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Declutter like there is no tomorrow

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Interest in the idea of Swedish death cleaning has led to a soon-to-be-released TV series with Swedish experts who help Americans clear out their clutter so others will not have to do it for them later.

The term Swedish death cleaning may evoke thoughts of a crime scene or evil spirits, but it is actually a thoughtful and effective approach to decluttering. While a bit macabre, the method of organizing and letting go of things before one dies lessens the burden on loved ones later. A Scandinavian twist on the KonMari Method, Swedish death cleaning is often done later in life but can be beneficial at any time along the way.

Margareta Magnusson coined the term in her 2017 book The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter. Regarding family and friends, Magnusson stated, “No matter how much they love you, don’t leave this burden to them.”

The artist and author provides suggestions in the book for making the experience as easy as possible for loved ones and she insists, “Life will become more pleasant and comfortable if we get rid of some of the abundance. Mess is an unnecessary source of irritation.” Like all decluttering methods, the idea of removing what is not needed can give one a clearer sense of what is important and special.

Starting with clothes, the method involves sorting through what fits and what doesn’t. Shoes, scarves, jackets and hats can be reassessed. Create a donation box. Streamline the entire closet.

Second, declutter items by size. Are there big furniture pieces that are not needed? A storage room with old furniture collecting dust? Work down to smaller items, books, papers and then personal mementos.

Lastly, tackle the digital clutter. Make sure loved ones have access to important sources of information (as one deems appropriate). Decluttering the hard drive and desktop, cleaning up online photos and consolidating information will make life easier for everyone. Magnusson had a tech-savvy person help her with this task.

Many items do not have to be trashed but could be sold or donated to be enjoyed by someone else. Swedish death cleaning can mean gifting friends and family objects one no longer needs. She suggests telling friends and loved ones what you are doing; items might be useful and have meaning to them. Rather than a dreaded chore, Magnusson exclaimed, “It is a delight to go through things and remember their worth.”

Magnusson encourages us to “give cherished things away with the wish that they end up with someone who will create new memories of their own.”

Look for the upcoming series on this subject on Peacock where three Swedes – an organizer, a designer and a psychologist – help people in America to “death clean.” YouTube also has many videos of people who have tried Swedish death cleaning and shared their experiences.

The artist Margareta Magnusson coined the term “Swedish death cleaning” in this small book that is full of practical and often humorous advice about clearing out unnecessary belongings along with anecdotes about her life in Sweden.


By Lisa Nicklanovich; courtesy photos




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