How to Use the Swedish Death Cleaning Method at Home

Last Updated on June 6, 2024 by SampleBoard

Decluttering one's home can be a deeply personal and sometimes overwhelming process, especially when adhering to the principles of Swedish Death Cleaning.

This method, focused on clearing space and considering the emotional and practical impacts of one’s belongings after passing, emphasizes a thoughtful approach to decluttering.

For many, the task is not just about simplifying their living space but also about preparing for the inevitable and ensuring their legacy is managed with respect and care.

Swedish Death Cleaning

What is The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning?

"The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning" is a decluttering method outlined in Margareta Magnusson's book.

The title is "The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter." 

This Swedish practice, known as "döstädning," combines the Swedish words for death ("dö") and cleaning ("städning").

It involves decluttering one's home so that relatives are spared the burden of sorting through unnecessary belongings after one's passing.

The concept encourages individuals, particularly those who are middle-aged or older, to begin thoughtfully and systematically cleaning and organizing their homes.

The goal is to minimize the amount of stuff that loved ones need to deal with after death.

It also serves as a way for individuals to reflect on their lives and possessions, deciding what truly matters and what can be let go.

This method of decluttering is not just about cleaning; it's about mindful curating one's possessions to ease the responsibilities and emotional strain on loved ones left behind.

Swedish Death Cleaning, or "döstädning," has gained international attention as a thoughtful approach to decluttering beyond mere tidying.

It involves deep, purposeful cleaning and organizing of one's personal possessions to ease the burden on loved ones after one's passing.

This method provides practical benefits, emotional relief, and peace.

Here's how to implement this mindful decluttering practice in your home.

Understand the Philosophy

Before you begin, understand that Swedish Death Cleaning is more than just decluttering—it's about considering what you truly value and wish to leave behind.

It's a reflective process that involves thinking about how others will perceive and handle your belongings once you can no longer manage them yourself.

Start with the Least Sentimental Items

Begin the process by sorting through items that have less sentimental value. This might include old magazines, duplicate kitchen tools, or outdated electronics.

Starting with the more accessible items will help you develop decision-making skills and prepare you for handling more meaningful possessions later.

Sort and Categorize

Create categories for items such as 'keep,' 'donate,' 'recycle,' and 'throw away.' Be honest with yourself about what you use and need.

Remember, the goal is to reduce the amount of stuff others will have to deal with later.

Deal with Sentimental Items

Handling sentimental items can be the most challenging part of the process. Take time and involve close family or friends who can help you decide what to keep.

Sometimes, sharing stories about these items can make letting go easier, knowing that the memories have been acknowledged and shared.

Give Things Away

If you find items that may be of interest or used by someone else, consider giving them away now. 

This not only helps with the decluttering process but also ensures that your belongings are appreciated and used rather than potentially discarded later.

Document the Important Things

Consider digitizing items like photographs, letters, and other personal documents. This way, you preserve the memories without keeping the physical clutter.

Plus, digital documents are easier for family members to manage and distribute.

Keep Revisiting Regularly

Swedish Death Cleaning isn't a one-time project; it's an ongoing process. Make it a habit to revisit your possessions regularly to reassess what's genuinely needed.

As life changes, so may your attachment to specific items.

Talk About It

Discuss your cleaning process with family and friends. 

This helps them understand your intentions and prepares them for their roles and expectations when the time comes. It can also be an emotional support as you navigate through your possessions.

Maintain a Mindful Space

As you declutter, maintain a space that reflects your current needs and lifestyle. 

This makes your environment more pleasant and manageable and continues to honor the philosophy of living with items that truly add value to your life.

Swedish Death Cleaning offers a unique opportunity to reflect on one's life and possessions and make thoughtful decisions about what truly matters.

By incorporating this method into your life, you not only ease the burden on your loved ones after your departure but also improve your current living space and mindset.

This method encourages us all to live more intentionally, with an awareness of how our belongings impact our space and the people we love.

Employing Cleaning Services

For many, the physical and emotional demands of Swedish Death Cleaning can be overwhelming, mainly when dealing with large volumes of belongings or physically demanding tasks.

In such cases, a professional cleaning or decluttering service can be invaluable. Here's how you can effectively utilize these services:

Choose the Right Service

Research and select a cleaning or decluttering service that understands the philosophy of Swedish Death Cleaning.

Some services may specialize in estate clearing or downsizing, which can be particularly beneficial.

Look for companies with good reviews and get recommendations from friends or family who have undergone similar processes.

Set Clear Goals

Before the service begins, clearly define what you want to achieve.

Whether sorting through a specific area (like an attic or garage), disposing of items, selling items, or organizing what's left more manageable, having clear goals will help the service provide the most effective assistance.

Be Present, If Possible

If your health and schedule allow, be present during the initial sorting process. 

This will enable you to make personal decisions about specific items and guide the workers according to your preferences.

If being present isn't possible, consider having a trusted family member or friend oversee the process.

Use It as a Learning Opportunity

Working with professionals can provide you with new strategies and methods for decluttering that you can apply in the future.

Pay attention to how they categorize items and manage the sorting process. This can be incredibly educational and helpful.

Handle Personal Items Separately

Sensitive items such as personal documents, photographs, and other private belongings should be handled personally or by someone very close to you.

Inform the cleaning service of these boundaries and ensure they understand which items require your attention.

Review and Reflect

After the service has completed its part, take some time to review the work done. 

This will give you a sense of accomplishment, allow you to reflect on the process, and allow you to adjust future decluttering sessions accordingly.

Secure a Cleaning Service Contract

Secure a formal cleaning service contract when employing a professional cleaning service to assist with Swedish Death Cleaning.

This contract should clearly outline the scope of work, costs, timelines, and any special requests or considerations specific to the Swedish Death Cleaning method.

Lawrina offers a user-friendly platform where you can easily access a variety of legal templates, including the cleaning service contract template, to streamline the process of engaging in cleaning services.

A well-defined contract ensures both parties understand their responsibilities and the particular outcomes expected from the service.

It also provides legal protection and a clear recourse should any disputes arise or the services do not meet the agreed expectations.

Review the contract details carefully, possibly with the assistance of a legal advisor, to ensure all your needs are addressed and you feel comfortable with the terms before signing.

This formal agreement helps maintain a professional and positive working relationship and ensures that the process aligns with your mindful and respectful decluttering goals.


Incorporating professional services into Swedish Death Cleaning can significantly reduce the burden and make the task more manageable.

It allows you to focus on the most meaningful aspects of decluttering, leaving the more challenging or less emotional functions to the experts. 

This can be especially helpful for those who find the process daunting or have physical limitations that make traditional decluttering difficult.