Inside: Swedish death cleaning gets misunderstood often. Here are five truths to think about as you consider this decluttering strategy.

What do you think of when you hear the term Swedish death cleaning?

It sounds a bit morbid, right? Something you’d do as one of your final actions in this world – when you know your time is near? 

But that’s just one of many misconceptions about this decluttering strategy. Swedish death cleaning helps you declutter and organize so nobody else has to deal with it once you’re gone, but it isn’t something that you need to wait to do. 

Instead, the sooner you embrace the practice of Swedish death cleaning, the sooner you’ll find yourself living in a clean, neat, simplified space – without the burden of unneeded stuff and clutter weighing you down. 

Swedish death cleaning is often misunderstood, and there are a few common misconceptions that surround the practice.

Keep reading to learn about Swedish death cleaning and find out how you can benefit from incorporating this practice into your life.

Swedish death cleaning misunderstood

5 Ways Swedish Death Cleaning is Misunderstood

If you’ve never heard of Swedish death cleaning before, check out this post on what the Gentle Art of Swedish death cleaning is to learn what the concept is and where it came from.

Here are five common ways that Swedish death cleaning gets misunderstood.

Misconception #1: Swedish death cleaning is only about preparing for death.

One of the biggest ways Swedish death cleaning is misunderstood is thinking it’s strictly a way to prepare for the end. Many people get stuck on the word death and immediately think of the idea as unappealing or depressing.

However, there are two important points to consider. One is that death is inevitable so the more comfortable we can be with openly discussing it and preparing for it the better off we (and our loved ones) will be.

Secondly, many people embrace the practice of Swedish death cleaning as a way to more fully enjoy their life rather than focusing on their eventual demise. It’s true that this decluttering strategy helps to minimize the stress and effort required of those who inherit your belongings and square away your affairs.

But Swedish death cleaning is really about living a simpler life, getting rid of things you don’t need to hold onto, and saving yourself time and energy in the process. 

And this decluttering approach isn’t just something you’ll do one time, either. For many, Swedish death cleaning becomes a way of life.

By routinely evaluating the things you own, getting rid of the things you don’t need, and ensuring the stuff you keep is organized, you can benefit from this decluttering strategy for many years. 

Streamlining your possessions allows you to be more intentional, purposeful, and present with fewer distractions and burdens. It’s a way to fully embrace your life now no matter what life stage you’re currently in.

Swedish death cleaning also helps to serve as a reminder that people aren’t their things. By embracing this practice early in life you can let go of the reasons you’ve been holding onto clutter and instead create a healthier relationship with your stuff.

Swedish death cleaning misunderstood

Misconception #2: Swedish death cleaning is solely for the benefit of your family members. 

Swedish death cleaning will benefit your family members once you’re gone – there’s no denying that. Some people think of it as one final gift you bestow upon your loved ones. And yes decluttering can be a gift of love and generosity.

Not having to spend weeks digging through decades of accumulated clutter and stuff is a pretty big gift to give your family as they navigate the grieving process.

And with your stuff minimized, they won’t have to wonder what items were important enough to hold onto for sentimental reasons and what should be discarded. You’ll have already done that for them.

Not wanting to leave a lifetime’s worth of stuff to your family can be a great motivator for decluttering.

But it’s important to remember that Swedish death cleaning benefits you, too. 

Living in a neat, clutter-free space benefits your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. There are very real consequences that come from surrounding yourself with too much stuff.

Clutter creates a stressful, chaotic space – and in that environment, we struggle to focus, relax, and fully enjoy our home. Decluttering is the ultimate act of self-care. There are many ways you’ll benefit by getting rid of the excess now.

Swedish death cleaning misunderstood

Misconception #3: Swedish death cleaning is something you only do when you’re old.

People mistakenly assume that Swedish death cleaning is a task that should be done when you’re advanced in age.

That isn’t true at all.

Swedish death cleaning can happen anytime. The earlier in life that you get a handle on your stuff, the more time you’ll have to reap the benefits.

The reality is none of us know exactly what the future holds. Why put off decluttering when it means you could experience the freedom and joy of living a simplified life now?

You don’t have to wait to downsize or declutter.

The sooner that you simplify, the more time you have to enjoy all of the benefits of having a decluttered home.

You can save money and time, and stress less. And you can start experiencing that now if you so choose.

box of sentimental items

Misconception #4: Swedish death cleaning involves getting rid of everything you love and care about. 

By its nature, decluttering is a somewhat ruthless process. You’re going through your belongings – things you’ve bought, or were gifted, or earned – and deciding whether or not they stay or go.

In many situations, the right answer is “go,” especially if you’re dealing with a significant amount of clutter and stuff. 

But as you navigate the process of Swedish death cleaning, you don’t have to get rid of everything you love and value. Instead, it’s a perfect opportunity to truly evaluate the things you own and understand why you care about certain stuff.

Certain souvenirs, mementos, and other sentimental items are well worth keeping. Some things hold special memories for us, personally.

We all have our reasons for finding certain things valuable – even when others might not perceive them as such.

But there are a couple of things to keep in mind. You won’t make any progress with simplifying if you try to justify keeping everything. If you’re a particularly sentimental person, this can be a challenge.

You might have to make some hard decisions about what stays and what goes. But the decluttering process highlights what you love and clarifies what truly matters most.

Keeping your most treasured items allows them to shine instead of getting misplaced or crowded out by less important things. You can declutter sentimental items while preserving your precious memories in the process.

woman writing in a notebook

Misconception #5: Swedish death cleaning only involves your physical possessions. 

Most people think of their physical belongings when they think of Swedish death cleaning. After all, that’s what your family is going to have to go through once you’re gone – right?

Well, yes. But that isn’t all. 

A big part of this decluttering strategy involves getting your documents in order as well. When so many things are kept electronically, it’s important to be thoughtful in how you organize your files and make them accessible to those who need them once you’ve passed on.

You might have albums of digital pictures you want your loved ones to have. You might keep electronic records of bank accounts, investments, savings, and other financial sources that they need to know about to square away your affairs.

Organizing these things now has the added benefit of making them quicker to access when you need them.

And what about your digital subscriptions? By making it easy for your loved ones to know what you’re paying for and how to cancel them, you’ll save them a lot of energy later on. You may even find you want to cancel some of them now to save yourself some money.

By keeping your digital clutter at bay and organizing the files and information you do want to maintain in an easy-to-navigate way, you’ll make your life a lot easier – and benefit those who are left squaring away your affairs once you’re gone. 

Clutter comes in various forms and living simply is about releasing the invisible clutter in your life as well. Then you can fully experience the freedom that comes with letting go of the stuff that is weighing you down.

Swedish death cleaning misunderstood

Bonus Swedish Death Cleaning Misconception

One should not assume that because it’s called Swedish death cleaning that every person in Sweden does this.

After my first post on this topic, I received responses from people in Sweden who’d never heard of this concept. Not everyone is familiar with it, but the book and the following television show have increased its popularity.

If after learning more about Swedish death cleaning, you’re still stuck on the word ‘death’ you can follow the advice of a reader who suggested calling it life cleansing.

Whatever you decide to call it, it’s a way to both fully celebrate and enjoy your life now as well as simplify things for your loved ones later.

Have you misunderstood Swedish death cleaning? Leave a comment and let me know!

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  1. As said in the article, here in the U.S. people are somewhat uncomfortable discussing the inevitable, therefore, brush aside planning for it. I have seen firsthand the overwhelming burden left to loved ones when one passes and they face mountains of accumulated ‘things.’ They have enough to deal with without adding to their grief.
    As a woman who is in my late 70’s I have embraced preparing for that time and leaving things neat and clean so to speak. Clutter serves no purpose and even if I were to live much longer, it is far better to deal with things now, while I still have the time and energy. Living with simplicity in the here and now brings such peace to my mind and our home. Love will simply make the time.

  2. Just cleaned out mom and dads house, both in there 90’s, 4 giant dumpsters, a year plus on the big dumpster. 60 plus grandchildren, no one wanted anything, no one wanted to help. I’m in my 70’s, it was a terrible undertaking. I will never do that to my kids.

  3. I started SDC a few years ago, I’ve made an impact of the 18 years of accumulated stuff but have a ways to go. My issue is my family is not on board and can’t see the peace they’ll gain from a less cluttered home…ugh. Thank you for your insiring articles.

  4. Great topic to ponder! I’m approaching my mid-80’s! Have been blessed with amazing memories, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren! And yes…my thoughts have been swirling on what is going to happen to ALL the things I’ve carefully saved “because of the memory” and wonderful acquisitions in my beautiful home! Comments made are right on…our younger generations are very involved into the use of technology to keep up with their pics, events, an generally in a hurry to keep making a living, or keeping up their own family in “today’s” world! So for the last couple of years, I have had the joy of going “thru” all my memory boxes, holiday goodies, kitchen, seasonal decor items, and especially “pics” going way back! It’s been a journey sometimes bringing tears at the joy experienced then! However, I now am of the mindset that “less is more” and can best be appreciated this way. So…libraries, donation trucks, church, schools are now receiving a lot of what I know could possible be ignored by those I, we, (husband), leave behind. Thank you “Simplicity Habit” for your many well founded and very, very helpful articles…and also a shout out to all those who contribute their thoughts! Very much appreciated!

  5. Really glad to have read this! Why am I keeping so much stuff?!!
    Am mid 70s, in excellent health and plan to live to 100, so am going to set myself free of all my accumulated “treasures”, as a gift to myself as well as my children!

    Thank you Julianna!

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