A “Swedish death clean” sounds kind of intense. But it turns out, it’s actually a super useful organizational technique that all of us should probably be doing. Once you know all the ways to “Swedish death clean” your life, you’re likely going to want to get started right away. It’s called “döstädning” and is a well-known concept in Sweden that’s recently gotten some attention thanks to a book coming out next year by Margareta Magnusson called The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter.
It’s historically meant for people over 50 years old as a way to start to declutter their life before, well, they die. Sound morbid? It might be a little bit, but getting rid of a bunch of clutter and BS in your life is always a good thing. And if you’ve ever had to help a someone go through a person’s stuff after they die and try to figure out what to do with it, you know that deep down that it’s something everyone should do.
This is not a spring cleaning or a one-time thing — it’s a whole way of approaching the stuff in your life. You don’t have to be old and knocking on death’s door to start doing it either.
Here are some ways to Swedish death clean your life.
1Clean out your closets.
Cleaning out your closet and getting rid of things you don’t wear on a regular basis is always a good idea. If you want to make sure your house is totally cleared out, you should do this at least once a year. But if you pack a bag for Goodwill and pick through your old clothes every time you switch out your seasonal stuff, you’re totally Swedish death cleaning.
2Regift your stuff.
Instead of buying housewarming or “get well soon” presents for friends, consider giving them a book you know you’re not going to pick up off the shelf again. Or that really martini glass set you got for Christmas last year but seriously never use. Don’t start wrapping up JUNK obviously, but cut down on waste and clear out some clutter in a tasteful way.
3Downsize your “memories.”
You know you have a stash of memorabilia somewhere in the back of a closet or under your bed. We all do. It’s probably filled with notes with your best friend from high school or old birthday cards. The menu from some restaurant you went to with your first S.O. Whatever. You know what’s meaningful and important to you, but there are ways to downsize those things, too.
Try turning it into a project and digitizing some of your paper so you can recycle it finally. Or buy one container that you can fill up with that sort of stuff — but just that one! Everything else has to get tossed. Hey, death cleaning is not for the sentimental, but you can always have a good cry as you walk it to the dumpster.
4Turn it into a party.
Magnusson actually doesn’t recommend starting with the heavy stuff like photos first because you’ll get totally attached, according to the Daily Mail. But she does suggest inviting your friends over to come look through and see if they want anything before you donate or toss things. That way, you don’t have to force your old skinny jeans or short story collections on anyone.
Even better? Get a few people together to start cleaning out their apartments too and hold a rummage sale in front of your house. You can make money and spend a weekend morning with your besties — what’s better than that?
5Get real about buying things.
You probably already try to stay on a budget, but it can be hard to deny yourself splurges for your house now and again. Before you buy something, be really honest about whether or not you’re going to use, wear, or read it. If the things are bringing you joy and you love them, go for it. But don’t restock your clutter once you’ve downsized.