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Swedish Death Cleaning

Updated: Apr 27

The Swedish Art of Death Cleaning: A Guide to Decluttering Your Life

In recent years, a minimalist approach to decluttering known as "Swedish Death Cleaning" has gained popularity worldwide. Contrary to its morbid-sounding name, Swedish Death Cleaning is not about preparing for the end of life but rather about simplifying and organising our possessions to make life easier for ourselves and our loved ones. Let's delve into this intriguing method of decluttering, its principles, and its pros and cons.

What is Swedish Death Cleaning?

Swedish Death Cleaning, or "döstädning" in Swedish, was popularised by Margareta Magnusson, a Swedish artist and author. In her book "The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter," Magnusson introduces the concept as a way to gradually declutter possessions, ensuring that loved ones aren't burdened with sorting through excess belongings after one's passing.

The Method of Decluttering

1. Start Early: Swedish Death Cleaning encourages individuals to begin decluttering sooner rather than later. Rather than waiting until retirement or old age, start evaluating possessions while still in good health.

2. Categorise Items: Magnusson suggests dividing belongings into categories such as clothes, books, documents, and sentimental items.

3. Start Big: Start by decluttering your larger items such as furniture and move through to the smaller items such as letters and photographs

4. Keep Only What You Need or Love: One of the core principles of Swedish Death Cleaning is to keep only items that serve a purpose or bring joy. This means parting ways with things that are no longer useful or meaningful.

5. Downsize Gradually: Instead of purging belongings in one fell swoop, Swedish Death Cleaning emphasises gradual downsizing over time. This allows for thoughtful consideration of each item.

6. Consider Your Legacy: Magnusson encourages individuals to think about the legacy they want to leave behind. By decluttering possessions, one can ensure that what remains holds significance and isn't a burden for loved ones to sort through.

Pros and Cons of Swedish Death Cleaning


1. Simplified Living: Decluttering possessions can lead to a simpler, more organised living space, reducing stress and increasing overall well-being.

2. Peace of Mind: By decluttering and organising belongings, individuals gain peace of mind knowing that they're not leaving behind a mess for their loved ones to deal with.

3. Increased Appreciation: Keeping only what is truly cherished allows individuals to appreciate and enjoy their belongings more fully.

4. Easier Estate Management: Swedish Death Cleaning can make it easier for family members to manage an estate after someone passes away, saving them from the overwhelming task of sorting through excessive possessions.


1. Emotional Challenges: Letting go of possessions, especially those with sentimental value, can be emotionally challenging and may require careful consideration.

2. Time-Consuming Process: Decluttering thoroughly and thoughtfully takes time and effort, which may deter some individuals from fully embracing the Swedish Death Cleaning method.

3. Resistance from Family Members: Family members may not share the same enthusiasm for decluttering, which can lead to conflicts or reluctance to participate in the process.


Swedish Death Cleaning offers a unique perspective on decluttering, emphasising the importance of simplifying possessions throughout life to ease the burden on loved ones in the future. While it may not be suitable for everyone, incorporating some of its principles can lead to a more organised and fulfilling life. Remember, the goal is not only to tidy up our physical spaces but also to cultivate a sense of clarity and peace of mind for ourselves and those we care about. So, why not start decluttering today? Your future self—and your loved ones—will thank you for it.

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