Key Takeaways from "The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning" by Margareta Magnusson
December 31, 2022

I'm a geek for systems of organization, but Margareta Magnusson's "The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning" is my favorite by far. Her tactful, relaxed process of tidying with end-of-life in mind can lead to a truly transformational relationship with one's belongings. I've helped others in downsizing and followed this system myself, and there is a real joy in organizing ones home so it is more accessible and easy to navigate. This process takes some work, but results in a deep sense of ease and peace of mind.

I like to return to this task annually, as the new year begins, and am always amazed by how much I have accumulated in a year. Yes, I save every card, letter, and ticket stub, so sorting through paper is an annual review of sorts. I like to set aside a quiet weekend to return my belongings to find their homes, or mindfully pass them on to their next dwelling point, allowing any stagnant energy to move up and out. Having reacquainted myself with my belongings, I am reminded of accomplishments and happy memories, as well as projects and ways of being I've been holding onto that are no longer serving me. It is a contemplative and gentle process that brings a real lightness into our home.

I highly recommend you grab a copy of "The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter" for yourself so you may experience enjoy Magnusson's philosophy and flair. And if you want to get started today, please check out my notes below!


·     In Sweden there is a kind of decluttering called döstädning meaning “death” and städning meaning “cleaning”

·     We are used to cleaning up AFTER ourselves, this is cleaning up BEFORE you are unable to

·     Death cleaning is a permanent form of organization that makes your everyday life run more smoothly

·     Magnusson recommends you approach Death Cleaning around age 65 (or sooner!) so your home is safer for you to live in, and you still have the energy to do the work required

·     There is no timeline and work can go as slow or fast as you want it to!


1.  Tell your loved ones what you’re up to, they may want to be involved.

2.  Take your time, take breaks, rest, and recharge between categories or rooms; remember to enjoy your life!

3.  Don’t start with photos, letters, sentimental items, etc.... start with larger items then move to small.

4.  Begin with storage: basement, attic, storage units, random cupboards where things you’ve forgotten you even own are stored.

5.  Ask yourself, “Will anyone I know be happier if I save this?” If the answer is no, let it go.

6.  Next, move to clothes. Only keep clothing that is your size, you believe you will wear again, or items for which the sentimental connection is strong. Create one pile for keep, one pile for giving away, one pile for mending or cleaning (and then go back and assess if you will really fix them; if not, get rid of them).

7.  Organize your home as you go so everything has a designated place it belongs and can be returned to after use. A tidy home will be easier for you to live in and simpler for your loved ones to navigate.

8.  Create a “Throw Away” box that includes personal letters, photos, sentimental items you wish to keep but which have no value to others and can simply be thrown away when you’re gone. You may also wish to create a DO NOT OPEN box of personal items and tell a trusted person to toss it without opening.

9. Celebrate the gift you are giving the planet and your constellation of loved ones by mindfully parting with your belongings!

Where Will My Things Go?

It’s entirely up to you! Some suggestions:

·     Ask if anyone wants or needs the items you are letting go of. Magnusson recommends starting with loved ones, neighbors, friends, or community organizations asking for donations.

·     Slowly, unobtrusively gift by giving beautiful, useful items to friends each time they visit.

·     Rather than buying a gift when invited to a friend’s, bring them something from your collection!

·     If you own items of value, an auctioneer can help with appraisal and sales of items at auction in exchange for a percentage of sales. You may also wish to sell items to antique shops, secondhand stores, etc.

·     Leave notes on items left in your home (i.e., leave a piece of tape under the kitchen table that includes the name and contact info of person you’d like to receive an item, post mortem).

·     Consider selling your home with furniture included.

·     Organize a clothing swap with friends. This is a really fun hang, and my primary source of new clothing for the past few years. Send me a message for more info!

·     The New Yorker's "A Guide to Getting Rid of Almost Everything" covers a lot of great modern options for transferring belongings!

Are you interested in trying Swedish Death Cleaning in your home? Get support from Good Grief Doula by scheduling a FREE consultation here.

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