You may not know this about me but I am super messy. Piles left here, there and everywhere – drives Johnny (my Boo) bananas! Not dirty. Just messy. I’m a neat freak when it comes to hygiene and cleaning, but for some reason clutter doesn’t bother me. You could eat breakfast off our kitchen floor, it’s been so scrubbed and sterilized, but the place is festooned with crystals, rocks, napkins, glass jam jars, old paint brushes, for-ever stamps, and take-out food containers (rinsed for re-use!)
I was gifted Marie Kondo’s book twice and regifted both copies. Meh, I thought. Then I learned about Dostadning! And no, it’s not a desk from IKEA, nor a German death metal band.
The definitive book on Dostadning is called The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, written by the charming Margareta Magnusson, who claims to be “somewhere between 80 and 100 years old.” In Swedish, Dostadning means ‘death cleaning’. And while cleaning and decluttering is nothing new to the Swedes, Dostadning is usually done by older folks who think their time on Earth is nearing the end.
But Swedish death cleaning can be done at any age, and my POV is – there’s no such thing as ‘too soon’ when it comes to planning for an event whose date is unknown. Think about it: if you die tomorrow, and your friends and family have to go clean out your home, what would they find? All of those embarrassing things that are crammed in your ‘XXX secret drawer’ should be reason enough to make you want to start death cleaning asap!
Here are important things to know: Going through the possessions of a deceased loved one, and deciding what to keep and what to throw away, can be traumatic. Being that one of the main goals of end-of-life design is to reduce unnecessary suffering, you can save your loved ones from that pain by throwing away all most of your unnecessary junk now (before dying), so that they don’t have to.
Swedish death cleaning can be a spiritual and rewarding process – one in which you take a moment with each object to say goodbye to it, and to remember what it meant to you at one point in time. It is a soulful way of letting go. Gifting possessions, living with less, and making more space can help you live a happier life.
Finally, there are many small deaths and rebirths that occur throughout life: friendship break-ups, cross-country moves, marriages ending, pets dying, kids leaving for college, changing careers, retiring from a job, etc. etc. Swedish death cleaning is appropriate for grieving all of those endings. I’ve composed a little cheat sheet below to help you get started, and may you be as inspired as I was.
Six Simple Swedish Death Cleaning Take Aways:
– Don’t get hung up on the word ‘death’ and start now (it’s a long process)
– Start with hidden corners: closets, drawers, file cabinets, attics, basements
– Gift your belongings away gradually and thoughtfully (consider the recipient’s tastes and space)
– Do keep one box of mementos – photos, diaries, love letters – for yourself in a box marked ‘throw away’ to be tossed out after you’re gone
– Donate, sell, or trash (trash being the last resort) the rest
– Declutter regularly
Happy Spring cleaning this Fall, Beloveds!