Swedish Death Cleaning Is More Than a Method; It’s a Lifestyle

Ok, that sounds grim, but on close examination, it is actually a freeing exercise for our lives today. This modern take on decluttering offers stress reduction, mindful living, and so much more. 

Rooted in Swedish culture, döstädning, otherwise known as Swedish Death Cleaning, is a modern, healthy approach to downsizing and organizing life. The premise is to make things easier for loved ones after your passing by gradually decluttering your home in order to lessen the burden on your family. It sounds a bit like the well-known Marie Kondo method, but more pragmatic — with the thoughtfulness going way beyond one’s self. The question to ask ourselves is: Do we really want someone else to manage our detritus, or can we clean up for the benefit of both ourselves and our future heirs?

The benefits do more than just “spark joy”

While the goal is to leave behind a more organized and meaningful collection of items, the method also encourages a reflection on your possessions and legacy — reducing the stress of dealing with decades of accumulation later on. Adoption of this pragmatic yet compassionate cleaning method can:

Encourage mindful living: Through purpose-driven decluttering, you can determine what is essential and what has true emotional value. Emphasis is on the importance of the memories and relationships, not the physical objects. A decluttered space is easier to clean and maintain, providing a more comfortable living environment.

Facilitate emotional wellbeing and strengthen connections: In revisiting memories attached to different objects, you can reflect on experiences and share stories over family heirlooms. When my mom downsized, we had the best time looking at old family photos and dissecting the folders she created for each of us. As the oldest, my folder of memorabilia was bursting at the seams; the baby of the family had a thin and rather eclectic mix of items.

Additional Benefits

Reduce stress: Clutter can create a sense of chaos, making it harder to focus or relax. Disorganization can also make it hard to find important items when needed — leading to frustration and anxiety. A reduction of clutter helps create a more peaceful and organized living environment and lifestyle.

Benefit the environment: Through donation, recycling, or proper disposal, Swedish Death Cleaning also has an environmental impact. It encourages giving items a new life elsewhere, which is an eco-friendly approach to decluttering. My mom felt so great when donating her much loved linens and useful kitchen items to a local women’s shelter. 

Simplify the burden on loved ones: The most profound benefit of this method is the reduction of the burden on family members after death. By sorting and decluttering your belongings, loved ones are not left to this tall task during such an emotionally taxing time. It can allow your family to fully celebrate your life and legacy versus bicker over who gets grandma’s china.

Getting started is not nearly as overwhelming as it looks

While this particular method is aimed at those of an advanced age, we think the earlier you start the better. Create a habit of decluttering regularly to reap those benefits earlier. Maybe think of it as an expanded take on spring cleaning. Whether you want to start big or start small, here are a few ways to get going:

Declutter a closet. The simple act of sorting through and setting aside clothes that either don’t fit or you haven’t worn in years is a straightforward task. My daughter loves to help here as she places items on a resale site. She gets a little spending money and the clothing finds a new home. 

Take on one room at a time. If feeling a bit overwhelmed, work on one room at a time. This could be a place where you spend the most time, an area that would be a relatively quick win, or a room that has been stressing you out for awhile, like an attic, storage closet, or basement. 

Look at the big-item approach. Determine if you have any bulky items (like furniture) that no longer work for you or don’t really serve a purpose. Properly disposing of broken or stained items can be easy decisions to make — and this can clear space and provide that needed sense of accomplishment. 

Adopt a less-is-more mentality. Once you’ve been knee deep in decluttering, the desire to keep it that way grows. By making mindful purchases and bringing fewer new items into the home, you will also save money. Money that can go towards your healthy and active AGEIST lifestyle.

Include friends and family in the process. In broadening the purpose behind Swedish Death Cleaning, it becomes a little easier to discuss your purpose here. It is no longer just about preparing for the end of life; it is about simplifying life while we live. Quite frankly, it is beneficial for all of us to keep important documents and information organized and easily found for our loved ones. 

Embracing the simplicities of life

When evaluating trends, we always look through an AGEIST lens. Is the trend helpful — does it benefit or add to a healthy lifestyle? Is there an “update” or “twist” we can add to increase the impact? 

Swedish Death Cleaning is more than just cleaning and decluttering. It’s a thoughtful approach to life and legacy. It aligns with a minimalist lifestyle and prioritizes experiences and relationships over material goods. All really good stuff. We just think, why wait? For those of you looking to embrace a decluttered, intentional life, this method offers a really good roadmap. 

Have any of you heard of or tried the Swedish Death Cleaning method? Share your thoughts or comments below. And, if you decide to give it a try, we’d love to hear from you. 

See medical disclaimer below. ↓



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The ideas expressed here are solely the opinions of the author and are not researched or verified by AGEIST LLC, or anyone associated with AGEIST LLC. This material should not be construed as medical advice or recommendation, it is for informational use only. We encourage all readers to discuss with your qualified practitioners the relevance of the application of any of these ideas to your life. The recommendations contained herein are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. You should always consult your physician or other qualified health provider before starting any new treatment or stopping any treatment that has been prescribed for you by your physician or other qualified health provider. Please call your doctor or 911 immediately if you think you may have a medical or psychiatric emergency.

Ashley Feltner
Ashley is a writer, an artist, and an ideator who has placed storytelling into her process for bringing sales and marketing ideas to life for over 20 years. Her background includes recruiting, training, content development, and ERG leadership within highly matrixed organizations that provide her a unique perspective and an ability to authentically connect with individuals from all walks of life. With the desire to place a little humanity into the digital experience, Ashley believes that words do matter, a little empathy goes a long way, and having a purpose in life is imperative. She and her husband Gabe live in Nashville, TN with two very active teenage daughters and two very lazy field spaniels.


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