Why Swedish Death Cleaning is my new favourite thing

A skip full of rubbish.

I’ve never been one for following trends but recently read about one that really appeals to me. Swedish Death Cleaning. If you’re late to the party like I am, it’s all about getting rid of stuff that you wouldn’t want to burden people with in the event of your demise.

There’s no denying the fact that, on the face of it at least, it’s a tad morbid. It’s the kind of thing Morrissey would delight in singing about. But I like Morrissey. Well, I like his lyrics anyway.

There’s something immensely exciting about the idea of Swedish Death Cleaning. I really want to give it a go. Actually, I want it to be my new hobby.

Until now, we’ve been prolific accumulators of stuff. We haven’t been very good at getting rid of much of it though. We’ve outgrown our house too but can’t move until I’ve been self-employed for three years. Yet still, the meaningless tat piles up.

As I sit at my desk writing this, I can feel the clutter encroaching on me like Japanese knotweed. There are areas of carpet that we now call ‘the floordrobe’ and I think there may be an armchair in the corner of the room.

The loft is home to bags from defunct shops full of obsolete items and then there’s the cupboard under the stairs which may actually have the Ark of the Covenant in it.

The only trouble is that I’m very much in the minority. Kate has an emotional attachment to some of our clutter and hates getting rid of things in case they come in useful. Dylan’s bed, meanwhile, is like Smaug’s cave in The Hobbit.

Xander leaves a constant trail of detritus wherever he goes. Then there’s Amelie. She assumes that everything is hers and there’s hell to pay if she thinks she’s going to be deprived of it. Finally, the cat hates me so I assume she’s on everyone else’s side.

So I’m on a one-man mission. I briefly considered replacing all flat surfaces with sloping ones. That would only serve to prove my point and not solve the problem though.

So I need to first embark on a charm offensive to persuade the others of my new objective approach and then get ruthless. This isn’t to say I’m unsentimental. Things like photographs, the kids’ first clothes and achievement certificates are all, of course, safe.

It’s the things like the broken Tassimo machine, novelty drinking glasses, forgotten toys, bags full of ancient receipts and ticket stubs from a wine-tasting experience in Verona circa 2008 that need to go.

Once I’ve won over the rest of my family, I’m going to go on a bin bag/recycling box/charity shop/eBay spree. Once I’ve won them over.

Have you tried Swedish Death Cleaning? What would you get rid of first?


  1. S Mann

    Now I too am late to the party and didn’t realise it was a ‘thing’ until reading your post. But I’ve been unintentionally ‘Swedish death cleaning’ my grandmas house this week! Emptied two whole wardrobes (which.. btw… a skip was required for because of the amount of crap she’s accumulated… including 27 year old receipts, a tin of soup that went out of date in 1987 and shoes so old they had disintergrated). As above, photos are safe and anything that belonged to any babies born pre-1980. But my grandma is finding it hard… even though at the end of all this she will have a new (free!) carpet to replace the one that’s 40 years old and a newly decorated room to relax in without breathing in mould.

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  6. Maria

    Although it’s recommended that Swedish Death Cleaning take place over the age of 65, I’m finding that now (at 51), this is probably the best time to do it. I’m still strong enough to move heavier objects and yet old enough to decide which items that I do and don’t use, and what has to go. It’s that inevitable physical decline in strength and flexibility which motivates me. There will be a day where I can no longer stand on a chair or a ladder, or where I cannot lift and move something unaided. If my things are not sorted through, minimized and discarded, even all the little, light objects that are lying around will accumulate and make it impossible for me to clean and move everything. Add on an accident, sickness and/or permanent disability to age, and I’ll have inadvertently made my life that much more complicated and difficult. So either I need it, use it or have a place to display it, or it goes!

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