Thinking about how your loved ones would feel if they found your things after you die could be the nudge you need to start cleaning up.
Swedish Death Cleaning isn’t as morbid as it sounds and is starting to catch wind with a new television show premiering this week.
The idea is to get rid of any unnecessary items you may have to avoid overburdening your family members in the event of an untimely death.
Proponents cite an improvement in mental health, greater acceptance of death, and an easing of the burden on loved ones.
Anyone who’s lost a family member knows the emotional toll of going through their old stuff, and experts say this kind of cleanup can actually ease that burden.
Swedish Death Cleaning, created by artist Margareta Magnusson, involves getting rid of unnecessary things so that your loved ones don’t have to deal with them after you die
Years after Marie Kondo’s move to get rid of everything that doesn’t bring joy, another decluttering practice focuses on clearing your stuff before you die.
Swedish Death Cleaning, coined by Swedish artist Margareta Magnusson in her 2017 book, is the idea of cleaning up your belongings so others don’t have to do it after you die.
The book was the inspiration for a new TV show of the same name, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, which premiered this week on Peacock.
The process is based on the Swedish word döstädning – dö meaning ‘death’ and städning meaning ‘to clean’ – and is something Ms Magnusson writes she has experienced several times following the deaths of her parents, her in-laws and her husband.
Despite the name, it is not meant to be morbid.
“The death cleansing is not the story of death and its slow, ungainly inevitability,” she said.
“But rather the story of life, your life, the good memories and the bad. You keep the good ones. The bad you remove,” Ms. Magnusson, now in her eighties, wrote in the book.
The practice is rooted in minimalism, or keeping things of value and removing anything else that isn’t so important.
‘(Minimalism) is really about adapting and intentionally dealing with the things you decide to keep. I believe everyone has a right amount for themselves and their lifestyle,” Shira Gill, organization expert and author of Organized living, told DailyMail.com.
“Swedish death cleansing and minimalism are both rooted in a desire to be more intentional.”
The practice is about facing uncomfortable emotions and being more open about death even long before you reach that point.
While Swedish Death Cleaning is meant to ease the burden of having too much stuff for yourself, it is also believed to reduce stress for loved ones.
Organizational expert Marie Kondo popularized the idea of getting rid of everything that doesn’t inspire joy. The practice gained a huge following and inspired people to keep only what really matters to them
Experts told DailyMail.com that Swedish death cleansing can be done at any age and it helps create healthier conversations about death with loved ones
“It gives you the opportunity to change the way your loved ones experience your passing afterward,” Carolyn Rubenstein, PhD, a Florida-based licensed psychologist, told DailyMail.com.
“You leave intentional objects, you leave memories. Instead of coming in with a “what am I supposed to do with this stuff” mindset, approach more by connecting with the person you’ve lost.
It just creates a different experience. That can be very beautiful and such a great gift for someone to leave their loved ones behind,” said Rubenstein.
She pointed out several benefits of reducing clutter, including reducing visual stress and promoting feelings of calmness.
“It’s really empowering to realize, ‘I don’t have to hold things that don’t make me feel good. I don’t have to hold that thing because somebody gave it to me,'” Rubenstein said. “I get to let go of those feelings. I get to release this item from my life. I have that ability. It brings back that sense of empowerment rather than giving items and objects power over us.”
A studyfor example, studied how 60 women described their home environment and found that those who found their spaces cluttered, unfinished and less restful had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. They also consistently had worse moods throughout the day compared to women whose homes were more restorative.
“I think people are really looking for a sense of control in a world that doesn’t have much,” Gill said.
What makes Swedish Death Cleaning unique is in the name: it promotes healthy conversation about death.
“Taking to your loved ones while you’re doing it is also a way to just get more comfortable talking about life moving forward,” Rubenstein said. “I don’t think any of us are really comfortable talking about that head-on, so it’s always easier to find something more neutral to focus on.”
However, experts do not recommend suddenly throwing away everything in the house.
“Start with just one space, and a microspace inside,” said Mrs. Gill
“What I would suggest is literally set a timer for 15 minutes, pick a micro space, like a drawer or a shelf or a single surface, and make sure you have the right vessel setup.”
The barrel can be a bag for garbage or recycling and a bag for donations.
And don’t go crazy if your space already feels comfortable.
“You don’t want organizing or minimalism to be your only way to manage or deal with stress,” Rubenstein said.