Swedish Death Cleaning

A big thank you to Root Simple reader Harkinna for tipping us off to the latest decluttering trend, Swedish death cleaning. No, this doesn’t refer to cleaning tips from Swedish death metal rock musicians. A Treehugger article details this Scandinavian answer to Marie Kondo,

In Swedish, the word is “döstädning” and it refers to the act of slowly and steadily decluttering as the years go by, ideally beginning in your fifties (or at any point in life) and going until the day you kick the bucket. The ultimate purpose of death cleaning is to minimize the amount of stuff, especially meaningless clutter, that you leave behind for others to deal with.

The article goes on to describe Margareta Magnusson, the doyen of Swedish death cleaning, as Marie Kondo with a dose of momento mori. Not having read Magnusson’s book, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, I can’t comment on the method’s effectiveness, but its clear that both Magnusson and Kondo are addressing a universal problem of our consumer culture: too much stuff.

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  1. I like the sound of Swedish death cleaning! Last month I went through a crappy shed in preparation to take it down, and I ended up disgusted with how much crap I had saved. And how much had turned into trash from being stored.

    I think it goes back to something posted in one of the early KonMari posts- that things are meant to be used not stored for “later”.

  2. I thought I was doing well with my Kondo-ing etc, until we discovered a clothing moth infestation in our clothing closets, and my craft closet (I’m a knitter and needle felter and have other wooly projects). Oh. My. Apparently, the moths had identified things they felt I wasn’t using, considered them “dead”, and therefore commenced with the cleaning of them a la Mother Nature style. Quite the metaphor, and quite the bitch slap wake up call, as one of the key preventatives for those moths is USING and properly CARING for what you won. So while I angsted over the things that had to be binned, and am still working through things I had to quarantine and figure out what can be salvaged, I am thankful to be getting this lesson while most of it IS still salvageable. And the upshot – a good chunk of the salvage will get donated once I know it’s safe to do so.

  3. Ha! I totally googled this after seeing it somewhere yesterday! (…maybe it was on rootsimple, I honestly can’t remember now in that way the internet leads from one thing to the next…) It is pretty brilliant. I need to somehow mention it to my mom who has a dual interest in garage sales and crafting. Lots of stuff there.

  4. Love the post, unfortunately the poster is of a Norwegian black metal band, not Swedish death metal. Maybe the rest of Scandinavia takes this approach as well?

    • Thanks John for the correction! I’m behind in my pop culture awareness. Maybe I’m getting old?

  5. Ha! I’ve been doing this for the past couple of years along with the KonMari clearing. I have felt rather morbid about it at times but don’t want to leave a bunch of stuff for my kids to have to go through. Plus our lives change and things we thought we wanted to do don’t apply anymore. (I’m never going to get back into stained glass work!) Now I feel better that apparently there are lots of others out there also preparing for death. I like having company!

  6. I gave away the craft supplies I used for craft camps in the civic center. Most likely, I will never ever do this again. If I do, I can restock. So, I got rid of several boxes of stuff and gave them to someone who might use the supplies, but not for a camp, just for herself or her little girl. It felt good.

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