience and dedication, Swedish Death Cleaning is simple once you understand the basics. Here are the six steps to declutter with this tried and true method.
Tell Your Loved Ones
Bringing up the topic of death with loved ones can be tricky. Understandably, your family and friends would rather not think about someone they love passing away, whether it’s on the immediate horizon or a distant idea. That said, involving your loved ones in the Swedish Death Cleaning process is essential.
For one, telling your loved ones what you’re doing gives them a chance to participate. It can be extraordinary to share the experience with loved ones, sharing stories and memories along the way. Decluttering together can help loved ones prepare for your passing and proactively process their grief with you. Importantly, it also establishes accountability so you’ll follow through with decluttering. Plus, having extra hands eases the burden and can reduce the stress of the process for everyone.
You should not cram Swedish Death Cleaning into a day, week, or even a month. Depending on the number of belongings you own, the time commitment looks different for everyone. However, you must not rush the process—otherwise, you could miss out on the cathartic beauty of reminiscing! Trying to race through the death-cleaning process also increases the possibility of accidentally getting rid of something you cherish. Take your time and move slowly as you declutter your living space. Death cleaning is the work of the tortoise, not the hare.
Begin with Less Precious Belongings
It can feel daunting to part with belongings. Questions like “What if I need this later on?” or “If I get rid of this gift, is it disrespectful to the person who gave it?” will inevitably arise. The longer we have an item, the more it feels like a part of who we are. Part of Swedish Death Cleaning is realizing that you are whole without clutter weighing you down. Still, it can be scary to begin.
To ease the transition, begin with belongings that do not hold as much nostalgic significance to you. Maybe your kitchen cabinets overflow with Tupperware, or you have a closet full of towels and sheets you never use. Start there. It is easier to part with items that hold less significance. As you become comfortable with the act of saying goodbye to your belongings, you can move to objects that hold greater meaning.
Only Keep What’s Meaningful
Death cleaning does not require you to get rid of all of your belongings, but it does ask you to deeply and honestly consider what holds true value for you. If something brings you joy or has a daily function, you do not need to get rid of it. But it may be time to say goodbye if frivolous things or junk are lying around that don’t have genuine meaning.
However, you may have a collection of significant items to you and only you. This could be old letters or photos you cherish, but that may not have the same meaning to your loved ones after you pass. If it feels important, keep these items, but let your loved ones know they can throw them away when the time comes. This allows you to enjoy them without burdening your family with guilt for discarding them later on. It can be useful to put these items in a box labeled “Discard.”
Donate or Sell Items You Don’t Need
Just because you don’t need an item anymore does not mean someone else may not benefit from it. This is especially true of furniture, clothes, kitchen appliances, and bedding. If you have well-cared-for or vintage items, consider selling them. You can use the money for an experience you’ll enjoy or tuck it away to ease the burden of funeral expenses. You can also donate your belongings. You may not need two vacuum cleaners or an extra tea set, but there any plenty of people who might. Donating is a great way to help others while helping yourself.
Store Passwords and Documents in a Central Location
As you declutter, you’ll encounter important documents, such as insurance information, deeds, and your will. Keep all of these documents together in one safe location and let your family know where to find them. It’s also wise to write down the passwords to all your accounts, from social media to banking, to make it easy for your family to access them when the time comes.
3 Swedish Death Cleaning Tips
While death cleaning is relatively straightforward, here are a few tips to get you started on the right foot.
Reflect and Show Gratitude
Just because you’re choosing to get rid of belongings does not mean they never held value or importance to you. Items are powerful. We imbue them with meaning, and they hold memories for us to revisit. As you go through the death-cleaning process, honor any emotions that come up. Before parting with it, allow yourself to reflect, grieve, and feel gratitude for what the item represents. You may give up the physical belonging but can still retain the memory or emotion that is held. And of course, take your time.
Gift Belongings to Loved Ones
Hand-me-downs get a bad rap. If you have belongings you no longer want to keep, consider gifting them to loved ones. This is especially a great option for older adults with children or grandchildren, as passing down items from one generation to the next can bring entirely new meaning to an otherwise basic object. Giving belongings to close friends is also powerful, allowing them to always keep a part of you with them. Some people also feel that gifting an item is easier than donating or throwing it away.
Don’t Let Things Pile Up
The average age of death in the United States is almost 74 years old. So, while it may feel like you have plenty of time to declutter later in life, Swedish Death Cleaning is about establishing good habits and decluttering consistently over many years. If you work gradually, you’re likely to have greater success because you won’t feel as overwhelmed or burnt out. Establishing healthy relationships with belongings by practicing Swedish Death Cleaning before things pile up can save you a huge headache down the road.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions folks have about what to expect from Swedish Death Cleaning.
When Should I Start Death Cleaning?
Margareta Magnusson designed the death cleaning method for folks in later life to prepare for and ease the burden of their passing. That said, it’s never too early to apply the philosophy of death cleaning to your life. People of all ages can benefit from living a clutter-free, minimalist life.
How Long Does Swedish Death Cleaning Take?
There is no set time limit for how long Swedish Death Cleaning should take. The process is deeply personal, dependent on how many belongings you have and how attached you are to those items. However, don’t rush the process. Consistency and habit are key.
Need Help Disposing of Junk? Nixxit Can Help!
At Nixxit, we believe sustainable practices like Swedish Death Cleaning help keep treasures out of the trash. And as a Bay Area Certified Green Business, we are committed to disposing of your unwanted items as sustainably as possible. That means recycling, repurposing, or donating to divert more junk from the landfill!
If you choose to part with your belongings and don’t know what to do, Nixxit Junk Removal is here to help. Our small but mighty team is ready to provide the kind, professional services you need as you declutter your home. Reach out today!
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