Swedish Death Cleaning

Shandra Martinez

| 2 min read

Swedish death cleaning — or döstädning — is a traditional Scandinavian concept popularized by Margareta Magnusson in her book "The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning." It refers to the process of decluttering and organizing your home so your loved ones won't be burdened with the task of sorting through your possessions after you're gone. This isn’t a one-time purge, it’s a lifestyle of keeping what is useful, sentimental or important and letting the rest go. It’s something you’ll do regularly.
Here are some steps to apply Swedish death cleaning to your life:
  • Start early: Begin the process of sorting through your possessions while you're still in good health and able to make thoughtful decisions about your belongings.
  • Take inventory: Go through your possessions room by room, sorting items into categories like keep, donate, give to friends or family, sell or discard.
  • Be selective: Keep only items that hold sentimental value or are truly useful. Let go of things you no longer need or use.
  • Organize important documents: Ensure that your important documents — such as wills, insurance policies and financial records — are well-organized and easily accessible. It’s suggested to keep them in a fireproof container. Let your family know where the documents are stored.
  • Involve loved ones: Communicate your intentions and involve family members in the process to avoid misunderstandings later. Let your family and friends review the items you’re getting rid of to see if they want any of them before you donate or throw them away.
  • Consider digital assets: Think about your digital presence and how to manage online accounts and digital assets after your passing.
  • Dispose responsibly: Donate usable items to charity, sell valuable items and properly dispose of items that have no further use.
  • Keep it ongoing: Maintain your home by regularly assessing and decluttering your possessions.
Swedish death cleaning is not just about simplifying your physical space but also about relieving your loved ones of the emotional and practical burdens that can come with sorting through a lifetime of possessions. It's a thoughtful and considerate approach to tidying up and organizing your life.
Learn more about Swedish Death Cleaning in this Blue Cross Virtual Well-Being℠ webinar. You can also sign up for future employer-focused and individual well-being webinars and meditations here, where you’ll find past webinars and meditations on demand.
Photo credit: Getty Images

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