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What is the Art of Swedish Death Cleaning? It is not Cleaning After You Die

What is the gentle art of Swedish death cleaning? First, it is an amazingly provocative and intriguing book title. Second, it is the process of letting-go of the things that you no longer want or need, before your death, so that it will not be a burden on your loved ones. Third, it is the Swedish version of the American adopted phase “home downsizing.”

Death cleaning is not cleaning in the definition of mopping and vacuuming. It is the type of purging, weeding and letting-go of objects you no longer value – items that have little to no meaning. This should be done before your death, but it is recommended to be done sooner than later; not everyone is as active as the age 80+ author Margareta Magnusson of The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning.  In the U.S. we have appropriately adopted the word “downsizing” because this concept of living a simpler and more organized life does not have to happen right before you die. You can downsize at age 50, or during multiple phases of transition in your life.

As an Organizing Consultant, I have worked with many individuals who had a family member who did NOT death clean or downsize, and the experience of dealing with their deceased family member’s stuff is overwhelming. These individuals vow to start their own death cleaning now, so that their children and loved ones will not have the same negative experience.

I use many of the death cleaning concepts and activities with my clients, such as:
  • Per Magnusson, “it is about a permanent form of organization that makes your everyday life run more smoothly.” Organization is about quickly and easily finding what you need, when you need it
  • Do not start home organizing with photographs; it is too sentimental
  • Sort your belongings into categories of what you are throwing away, donating, giving to family members, leaving in the home, and moving
  • Create floorplans of your new downsized home, measuring and mapping where all the furniture will be placed. This provides a peace-of-mind and a more efficient moving experience

Embrace the death cleaning process of clearing out your own unnecessary belongings; do it for yourself instead of leaving it as a burden for the ones you love.

Heather Cocozza, PMP, CPO®
Organizing & Productivity Consultant
Cocozza Organizing & Design, LLC