First of all; Swedish Death Cleaning is not as scary as it sounds.
In her book The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter, Margareta Magnusson suggests that we shouldn't burden ourselves with clutter in our lifetime and that we definitely shouldn't be leaving it to be dealt with by our friends and family after our death. She praises the Scandinavian art of shedding unnecessary things to make our lives as joyful as possible, at any age. Describing her age as between eighty and one hundred, Magnusson sets out a gentle route to a decluttered home without leading us down a morbid or depressing path.
What happens to our stuff once we are dead?
Magnusson suggests that this process isn't a quick one that the householder can accomplish in one afternoon and is instead, a slow journey through our belongings. She reminds you about that box that is under your bed, or tucked at the back of your wardrobe – the box that contains things that you don't want anyone to read or see now, let alone once you are dead! As I read through her book, my thoughts drift to the loft above me that contains boxes of who knows what from my past. I'm unsure that anything is embarrassing or secret in amongst the boxes, but it would be a massive chore to work through them all. I know for instance, that I have probably kept every box for every single electrical item that I have ever bought. Why? I think this is a habit that I inherited from my father on the basis that it makes an object easier to return or sell onwards if it has the box it was purchased in. What it means, in reality, is that I have a loft with no space in it, just many empty boxes!
The term Döstädning is broken down as thus: Dö means death and städning means cleaning. It is part of the Scandinavian way of thinking about how we live our lives. Forget Marie Kondo and whether an item fills you with joy. Swedish Death Cleaning is more base, brutal and dare I say, simple. Take a look at your clothes, for instance. Don't hug them to see if they fill you with a joyous feeling. Instead, put them into two piles. Pile one is clothes that you wear that you want to keep. Pile two is clothes that you haven't worn for ages, if ever. Pile two goes to your local charity shop or into the bin. Start with the wardrobe and then move onto a chest of drawers working through one area of the room at a time.
Obviously, this is affected by our age as well. A person of eighty years old will probably have many more belongings and keepsakes than a person of twenty-one. Margareta Magnusson's book reminded me of when my grandfather died, and my father and I drove a van to his flat to collect his belongings. He had accumulated so much stuff during his eighty years. In the days before most towns had a convenient self storage facility, my father had to put all of the furniture and boxes in his own house to enable it to be sorted through. The process took years to finish, and much of my grandfather's stuff is still at my dad's house – predictably in boxes in the loft! Obviously, one day, this will be my responsibility to deal with. I will have to go through the same decluttering process that my dad has struggled with.
Back at home, I have barely scratched the surface of my own clutter. The garden shed is my next target as I'm convinced I don't need a broken lawnmower and three pairs of rusty shears. I wouldn't have described myself as a hoarder previously, but after finishing Magnusson's book, I have had to take a step back to really look at why I keep some of the stuff I have. In The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, Margareta Magnusson says, "Don't collect things that you don't want, someone has to take care of it one day." Yes, they do. Whether it's your father, or you, or your own children, someone will have to deal with the clutter we leave behind.