This Swedish concept could help you declutter your belongings before you say farewell to life.

Have you ever thought of what would happen to you when you die? The afterlife seems uncertain, but that’s not what we meant; we mean what’s going to happen to your stuff. All that clothes, shoes, photos, and who knows whatever secret stuff you’ve stashed away in your closet, huh? The Swedish concept of döstädning, or “death cleaning,” has so much potential: It’s an approach that helps you deal with your stuff before you say farewell to your loved ones. Here’s the catch: Its just a little morbid.

Related media: Margareta Magnusson Discusses Death Cleaning.

The Swedish Döstädning

What if you died tomorrow (we pray not), how hectic would it be for your loved ones to sort through your stuff? That’s the main reason behind the Swedish death cleaning, of which Margareta Magnusson emphasizes in her New York Times bestseller, ‘The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning. Magnusson, who professes that she’s between the ages of 80 and 100, might be the best person to seek advice on how to declutter your stuff. A mom of five, 17 relocations, and several decades of living, she’s had a whole lot of stuff that she probably didn’t need; she’s been accumulating and purging herself of unwanted stuff over her lifetime. And least we mention, going through the stuff of loved ones who’ve passed on.

First and foremost, understanding the importance of the Swedish death cleaning is really important. As you accumulate stuff, you probably tend to avoid the hectic process of sorting and discarding the stuff you don’t really need. Instead, you stash them in your lockers, an attic, a basement, or your tucked-away closet. That’s the problem, says Magnusson. 

“If you don’t want to go through your boxes and figure out what’s worthwhile and what isn’t, why would you want to make your loved ones do it after you’re gone?” she says in the Blinkist version of her book.

The process isn’t only reserved for the elderly, either, Magnusson explains. Swedish death cleaning isn’t a one-time ceremony; its a way of living a smoother, simpler, more clutter-free life. Its useful for college students as well as it is for the elderly.

How Do I Declutter My Life?

Image: Shutterstock / iStock / Getty Images Plus

If you ever plan on decluttering your stuff with the Swedish death cleaning, here are a few tips from Magnusson to help you get started.

  • Start from top to bottom: That means if you have stuff in the attic, the main house, and the basement, go in that order. Having a method makes the process less overwhelming.
  • Sort your most recent items first: Sorting through your lifelong stuff might sound really hectic; begin with your items that are more recent before you tackle vintage ones.
  • Get rid of embarrassing things: Whether your old journals or embarrassing photos, think about whether you’d want to find it in your loved one’s home — and if you wouldn’t, destroy them before someone else gets hold of them.
  • Invite your family and friends: Once you sort out your stuff you’re going to get rid of, invite people over to see what they might want. That’s a great way to bond with family and friends — especially with the young ones since your old stuff might be full of stories they’ve never heard.
  • Save photographs and letters for last: The emotional content in these items can make them the hardest to sort through. When it comes to photographs, throw out any duplicates or images of people you can’t name. Then, give away what you can. You can even do what the author did and give multiple family members their own photo album.

What A Better Way To Say Farewell

Preparing your eventual farewell before you die might sound a bit pessimistic, but in a nutshell, that’s the best way. If not, then do people prepare a “will” before they die. As Magnusson writes in the Blinkist version of her book:

“During the age of the Vikings, a loved one would be buried with their belongings so that they wouldn’t miss them in the afterlife. But this practice had the additional benefit of helping the surviving loved ones move on since they weren’t surrounded by the old belongings and spirits of the dead.”

You can read Margareta Magnusson’s book “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning” without accumulating more stuff thanks to Blinkist. It’s a platform that digests the best nonfiction books into quick, 15-minute digital reads to help you absorb the most important information in a fraction of the time it would take to read the whole thing. They have audio versions, too.

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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Sat, Mar 16, 2019.


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