Swedish Death Cleaning (a Serious Case for Decluttering)

by | Nov 7, 2017 | Minimalism | 4 comments

Swedish death cleaningOn a scale of one to 10, how much stuff do you own? 

With two duffel bags, two laptop bags, our JTC Omni V Blender (aka Blendobi) and a tent to our name, Sporty and I are on the lower end of the scale.

A little extreme perhaps, but right now it’s working for us.

But even before Minimalism 2.0, we didn’t own that much. For us, our apartment was a place to go home to when we still had office jobs, not a storage facility for stuff.

Our extreme lifestyle experiment (which actually started as a bit of a joke) ended up working really well for us.

We were quite content with just two mugs, two bowls, two dessert spoons and two teaspoons. It’s amazing how you’ll find more than one use for something when that’s all you have.

Breadboards double as serving plates, teaspoons are great for spreading peanut butter on toast, mugs can be used for coffee, soup and even muesli.

Easy peasy.

Okay, So What is Swedish Death Cleaning?

It sounds macabre, I know, but hear me out. Swedish Death Cleaning is simply another way of getting you to declutter now. You know, so your kids aren’t left with the job when you’re gone.

Nobody wants to think about dying (much less talk about it), but let’s go there for a moment anyway.

If you were to pop your clogs (to use Sporty’s Mom’s favourite Aussie phrase) right now, how much work would you be leaving behind for your family? Regardless of what you’d like to believe, the harsh reality is that your kids don’t want your clutter.

The sooner you get downsizing, the better it will be for everyone.

Swedish death cleaningMargareta Magnusson —author of The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning— says that as soon as you reach the back end of middle age you need to get rid of the things you no longer use.

Rather don’t wait that long.

By putting your house (and your affairs) in order now, you’ll make your life infinitely easier and more pleasant while you’re still around.

The fact that you could easily live for another eleventeen years should be motivation enough to get you decluttering like Marie Kondo and Bree Van de Kamp’s love child.

But if it’s not, then at least give some thought to what it’ll be like for your family to have to sift through your stuff when you’re gone. I can tell you from personal experience, it’s not fun. Besides, you might have some skeletons you’d rather they didn’t know about.

Remember Meryl Streep’s character in The Bridges of Madison County?

How Much Is Too Much?

Swedish death cleaning

This question of how much is too much has been on my mind for the past couple of weeks. We’ve been house-sitting  for a while now and it’s given us a look at how other people live and what they think they need to live comfortably.

Spoiler: It’s a lot more than what we’re used to. A lot.

When last did you take a long, hard and honest look around your home? Maybe now’s the time to do a little stuff inventory to see where you fall on the clutter scale. If you find yourself edging to the higher end, then it’s time to start decluttering.

As for what to do with all the stuff you no longer need, Christmas is the perfect time to donate it to someone who’ll actually use it.

‘Tis the season to be generous, after all.

If the thought of parting with your stuff makes you uncomfortable, maybe it’s time for a little Hero Training 101. Alternatively, take a look at our ongoing curation of minimalist TEDx talks.

Watch Ang’s TEDx talk!

Who are Ang & Sporty?



  1. Rev.Andrea Stoeckel

    Just an FYI: It’s “ The Bridges OF (not Across) Madison County”

    • Ang

      Holy guacamole, it’s one of my favourite movies ever so I’m not sure how that mistake happened!? Of course I know it’s ‘of’! 🙂

  2. Mari R

    Death cleaning for any age! Once you clear up your clutter, you feel really good and very likely live more good years. It’s similar to an estate planning. People with it tend to have better and longer life.
    This is what I learned from my own and family members experiences, and it should be true for the most people.

    • Ang

      I think it holds true for most things. When you don’t have ‘what ifs’ hanging over your head you can just relax, knowing everything is in order. You’re basically reducing your stress levels as well as those of your family when you do Swedish Death Cleaning.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Ang writing old school letters

Sign up for our newsletter!

Join our mailing list and we'll email you a personal, handwritten response to your burning question about minimalism and decluttering. (There might even be doodles.)

You're in!