April 19, 2022

Why I follow the concept of Swedish Death Cleaning.

Spring cleaning is both a total drag and completely refreshing, isn’t it?

Try as we might to buy less, we still end up with stacks of this and that, dust everywhere, and too much stuff shoved to the backs of our closets. I’ve got what I call my own “guilt closet” full of thrifted items that I’ve been meaning to clean up and use, repurpose, wear, garden with—you name it. My good intentions have good intentions at this point.

As I’ve begun to learn about and appreciate the topic of death, I happened upon the concept of Swedish death cleaning. Author Margareta Magnusson writes that we often hold onto too much stuff because of fear, anxiety, or the emotions that surround these items. We need it “just in case.” But that emotion can really weigh us down.

Now, I’m not a fan of stark, empty homes. Painted all white, sharp edges, no personality—no thank you. But I also hate the idea of having things just for the sake of it. I abhor dusty surfaces and shelves full of clutter and layers upon layers of things hanging on walls. Also no thank you. I’m more of a Goldilocks “happy medium” when it comes to my home and the stuff I keep in it.

So each year, when I begin the process of decluttering and scrubbing my home to welcome in the spring season, I consider this one question:

Will anyone be happy if I save this? Will I be happy? Will other people be happy? If the answer is no, it’s time to let it go.

The art of Swedish death cleaning seems to go deeper than Marie Kondo’s “items that spark joy” because it doesn’t just consider you in the present moment. It considers what happens if you were to die. What volume of stuff will your loved ones have to sift through if something untimely were to happen? The concept allows for that happy medium I keep looking for in so many aspects of my life, and especially in my home.

I also found it interesting to consider this concept not just when it comes to my home. When I start to think about how I live my life and my relationships, I wonder—am I holding onto someone or something that isn’t making me happy?

To Swedish death clean my whole life, not just my home, I ask myself these four questions:

>> Did the stuff in my home make me happy? Will it make other people happy? (My little elephant trinket collection, for example, eek!)

>> Was I happy with the kinds of people who surrounded me, whether that was family, friends, or even in my career? (I let go of a couple of close relationships recently.)

>> Was I happy with how I spent my time, whether it was doing bucket-list level things, or the mundane everyday things? (I realized I’ve stopped being creative just for me!)

>> Was I happy with my physical, spiritual, or emotional health? (I’ve only recently discovered I am both atheist and spiritual.)

If the answer, after my death, will be no to any of these questions, I clean. I organize. I change.

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