How “Swedish Death Cleaning” Banishes Clutter Forever
Everything you need to know about the surging trend.
Remember when everyone was throwing things out that didn’t “bring them joy” thanks to Marie Kondo’s 2014 bestseller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up? Well it’s almost 2018, so it’s about time for a new decluttering trend that promises to magically infuse your life with tranquility and purpose through the simple act of choosing the right strategy for organizing your home.
Enter Swedish Death Cleaning.
It’s not as morbid as it sounds. According to Margareta Magnusson, author of the new book, “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Make Your Loved Ones’ Lives Easier and Your On Life More Pleasant,” which releases in the U.S. in January, the Scandinavian trend simply asks you to get rid of anything you think people won’t want after you die, thereby making your life less messy and the lives of your loved ones less complicated once you pass.
“Visit [your] storage areas and start pulling out what’s there,” she writes in the book. “Who do you think will take care of all that when you are no longer here… One day when you’re not around anymore, your family would have to take care of all that stuff, and I don’t think that’s fair.”
Magnusson’s solution to this problem is a special type of Swedish decluttering that’s called döstädning, dö meaning “death” and städning meaning “cleaning.” To do it, stop collecting things that you don’t need, and give away anything unnecessary away now.
The purpose of this exercise is threefold.
Firstly, it prevents your loved ones from having to deal with crawling through your attic and figuring out what to do with those weird Aunt Jemima salt and pepper shakers you inherited from your kooky aunt. This is actually a problematic phenomenon that The New York Times explored in an August 2017 article entitled, “Aging Parents With Lots of Stuff, and Children Who Don’t Want It.” Baby Boomers were taught to accumulate things–houses, china, knick-knacks and fridge magnets from every country they’ve ever visited—as a sign of social status, whereas Millennials value experiences over material objects, and live in an era when minimalism is all the rage. This leaves families at an awkward impasse, as no one wants to ask mom over dinner what she wants them to do with her extensive Beanie Baby collection once she’s six feet under. But Magnusson argues that that’s precisely one of the key benefits of death cleaning.
“We must all talk about death. If it’s too hard to address, then death cleaning can be a way to start the conversation,” Magnusson writes.
The second great result of this exercise is that it forces you to think about your own death. While this may not seem to cheery, another way to look at it is that this decluttering method forces you to think about what’s valuable to you, who you are, and what kind of legacy you want to have. It’s sort of the #carpediem approach to decluttering: go through your belongings and think, “If I die tomorrow, is this something that I want to leave behind?”
The third benefit of death cleaning is the concept that getting rid of unnecessary stuff will make you feel less stressed and more in control. Psychologically, this argument has merit, as studies have shown that people who spend money on experiences rather than material possessions feel happier and more fulfilled.
So why not give it a try? After all, the only thing you have to lose are the things you don’t really want anyway.
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