Seen that meme about how your best friends are the ones who would hide your sex toys and clear your browser history if you died suddenly? Well, there’s a hack for that, and it’s called death cleaning…
Death and taxes are the only two things you can be sure of in life. But despite the fact that most of us have been conditioned to fear the prospect of dying in one way or another, there’s one author in Sweden who’s giving us the opportunity to look at death in a whole new way.
In spite of the imagery that The Gentle Art of Death Cleaning conjures up, it actually has nothing to do with vigorous dusting to thrash metal. Death cleaning is a hot new Scandinavian trend brought to us by Margareta Magnusson – a first-time author described by herself as ‘somewhere between 80th and 100th birthday’ – who has figured out that facing up to mortality is something that could benefit everyone.
In her very first line, Magnusson writes: “The only thing we know for sure is that one day we will die. But before that, we can do anything.” This leads us to immediately understand that, while this is going to be a pretty blunt book, it’s an accurate one and, bizarrely enough, a positive one too.
Death cleaning (or ‘Dostadning’, as it’s called in Swedish) is a new and charming approach to putting your life in order before leaving this realm, so that your friends and family won’t have to
Written to act as a simple guide on de-cluttering, reflection and coming to terms with the inevitability of aging, death cleaning (or ‘Dostadning’, as it’s called in Swedish) is a new and charming approach to putting your life and your home in order before leaving this realm, so that your friends and family won’t have to. But it’s not all about thinking of others – there are some selfish benefits to reap as well!
DECLUTTER – IF NOT ONLY FOR YOUR OWN SAKE
No one feels good in a cluttered house. Hoarding just isn’t good for the soul, and it’s certainly not good for your nearest and dearest when you do pass. Through death cleaning, you’ll streamline your belongings to only those that bring you joy. You’ll only keep the books that you love to read, the clothes that make you feel great, and the bits and bobs that you’ve gathered through life that leave you with a sense of deep happiness.
Hoarding isn’t good for the soul, and it’s certainly not good for your nearest and dearest when you pass
Your home will become a sanctuary that leaves you feeling uplifted and clear-headed, and the knowledge that you’ll be easing the transition for your loved ones when you do pop your clogs really does take a weight off.
Ready to live a life less cluttered? Here’s how to organise your home, for this life and the next, with Swedish death cleaning…
Don’t be afraid
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that anything death-related is morbid, but Swedish death cleaning should really be a joyous and freeing act, not a solemn one. It’s brave to face the prospect of your own death head-on, but if you go at it with a practical mindset and an open attitude, you’ll soon find that you enjoy the process. Talk about what you’re doing with family and friends for an added sense of accountability, and to make it a cathartic experience.
Focus on the things you love
Rather than making this all about throwing out all the rubbish, focus on the things you love when deciding what stays and what goes. This will not only make choosing the items you wish to keep an easier task, but it will also keep your attention on the positive side of Swedish death cleaning, leaving you feeling like you’ve taken a weight off when you drop your bags off at charity shops.
Be committed. Be ruthless
The trick to an effective clear-out is to only keep the things that that you really love, and in the case of Swedish death cleaning, only things that will continue to be loved by others once you’re gone.
In her book, Magnusson writes: “I often ask myself, ‘Will anyone I know be happier if I save this?’.” This is something that you should be asking yourself too; if the answer is no, it’s got to go! Approach the cleaning rationally, and never start with photos or sentimental items, as you may find that you get stuck down memory lane and never get around to throwing anything out at all.
Give gifts, but don’t burden
Giving away some of your treasured but not vital items can be a much kinder thing to do to yourself than sending things away, never to be seen again. It can also be a lovely thing to hand things on in person, rather than writing it into a will and waiting until you’re gone. If you think a friend or family member might adore something you’re getting rid of, offer it to them, but be careful not to push it or burden them with stuff they don’t really want – that kind of defeats the point!
An important part of Swedish death cleaning is to treat yourself after a good day’s clearing, to keep your joie de vivre aflame. Ideally, make it an activity that’s life-affirming and most definitely fun. Think nude modelling, parachuting or honing a new skill, but steer clear of shopping!
You may also be interested to read: Facing life as a widow and learning to love living again