There are 2 types of Swedish Death Cleaning – which one do you need?

2 types of Swedish Death Cleaning - a neat kitchen sink

The 2 types of Swedish Death Cleaning

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning book by Margareta Magnusson made a splash in 2018. With wisdom and humour it approaches the confronting notion of death and clutter – both relatable topics.

Then came the Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning series in 2023 narrated by Amy Schumer and comprising a great Swedish cast of organiser, psychologist and interior designer.

But few people realise (although it is evident if you pay attention to the series), that there are 2 types of Swedish Death Cleaning. 

1. Cleaning in advance of your own death.

2. Cleaning after someone else’s death.

Let’s delve deeper into these 2 types of Swedish Death Cleaning.

1. Your own death

The premise of the book is that we are all going to die, so let’s not pretend otherwise. Nobody wants your clutter. Whether you have your own terminal diagnosis (e.g. Shana in episode 2 of the series) or you are ageing (Suzi, episode 1), death is on the horizon.

Even if neither of those fit your situation and you are young and healthy, you will die. Most of us don’t know when, but our clutter will outlive us. Tackling it while we can – i.e. now – means we don’t burden anyone else. And the bonus is that we can enjoy a calm, uncluttered home and peace of mind. 

2. Someone else’s death

Episode 5 of the series shows Godfrey grappling with his parents’ death and wondering what to do with all their stuff. Questions arise:

  • Does decluttering your loved one’s things remove your treasured memories of them?
  • How do you honour someone’s stuff?
  • What is their legacy?

This is difficult. The quilt mum made, or dad’s favourite painting can prompt lots of memories, so it’s difficult to get rid of. But the stuff is not them. And if we don’t prioritise their belongings, our home becomes a cluttered shrine. They would not want that for us.

The 2 types of Swedish Death Cleaning affect almost everyone. As the series psychologist Katarina says: “We’re all born, and we’re all going to die. So let’s talk about it.”

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