Recently, a little book has come out ‘The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning’, by Margareta Magnusson, a Swedish woman who describes herself as ‘somewhere between 80 -100 years old’.
It’s been marketed very cleverly – a different angle on what used to be called ‘spring cleaning’, and now is more usually known as decluttering, sorting out, or – plain and simple – getting rid of stuff.
Because that is what it is – letting go of the stuff that has accumulated in your lifetime. The death cleaning bit comes in because it is something the Swedes have a term for (Dostadning), simply meaning decluttering during the years when one is approaching the end of one’s life. That’s it.
Having read the book, it is indeed a gentle amble through the thoughts of Margareta about letting go of the stuff that has gathered throughout her long life and told amidst her various stories. It’s a lovely read.
This is why I was interviewed briefly on BBC Radio Scotland last week, on the Kaye Adams Show, with guest Aggie Mackenzie, TV cleaning expert.
You can listen in below, it’s just a few minutes.
What’s come out of it, though, is intrigue about this term ‘death cleaning’ and the importance of tidying up. So here’s 5 Tips For Easy Swedish Death Cleaning and Decluttering ( as someone who has moved house 26 times so far, and therefore has had wonderful opportunities to let go, regardless of what age I am, I reckon I am well qualified to talk about this!)
Understand that Death Cleaning is letting go.
Letting go means releasing something, not having it around anymore, never seeing it again. That is like a death of that thing in itself. Thus, you may feel any of the feelings you’d feel with any kind of loss – relief, sadness, regret, fearful, happy, joyous, loving, warm, cross, guilty. I could go on, there are many, many feelings that are appropriate when a loss has happened. See giftedbygrief.com for more on loss and grief.
Do the easy things first.
This means choosing to let go of things that have less meaning to you than others. For instance, photos often are very meaningful. Don’t start with those, you will get bogged down in memories and will likely give up. Instead, choose to go through your stationery cupboard, or a chest of drawers; anything that is less personal.
Take it step by step.
Instead of determining to clear out the kitchen cupboards, or the utility room or garage, choose one aspect only of that room. For instance, clear out one drawer from the drawer stack only. Take everything out of one kitchen cupboard only. It’s much more manageable this way, and you get to feel great about something that only takes a short while! Or choose to go through your books, or music, or paintings. One area of the house, or one kind of ‘stuff’ only.
Choose where to let go to.
Sort your stuff into five different piles or boxes:
- stuff to be given to specific family members or friends
- things to go to the thrift or charity shop
- items to be sold
- things to be kept
- stuff to be put in the rubbish bin or recycling.
Deliver the boxes/piles to the right places.
Just in case you thought that having organized boxes around the house was okay (and it is better than not!), the job is not complete until you have actually given the items to your friends or family, delivered the bags to the charity shop, sold them, put them in the rubbish bin or recycling, and replaced into your drawer only the things you want to keep.
Finally, when this is done (and remember you are doing it just one drawer or cupboard at a time, or one element of your life at a time) you get to ….
I am a big fan of celebration. This can be anything from a high five with someone else to a meal out or any other way you choose. Consciously acknowledge what you are doing and choose to feel good about the process of letting go. It IS possible!
And if you feel nervous, hesitant or just know you are not likely to do this alone, then let me know if you’d be interested in joining in a Death Cleaning and Decluttering Made Easy online workshop.
This was the most popular subject chosen in the survey put out last year. So contact me with Death Cleaning in the subject line and then look out for more information