The name of this method sounds very morbid and a little scary but that’s kind of the point. It is meant to wake you up to the fact of your mortality and start making better decisions so you don’t burden your family.
Swedish death cleaning is one of the most practical ways to deal with everything you own as you are in your senior years, about 65+. Now, if you are in your 50s, 40s, or even your 30s, this method can still be very useful for you. It will help you really look at your possessions and determine what is worth something to you and what is actually burdening you and your family.
In Margareta Magnusson’s book The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter*, she explains how once you reach middle age, you start to get rid of the things you have accumulated over the years that you don’t need anymore so no one has to do it for you when you pass away. Even though the decluttering process helps you feel better, it will also really help your loved ones who are left behind. If you have ever had to clean out a loved ones home or go through their belongings, you know what she is talking about.
You may have a family member in mind you’d like to share this with. Your grandmother/father or mother/father who may have a billion trinkets and things around the house just because. It can be tough to admit or acknowledge that you’re not looking forward to facing the mess and it will be yours to deal with when their time inevitably comes.
It seems most people have a tough time acknowledging that we will all die eventually and then others are left with whatever it is they leave behind, including their messes. When you really think about it decluttering as you near the later years of your life is the most loving and practical thing you can do for yourself and your family. As a mother, the last thing I want my kids to worry about is sifting through all of my belongings because I can only imagine how hard it would be to get rid of something that was your mothers after she passes, even if it’s something small like a pair of socks.
Even as a 20-something year old this process has really helped me put some of my decluttering in perspective even after going through the KonMari method. You never know which day will be your last, although as you age, you may have an idea that it’s sooner rather than later.
So basically, Swedish Death Cleaning is all about getting intentional about what is and is not significant to you so you have a clearer space and therefore mind. Also, as a bonus, your family doesn’t have to determine what is valuable and what isn’t when your time comes. You’ve already sorted through that for them.
The timeline for this process is up to you. From what I gather, it’s not meant to be a rushed, stressful process, like many of us think of when we think of tackling all of our “stuff” we have been avoiding.
Let your family members in on what you’re doing
This process will help you look back and share your experiences and memories with your items as you go through them. This may spark some conversations that you may not have had otherwise that your loved ones will appreciate when you are gone.
Get rid of what you’re comfortable with
I believe keeping this method in mind as you go through the KonMari decluttering process would be super helpful, because you can keep in mind what really brings you joy and leave just those things for your family. However, this process is more of whatever you’re comfortable departing with.
Start giving away possessions gradually
If there is something you would like your children or grandchildren to have, you can give it to them while you go through this process instead of waiting for them to receive it after you die. This way it is more personal and you can explain yourself why you’d like them to have that item and how much it has meant to you.
Organize sentimental items
There may be some items that are sentimental to you that may not mean anything to your family left behind. For example, I know my grandmother has held onto a picture with a love note from her first boyfriend, It would be hard for me to get rid of that because I know how much it meant to my grandmother, but it wouldn’t really bring up the feelings in me or anyone else the way it did for her. However, if I ever came across it, it may influence me to want to keep it around because she did and add it to my growing list of “stuff.” This is something you might want to put in a box that has directions to throw away after you pass.
Donate and sell
Once you’ve gone through everything you would like to part with and you have given away the items to people who you’d like to have them, then start selling and donating the remainder. Don’t wait and let them collect dust in your garage or basement.
Track digital and physical files
Make a hard copy of your usernames, passwords and anything else that would be useful to help your family after you pass.
You’re never done
Once you go through this process, you may need to continue decluttering throughout the years. This doesn’t mean you failed, there are always things that we can declutter over time that no longer serve us.
Enjoy the rest of your life!
Getting rid of extra stuff in your house can free up a lot of your time. There is less to clean, organize and worry about.
Would you ever give this method a try or know someone who would benefit? I’d love to hear in the comments!
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