What is Swedish Death Cleaning?

neatly organized linen closet

If you haven’t heard of Swedish death cleaning before, the name is actually somewhat misleading. When Aftermath Services talks about death cleaning, we mean cleaning up the grisly, physical remnants after a death. But Swedish death cleaning means the opposite — cleaning before death.

So, What is Swedish Death Cleaning?

Swedish death cleaning is the process of selling off, or otherwise disposing of, your belongings before you die. The idea is that once you’re middle aged or older, you rid your space of belongings that do not spark joy in you — non-essentials that you’ve accumulated over time — so that family members don’t have to do it once you’ve passed on. It may sound kind of morbid, but it’s actually quite practical. Sorting out clutter has positive mental health effects, allows you to walk down memory lane with cherished items, and makes your loved ones’ lives easier when you do pass on.

When NBC interviewed Marie Kondo, author of The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Make Your Loved Ones’ Lives Easier and Your On Life More Pleasant, she explains, 

“In Swedish, the exercise is döstädning — a combination of the words ‘dö’ (which means death) and ‘standing’ (which means cleaning) . . . [Swedish] death cleaning is not about dusting or mopping up; it is about a permanent form of organization that makes your everyday life run more smoothly,” she explains. And you may even find the process itself enjoyable. It is a delight to go through things and remember their worth.”

People also read: Organizing A Loved One’s Belongings

Does Swedish Death Cleaning Actually Have Benefits?

Swedish death cleaning actually does have some tangible benefits, including but not limited to:

  • Giving your family a break. As you can imagine (or may have already experienced) cleaning out a deceased loved one’s things is both hard work and emotionally stressful. Each object brings back a flood of memories that triggers raw emotions, often before the family has time to process their feelings and begin the healing process.
  • It relieves stress. Swedish death cleaning goes hand-in-hand with the minimalist living movement, which has been gaining traction for some time. By reducing the amount of possessions you own, you are more likely to concentrate on happy experiences and building positive relationships. Because you’re throwing out anything that doesn’t spark joy, by the end of the process you are surrounded by things that make you happy.
  • It reduces anxiety surrounding morbidity. It’s never easy to talk about death, yet it’s an unavoidable reality for everyone. Swedish death cleaning is an easy way to begin that conversation. “Getting rid of items can serve as a reminder that things don’t last forever, including us,” explains psychotherapist Amy Morin to NBC, “Going through all of your things can serve as a reminder of who you are, how you see yourself and how you want others to see you after your death — your legacy.”

It may not be for everyone, but it surely has helped many people improve their lives.

Aftermath Services: Here For You 24/7

While we don’t go through your loved one’s belongings, we are here to help begin the healing process after a loved one’s death by providing 24/7 crime scene, suicide, homicide, and unattended death cleanup throughout the US. Ridding the home of grisly physical reminders of a traumatic event is the first step to recovery, once the sirens fade and the dust settles.

If you need immediate assistance, we can be at your doorstep within a few hours. Just call 877-698-6169 or submit a contact request form.

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