Swedish Death Cleaning: Tips and Steps to Change Your Life

Woman doing Swedish death cleaning


How Swedish Death Cleaning Can Change Your Life

Swedish death cleaning, also known as dostadning, is a cleaning method popularized by the book The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margaretta Magnusson. It has also been made popular by the Netflix show of the same name. While this Swedish tradition may sound morbid to some, it is actually a healthy way of looking at life and death.

The method helps seniors detach from their belongings by realizing memories live within them, not in their belongings. You may not have any control over when you die, but you can avoid leaving a mess by cleaning up your clutter before you are gone.  

What Is Swedish Death Cleaning AKA Dostadning?

Dostadning, or Swedish death cleaning, is the gradual process of purging your belongings in preparation for death. Although traditionally meant for seniors, this method can be used at any age or stage of life. Similarly to the Konkari Marie Kondo cleaning method, Swedish death cleaning is about throwing out any items that do not bring joy. Death cleaning also emphasizes the reflection and celebration of life by detaching memories from material things.

The Philosophy of Swedish Death Cleaning

The basic philosophy of Swedish death cleaning is to get rid of anything that does not make you happy, is not significant, or would not be worth anything if passed along to loved ones. Its purpose is to ensure you do not leave your loved ones with unnecessary clutter after you are gone. 

Tips and Steps for How To Start Swedish Death Cleaning

Swedish death cleaning is easier when you approach it with a plan. Use these tips and the handy Swedish death cleaning checklist below to ensure you don’t forget any rooms in your home.

Before you start throwing away your belongings, here are a few tips:

1. Build a step-by-step to-do list

Create a to-do list that includes each room or area in your house, so you know where to start and what to focus on getting rid of first.

2. Start simple with clothes

Start with clothes, as these should be easier to throw out than items with more personal sentiments, like photographs. 

3. Reach out to family members

If you are doing death cleaning to prepare for the next phase of life, explain to friends and family what you are doing to ease them into your purging journey.  You can even ask them which of your belongings they would like and take notes.

4. Start with old clutter

Start with cleaning out your attic, basement, or storage units. Since you may not have touched the items in these areas for years, you should already have a sense of detachment that makes discarding easier.

5. Don’t forget digital clutter

Today, people store memories and pictures in digital format, but how are your loved ones supposed to know where they are all kept? Go through old laptops, computers, hard drives, or wherever you store digital files and organize what to keep and what to delete. 

6. Declutter items that take up a lot of space last

Large items like furniture should be decluttered last so that there is room to either disassemble, break down, or move them out of your home.

6. Use the RÖd Prick system

The RÖd Prick system, or the red dot system, uses green and red stickers to decide what items will stay or go. You can also use yellow dots for undecided items. Place a dot on every item in your home to thoroughly purge unneeded belongings. 

7. Be kind to yourself

Throughout the Swedish death cleaning process, be kind to yourself. Everyone feels differently about their clutter, and accepting your feelings makes it easier to complete the process.

8. Get help from loved ones for personal items like photos

Ask your loved ones to come spend the day with you going through old photos and family memorabilia. Or, if you are struggling with feeling overwhelmed, talk to them about your concerns.

Woman sorting through clothes

Swedish Death Cleaning Checklist Room-By-Room

Use this checklist to keep you on track and organized. These are the most common areas that you’ll need to declutter:

  • Cellar

  • Garage

  • Sheds

  • Attics

  • Storage units

  • Kitchen

  • Living room

  • Bedrooms

  • Bathrooms

Benefits of Using a Checklist for Dostadning

The best way to do Swedish death cleaning is with a checklist. Death cleaning checklists help you go through each room of your house and ensure you get rid of everything you do not need. It will also help keep you organized and calm, as it can be a burden to go through all your possessions.

Who Is Swedish Death Cleaning For?

While Swedish Death Cleaning is traditionally for older people nearing the end of their life, it is an organization tool anyone can use. In her book, Margaretta Magnusson describes death cleaning this way: 

Death cleaning is not about dusting or mopping up; it is about a permanent form of organization that makes your everyday life run more smoothly. It is a delight to go through things and remember their worth. Becoming a minimalist has a positive impact on people of any age. 

Even though Dostadning was once decluttering for seniors, it actually provides many benefits for people in all stages of life. Less clutter will make you feel more carefree and improve your mental health. This method will give you a new start in life at any age.

How Long Does Swedish Cleaning Take?

There is no set amount of time that Swedish Death Cleaning takes. Some people start clearing their clutter and finish in a few days. Others take a decade or more to change their home organization habits.

Living a long, fruitful life comes with a collection of personal belongings. Since most people are emotionally attached to their belongings, Swedish Death Cleaning can be overwhelming, and you should take as much time as you need. 

Misconceptions about Swedish Death Cleaning 

There are a few misconceptions about Swedish death cleaning, and sometimes people will dismiss this decluttering method because they do not think it applies to them. Dostadning is for anyone and you can start and finish whenever you want.

Organized living for any age

You don’t have to be dying to find dostadning beneficial. It is a great cleaning method for those who want a more organized and minimalist living style even when death isn’t imminent.

Learn how to clean clutter

Swedish death cleaning helps you learn how to declutter. It is not about trying to throw away all your belongings aimlessly. Instead, it is more about reflecting and honoring the belongings you cherish and ensuring you only hold onto useful things.

Why Is Swedish Death Cleaning So Popular?

Swedish death cleaning is becoming increasingly popular as more people become aware of its benefits. It is a popular minimalism trend that provides peace of mind and mental clarity. It also reduces the burden of grief and worry on your loved ones after you are gone.

Dostadning or Swedish Death Cleaning Is Not for Everyone

Swedish death cleaning is about looking to the future, but it’s not for everyone. Getting rid of clutter is a personal choice and clutter affects some more than others. If the thought of leaving a mess behind bothers you, try Swedish Death Cleaning. It is bound to change your life. 

Dumpster Rental for Extreme Decluttering

If you find that you have an excessive amount of furniture, junk, or other items to get rid of during your death cleaning, you may benefit from a dumpster rental for household items. A roll off dumpster rental can help make your purging easier and more efficient by allowing you to put all your junk in one place, outside of your home. A 10 cubic yard open container would be perfect for this process.

Too Much Junk for Curbside Pickup?

If you are decluttering and realize you have too much junk for curbside pickup, you need a dumpster rental. Our household item dumpsters are super affordable, easy to book, and will make decluttering 10x easier.

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