What is Swedish Death Cleaning?
It might be unpronounceable but hygge, the Danish art of making your home cosy, has seeped firmly into the British consciousness and the word even appears in the Oxford dictionary. So, will another Scandinavian import- döstädning- have a similar impact?
Döstädning: The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning
isn’t as cosy sounding as hygge, but the book’s author believes that it can be just as uplifting. Tagged ‘How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter
’ Margareta Magnusson wrote the book after death cleaning for herself and for several family members. Rather than a grim look at the inevitability that eventually faces us all, Magnusson’s book promises ‘a radical and joyous guide’
which she believes will be an invigorating process to help you or your loved ones get rid of everything that you no longer need before your inevitable demise.
Swedish death cleaning isn't morbid, it's just a thoughtful way to de-clutter your home and life
“It offers the chance to celebrate and reflect on all the tiny joys that make up a long life along the way,” explains Magnusson: “The art of death cleaning, is a Swedish phenomenon by which the elderly and their families set their affairs in order. Whether it’s sorting the family heirlooms from the junk, downsizing to a smaller place
, or setting up a system to help you stop misplacing your keys, death cleaning gives us the chance to make the later years of our lives as comfortable and stress-free as possible.”
In her eighties, Magnusson has plenty of experience and tips to help you decide which possessions you can easily get rid of such as unworn clothes, unwanted gifts, more plates than you could ever use, for example, and those which you might want to keep such as photographs, love letters or a few of your children’s art projects. Digging into her late husband’s tool shed, and she explains ‘her own secret drawer of vices’, Magnusson’s book isn’t a grim read but instead is a light-hearted look at what could be a potentially daunting task. Along the way, readers get a glimpse into her life in Sweden, and also become more comfortable with the idea of ‘letting go’. “It’s just a really good thing to get rid of things you don’t need,” she adds.
The book has proved highly popular, creating a storm in Sweden, the US and mainly Western societies where mass consumerism is the norm and where many of us are guilty of acquiring much more than we need. Time magazine predicts that döstädning will prove even more popular across the US
in 2018, and not just with the over fifties. “Anyone can death clean,” explains Magnusson who believes that the practice of examining what you still use and need should be a life- long discipline that starts as a small child: “Whatever your age, Swedish death cleaning can be used to help de-clutter your life, and take stock of what’s important. Even a five- year old can start to do it, obviously they’re not thinking about death, but they can decide if they really want or need something or don’t use it anymore.”
How can storage help?
Putting things into storage whilst deciding if you can ‘let go’ can be a worthwhile interim stage. Owning too much ‘stuff’ can feel overwhelming and it’s often suggested that the effects upon mental health, wellbeing and even productivity can be highly beneficial, especially as we adapt to smaller living spaces. Charles Rickards, of removals firm Aussie Man & Van, says: “We are finding an increasing number of people are living in smaller flats and houses, as prices have continued to escalate in London over the past few years. This means they are struggling to comfortably fit all their treasured possessions into their living space. It is no surprise that this has coincided with a rise in demand for storage as the obvious but simple solution to having too much stuff is to store items. This enables you to metaphorically breathe again in a clutter-free environment.”
Photos and letters are perhaps the biggest hurdle for the sentimental but even here Magnusson believes that a cull can be uplifting ‘especially if you’ve had a good life as I have’.
Time for a bit of Spring Cleaning
And now that Spring is well and truly here, there’s never been a better time for a clear out. Heralding new beginnings, there’s nothing like bright sunshine streaming through windows to alert you to dusty piles of belongings that may not have been touched all year and which might be holding you back. Spring is also a popular time for putting your home on the market and decluttering just might net you a sale says Network Property Sales’ Richard Bocock: “Spring is traditionally a time when a lot of people think seriously about moving, and there are a number of useful things they can do to get their homes sale-ready and to put them ahead of the competition when it comes to property presentation.”
Can it help with moving house?
Bocock believes that the real crux of a spring clean is ‘to make or at least give the illusion of more space’ by thoroughly de-cluttering: “Pack away any items that may make the home look crowded. Potential buyers will want to imagine themselves in the property with their belongings. Ensure any drying laundry is hidden from view, and if part of the home is used as an office, clear away any paperwork.” But, even if you’re not planning on selling, Magnusson’s death clean is bound to help she believes: “It is a permanent form of organisation that makes everyday life run smoothly”.
If you decide to put some of your belongings in storage during the interim stage, we do have 119 stores nationwide, so there is bound to be one near you.
by Ginetta Vedrickas who is an award winning journalist has written on property for most major titles in the UK and overseas including The Times, Daily Mail, The Telegraph, Mail on Sunday, Independent, The National, Sunday Business Post, London Evening Standard and Daily Express. Passionate about all things property related one of her favourite subjects is how to make your home work for you.