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Spring Cleaning? Here are 9 Tips for Swedish Death Cleaning

By Tara McKenna


Are you new to Swedish Death Cleaning? If so, definitely read this blog post first: We’re Only Renting Time on this Planet so we Should all do some Swedish Death Cleaning


With spring here, a lot of people are spring cleaning. The season is getting warmer (depending on where you live, of course!), and nature is coming to life. We can open the windows, let in the fresh air, declutter, and deep-clean. It’s so refreshing!


While you’re at it, you might as well take it a step further and do some Swedish Death Cleaning and really get your home and life in order. Here are some tips below inspired by Margareta Magnusson’s book The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning.


1. Declutter, but start with the easy stuff


Let go of things that you no longer love or use but start with the easy stuff. Easy things to declutter may be kitchen gadgets or cleaning supplies; what’s “easy” depends on who you are and what objects you feel attached to.


What tends to be difficult for most people are sentimental items like photographs, journals, and family heirlooms, and those should be handled last to ensure you don't give up!


2. Clear out your closet


“It is not the amount of clothing that makes a person well-dressed.” - Margareta Magnusson

Pull out all your clothes and shoes for assessment. Determine what items you wear and love and let go of the rest so that they can find a loving new home.


The best clothing items are typically the pieces that go with most of the other clothes in your closet. Also, if you don’t feel good in it, you probably won’t wear it. If you don’t love it and it doesn't make you feel good wearing it, it's time to let it go!


If you’ve outgrown certain hobbies that require specific fashions (like golfing, skiing, or yoga), then let go of those clothes as well.


Keep only the best clothes you love and that you do wear for the activities that you do!


3. Give all your possessions a home


Do you have things scattered about the house? Covering your coffee table, dining table, chairs, countertops, beds, etc.? Consider having clear surfaces instead.


Give every item in your home a designated place to live, and when you’re done using that item, return it to its home so it doesn’t feel like your house is a mess.


If you can’t find a proper home for an item, maybe it’s time to let it go.


“Truly inspiring homes are easy to clean.” – Margareta Magnusson

4. Have loving conversations with family members


If your parents are aging and they’ve amassed a lot of possessions over the years, it may be time to have a loving conversation about what they plan to do with those before they’re gone.


It’s not meant to be an insensitive conversation of course, but it’s important because when we’re gone, someone has to clean up after us. As such, it’s better to clean up in advance to reduce the burden.


Similarly, if you are parents to grown children, you can start to offload your items and ask your children if they want any of your possessions. If they don’t, that’s totally okay, pass them along to the next best place (e.g., sell it or donate to charity).


The sooner you start, the better.


As Margareta Magnussen puts it: “Aging is certainly not for weaklings. That is why you should not wait too long to start your downsizing. Sooner or later you will have your own infirmities, and then it is damn nice to be able to enjoy the things you can still manage to do without the burden of too many things to look after and too many messes to organize.”

5. Don’t keep things assuming your children will want them one day


If you have kids, young or old, don’t keep items assuming they will want them one day.


Sure, you may want to keep a memory box for them of a few small mementos, but other than that, it’s better to pass along still useful items to a new home so that they’ll be used and loved.


If your kids are older, then you can ask if they’d like anything, but be comfortable if they decline.


I have a baby right now, and we don’t plan to keep much of her stuff, other than a few items for if we have another baby. Once we know we’re finished having kids, we’ll sell or give away anything that’s no longer of use to us. That way we know those items will get good use, instead of being tucked away in storage awaiting an unknown fate.


6. Get your paperwork in order


Regardless of your age, everyone should have a will. It simplifies the administrative work for those left behind when our time is up. Not having a will can leave a lot of stress and extra work for loved ones (I’ve seen this happen firsthand).


7. Avoid more things


“Beautiful things such as an African wooden bird, strange things like a singing magnetic pig, and funny things like a solar-powered waving bear are all things that I adore. My vice is really things. It took me a while to understand this, but you can enjoy these things without owning them. Even though this may sometimes seem quite hard to do, training yourself to enjoy only looking at things, instead of buying them, is very nice and also a good practice. You really can’t take everything with you, so maybe it is better to not try to own it all.” – Margareta Magnusson

I personally use this advice while travelling. I used to buy knick-knacks and souvenirs as a sentimental reminder of my trips. Then they started to pile up, and I realized that no one else would be likely to want them when I’m finished with them.


With that realization, I now spend my time browsing instead of buying stuff like souvenirs. Instead, I’m happy to buy consumables like a special wine or salad dressing or whatever the specialty is in the locale I’m visiting. It’s a wonderful experience to bring home and doesn’t contribute to clutter once consumed!


8. Have a box for personal items


Do you have personal items that you don’t want people to see if you were to pass away? Perhaps some vices? Keep a box called “the throw away box” with things you want to hang on to but that you don’t want others looking at when you’re gone. Once you’re gone, the box can simply be tossed without assessment.


9. Practice self-care


Decluttering your belongings can be a draining and emotional exercise, especially if you're downsizing and/or entering a new chapter of your life.


Be sure to incorporate plenty of uplifting activities in your day-to-day so that you don't feel overwhelmed by the activity of cleaning up your life.


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You don’t have to wait until you’re “old” to Swedish Death Clean. Living lighter has benefits for everyone at any age.