When a loved one dies, one of the difficult tasks you may have to take on is clearing out their home. It can feel sad going through their possessions and it may seem like you’re having to say goodbye all over again.
In Sweden, there’s a tradition called ‘doestaedning’ – death cleaning – that may help make the process easier. It involves getting rid of unwanted possessions while you’re still alive – so the job isn’t left for others to do when you’re gone.
It may sound morbid, but people who death clean find it an empowering experience. Margareta Magnusson, author of ‘The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter’, started her own death cleaning after her parents and husband died and she was left to go through their belongings. She found getting rid of her own unwanted things uplifting and rewarding.
Death cleaning doesn’t need to be rushed. Margareta suggests going through one room at a time and listing each item that you want to keep or part with. It’s also best to start with items that are easy to let go of – clothes you rarely wear, those extra dinner plates you never use, unwanted presents.
You might want to give certain possessions to friends or family members – perhaps a piece of china or jewellery that they’ve admired. As for sentimental items such as photographs and letters, these should be kept with you and cherished. Margareta keeps all hers in a ‘throwaway’ box – these are things that family members don’t need to sort through when she’s gone and can be simply thrown away.
Death cleaning might not be for everybody, but if you’re struggling to clear out your loved one’s possessions it might be something to think about for yourself.