5 Things You Need to Know about Swedish Death Cleaning
Photo: Nick White
I think the term döstädning (dö is "death" and städning is "cleaning") is quite new, but not the act of döstädning. It is a word that is used when you or someone else does a good thorough cleaning and gets rid of things to make life easier and less crowded. It does not necessarily have to do with your age or death, but often does. Sometimes you just realize that you can hardly close your drawers or barely shut your closet door. When that happens, it is definitely time to do something, even if you are only in your thirties. You could call that kind of cleaning döstädning, too, even if you may be many, many years away from dying.
Photo: Gregory Costanzo
Start by checking the basement or the attic or the cupboards by your front door. These areas are great places to temporarily get rid of your excess. Temporarily—well, many of the things you have in storage have probably been standing there for ages. You may even have forgotten what it is you have there. Good for you, because you will now realize that you will not miss anything if you throw it away.
Photo: JGI/Jamie Grill
It can be both a lot of fun and a bit sad to go through photographs and letters, but one thing is certain: if you start with them, you will definitely get stuck down memory lane and may never get around to cleaning anything else.
Pictures and letters that you have saved for some reason must wait until you have arranged the destinies for your furniture and other belongings. In general, when death cleaning, size really does matter. Start with the large items in your home, and finish with the small. Photographs carry such a weight of emotion that they will hinder your work, but are also so important.
Photo: Paul Bradbury
Perhaps a grandchild or someone else you know is about to move into their first apartment. Invite them over and you can show them your things and chat about them, telling them stories about the objects (and perhaps even your life) that they do not know. Meanwhile, have some bags and boxes at hand that you can fill while you are chatting, so they can take stuff with them right away.
Excerpted from The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson. Copyright © 2018 by Margareta Magnusson. Excerpted with permission by Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.