Swedish Death Cleaning: It’s Not As Crazy As It Sounds

In my journey towards minimalism, I once came across the phrase Swedish Death Cleaning. I guess you could say that “Swedish Death Cleaning” is a form of minimalism. After all, it entails going through your belongings and discarding what you don’t need. What’s the difference then?

Though not commonly heard of, Swedish Death Cleaning is beginning to make itself known. While minimalists practice living with less for their own sake, those who practice Swedish Death Cleaning are doing so for their loved ones.

The idea behind it is that when you pass on, you don’t want to leave a house, attic, basement and storage unit full of things for your loved ones to go through. Having experienced this first hand, it only prolongs the grief of the living.

Doing a favor for those who survive you…

In a previous post, I spoke on the death of my maternal grandparents, only months apart from one another, and the stuff that was kept in their home. I won’t go into a huge amount of detail in this post and I realize that it could have been much worse.

It did not help my extended family with the grieving process when we were all burdened by material objects. Objects that hold memories can be particularly sorrowful and troublesome. We were under a time constraint to empty the house and all of the grandchildren were grown, me being the youngest. We were all established with careers and cluttered households of our own. The elders wanted the antique furniture to stay within the family, however, the family had no room for it. The millennials suggested donating it. Generational preferences caused a few squabbles and added stress. Do your loved ones a favor and downsize. It’s never too late.

I used to date a hoarder…

Hoarder may be the wrong word. Perhaps he was just a slob on the verge of becoming a hoarder.  He was constantly at my place because he found it far more comfortable than his own home. That’s sad. Your home should be your sanctuary, an extension of self. He once said to me, “Now I know why your place is so neat, because you’re always cleaning.” At the time I hadn’t adopted minimalism. He was right. I spent a great deal of my free time cleaning.

I woke up early one morning and went to clean out his car. He drove a mid-size sedan. I used gloves to go through everything because water had seeped into the back door and soaked some of the papers which were then growing mold. After finding a bulbous black spider, who was very much alive, inside the spiral rings of a notebook, I quit. Three trash bags later, I had it clutter free and presented him with five large stacks of mail that had been neglected in the back seat. I wiped down all of the surfaces and helped him sort through the mail.

Pleased and grateful for how I had helped him, he said that things had simply gotten to a point where they were overwhelming and he didn’t know how to deal with them. The moral of this story – sometimes people need help and they don’t know how to ask. If you know someone who is struggling with clutter, offer a helping hand.

Whether it’s Minimalism or Swedish Death Cleaning…

…it helps you realize what’s important. To some people, they want more time to spend with their family. To other, they want more time to focus on their goals and follow their dreams. Those things can be difficult to accomplish when you’re constantly re-organizing or cleaning up. One of the reasons I became a minimalist almost three years ago was because I found that I was spending all of my free time cleaning and organizing instead of writing.

I hope I’m not sounding too much like a broken record when I say this but happiness doesn’t come from stuff. “Love people. Use Things. The opposite never works.”- Joshua Fields Milburn.

Further reading on Minimalism and Swedish Death Cleaning

Sarah DiGiulio’s blog post: https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/what-swedish-death-cleaning-should-you-be-doing-it-ncna816511

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

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Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.

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