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What is Swedish death cleaning?

7 March 2019
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The Scandinavians really do have the how-to achieve stylish comfortable homes down pat. We’ve IKEA on the way to show us how the Swedes master design balance; they call that lagom. But another Swedish concept having a moment is döstädning – dö meaning “death” and städning meaning “cleaning.” That’s right, it’s not just Marie Kondo and her KonMari tidying techniques trending, Swedish Death Cleaning is also a thing.

Margarita Magnussen, in her 2017 book The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, artist Margareta Magnusson, with Scandinavian humor and wisdom, instructs readers to embrace minimalism and free yourself and your family of a lifetime of clutter. It’s all about letting go, people, as we prepare for the inevitable and to respect those who come after you. I learned this first hand clearing out my father’s home of 30 years when he moved to a nursing home. It took months. Most of the linen, kitchenware, books, accounting records (the worst, needed security bins to dispose of umpteen client records) he should never have been moved when he’d downsized after my mother’s death. Some were still as they’d been packed 15 years’ prior. It was a good learning curve for my own subsequent moves out of a family home in to an apartment in preparation to move across the Tasman.

My method, similarly inspired by Australian organizer guru Peter Walsh, was to tackle one room at a time; tip everything out of drawers and shelves and sort into piles of must-keep, definitely discard, and undecided – then be ruthless with the maybes. If you haven’t worn or used it recently and it’s not a treasured memento (or as Ms Kondo would say ‘sparks joy’) toss it or give it to charity. Paring down our materialistic possessions is a cleansing experience for the soul and you’ll find when you learn to live with less you really do feel freer and happier. If only I could master the art of getting my gigantic iphone photo library sorted. I know there’s an app for that… perhaps need to prioritise a download, make a cuppa and a cake and get hygge with it.

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