Move over, Marie Kondo: There's a new decluttering phenomenon in town and it has a funny name. Döstӓdning, or “death cleaning” is a Swedish decluttering process that has been picking up steam after the release of Margareta Magnusson's book “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning.” It's exactly what it sounds like, cleaning up your things before you pass so others aren't left cleaning up after you. It may sound morbid, but the process can be very enjoyable and bring a sense of relief to you and your loved ones.
After we pass, our loved ones are left picking up the pieces, often literally. Magnusson suggests that instead of leaving our loved ones with the distressing job of sorting through our belongings, wondering which items are heirlooms and which can be liquidated, we can start the process ourselves now and release them of that burden. It can also help to prevent squabbling that can occur after we're gone between family members who want the same item.
How is this different than Marie Kondo's process? Death cleaning is not something you do every once in a while after you amass too much stuff; it's an ongoing process that you can start even when you're still young and continue it throughout your life. Instead of asking if an item “sparks joy” like the KonMari Method, ask yourself if you think someone will want it after you're gone. Then, as that item starts to fade into the background, gets put into a closet, or is simply cluttering up your space, gift that item to the person who would want it. There are no hard and fast rules to death cleaning as there are with the KonMari Method. It can be as simple as giving away a vase to a friend when they come over for dinner. It doesn't have to be a one-time overhaul, it's a curating and paring down of items over time.
However, it's important to note that the two methods aren't mutually exclusive; they can work in tandem to ensure you keep items around that still spark joy while giving away items that once sparked joy and can now have new lives sparking joy in others.
Unfortunately, decluttering doesn't always happen by choice. Sometimes situations in life force us to declutter; maybe we must downsize our home, or we've become single or widowed, or we need to move to a nursing home. In cases like these it can be hard to start the death cleaning process. However, as difficult as it can be to say goodbye to our items, death cleaning can prove to be a very positive and fulfilling experience.
Similar to the KonMari Method of thanking an item for its use before giving it away, death cleaning gives us the opportunity to celebrate and reflect on all of the memories the item contains before giving it a new home. It can be a special moment to share with your family, looking at items together and sharing your memories with them. When you give away an item to someone who would cherish it, you can share in the joy of them receiving it. Also, if you're staying in your home, it can be fun to redecorate and declutter.
But what do you do about items that are special to you that you want to keep, but other might not want? Make a box of your special items with a note attached giving the person cleaning up your space permission to throw it away after you're gone. Loved ones can feel a lot of anguish at the thought of throwing away cherished items. By leaving the note, you can alleviate any upset feelings and make the process significantly easier for them.
So, look around you. Are there items in your house that have been there for so long that you don't even see them anymore? Ones that you like but no longer have a strong value to you but might have value to others? Start there. Being proactive now will not only give you the pleasure of living a more organized life but also give your loved ones joy now and release them of unnecessary stress in the future.