I’ve written before about Swedish Death Cleaning, the hot new organizing trend made popular by Margareta Magnusson’s book Döstädning. Basically it’s the long term action of de-owning your belongings while you are still alive to make the decisions of where they will end up. Depressing? Perhaps. Meaningful? Probably. Liberating? Absolutely!
Earlier this year I had the opportunity with my photo organizer friend and fellow Swede Caroline to teach our NAPO organizing colleagues about this Swedish custom. It was an amazing experience and we loved how everyone embraced this new approach to decluttering. But Swedish Death Cleaning is for everyone, not just professional organizers! Here are my top seven reasons why we should all engage in a little death cleaning every now and then:
1. THE OPPORTUNITY TO REMINISCE
Swedish Death Cleaning at any age can be a cozy way to spend an afternoon, recalling fond memories before tossing old trinkets that you’re done with. Who do you think would most enjoy one last look at your possessions, you or your loved ones? You will enjoy this trip down memory lane, your relatives likely will not.
2. LESS BURDEN ON YOUR LOVED ONES
Emptying a household is a heavy responsibility. One of the best points Magnusson makes comes early in the book: Never assume that someone will want – or even be able – to take time off work or from their own life, to deal with the things that you didn’t care enough to deal with. “Regardless of how much they love you, don’t leave this burden to them. It will disturb their good memories of you.”
3. THE LESS YOU OWN, THE LESS ENCUMBERED YOU ARE
Look around your home, Magnusson suggests, and notice how much of what you have has probably been yours for so long that you no longer see, use or value it. Saying goodbye to these things is sweetly liberating. A thesaurus search of “stuff” gives the suggestion “trappings.” Don’t be trapped.
4. YOUR HOME WILL BE EASIER TO KEEP CLEAN AND ORGANIZED
The less you have, the less you have to dust or keep track of. An organized space invites calmness, not stress.
5. THE PRACTICE MIGHT TEACH YOU ABOUT YOUR HABITS
A little Swedish Death Cleaning earlier in life can give you good insight into what you tend to keep. Do you notice any trends or mistakes? The hope is that you can make wiser decisions in the future if you better understand your shopping patterns and why you’ve chosen to keep certain items. But if you find things that *you* don’t know why you’ve kept then they can hardly have great value to your loved ones, which brings me to my next point.
6. YOU GET TO DECIDE WHERE THINGS END UP
I once worked with a client whose daughter had threatened to throw away everything in his house after he died. Fearing she meant it, he decided to donate carloads of clothing and household goods, and was happy to release everything to new homes instead of the dump. It’s really very simple: Either you chose what happens to everything you own, or someone else will when you are gone and no longer own it. Because as the saying goes…
7. YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU
Some day you will be gone, but your things will not. The fewer things you have, the fewer things you have to take care of, and the fewer things there will be to leave behind.
Content provided by Women Belong member Kelly Brask