The concept of Swedish death cleaning explained


Have you heard the term “Swedish Death Cleaning” before?

The cleaning trend hit Sweden about three years ago when the Swedish debut author, Margareta Magnusson, released her book The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning. The book immediately gained popularity both in Sweden and internationally, spiking the interest of several international newspapers and magazines such as Business Insider and New York Times.

The book’s premise is simple: If you don’t love it, lose it. If you don’t use it, lose it. A perspective discussed in The Gentle Art Of Swedish Death Cleaning is to consider the burden you may leave behind on others who would have to deal with decluttering your things. For example, you may have items, such as a letter from an illicit affair, dusting away in a drawer without you knowing. “If you think the secret will cause your loved ones harm or unhappiness then make sure to destroy them,” Magnusson told

Essentially, the message of the book is to teach you how to keep tidy – by cleaning as if you were to die.



The author also emphasizes that it’s not only about throwing away things you wouldn’t want people to find after your death, but also to reflect on the things you own. In true Marie Kondo style, ask yourself, “do I really need this?” or perhaps more importantly, “would anyone be happy that I’ve saved this?”

When it comes to material things, more often than not, the answer is no. Magnusson recommends people to not start the decluttering process with photos and sentimental items as you’ll ‘definitely get stuck down memory lane and may never get around to cleaning anything else’. Instead, she suggests starting with the wardrobe.

The process can sound very daunting, especially if your age is somewhere between 20 to 50, and your death feels like the last thing you would want to be thinking about. But Magnusson insists the process is something that has given her a lot of pleasure, saying: “My death cleaning has brought back wonderful memories. I wish for other people to have the same experience.”

Magnusson means that just because you’re throwing an object away, it doesn’t mean that the emotional memories associated with it will disappear with it. In her book,  Magnusson writes: “Before it goes into the shredder, I have had a moment to reflect on the event or feeling, good or bad, and to know that it has been a part of my story and of my life.”

Magnusson also points out that it’s important to reward yourself with life-enhancing pleasures after a death-cleaning-session, such as socializing with friends or pottering in the garden.

This article was originally published on October 18, 2018.


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