OK, before you read this, here’s a full disclaimer- this concept sounds ghastly.
It even comes across as morbid. But, please hear me out. I promise that this is a worthy activity and that it’s not nearly as awful as it may sound.
In Sweden, there is a cleaning and decluttering concept called “döstädning” (pronounced exactly as it appears). Translated, this means…gulp…here we go…death cleaning. Pause. Breathe. I know your reservations. What does it mean? What does cleaning have to do with death? And why on Earth has this idea become a custom? I have to admit, I was both repelled and intrigued when I first learned about Swedish döstädning.
Death cleaning or döstädning is a thorough cleaning and decluttering of your home as a proactive way to show kindness to, and decrease stress for, those who will be taking care of your possessions after you pass away. The good thing about this, please hear me, is that you can do it ANYTIME. A person does not need to be sick, nor up in years to do it. I think many people would benefit from the process of döstädning all throughout their lives. You can adopt the concept during a lengthy and happy life, and carry it through into your dotage. If you have too many things or you’ve been wanting to downsize, döstädning is a great place to start.
The process is familiar. A person begins by sorting through every one of their possessions, from top to bottom, really taking into account whether or not each item is truly needed. If you find something you had forgotten that you had, it is probably a safe bet that you can honestly part with it. Next, you toss everything that is broken or damaged. This includes all of the things you’ve been telling yourself that you will fix, but that you know you probably won’t ever get to. When you reach a stalemate and are not quite able to let something go, you then ask yourself this simple question: if I pass on soon, would someone else be able to use this object in its current condition? This could help with the process.
Döstädning also includes ridding yourself of outdated technology, clothing, and other items.
We all have them- like that box full of cords and chargers that we have no idea what they connect to. It’s ok to let them go! Sometimes there are even schools or organizations that take donations of these items for various reasons.
What sets döstädning apart from the trendy minimalist cleanup projects that so many are embarking on lately, is the rich social interaction all through the process. Friends and family are invited over as a person goes through their belongings and begins to amass their discard pile. If someone just bought a new home or is moving into a dorm or a first apartment, they likely will have a great need for some of the things that you are deciding to part with. As you clean out, others embrace your time of trimming down by taking items off your hands.
Some friends might come because they have needs, but some may take items just simply for the pleasure of being reminded of you. Often during the process, you’ll sit and have coffee or tea together, and then you’ll be able to give to someone in a meaningful way through your hard work of downsizing. You can share stories of how you used something, or why or where you bought it. Often, the stories told will mean far more to the individual than any souvenir they might claim from your belongings.
In the end, the process of döstädning allows you to lessen stress for everyone who loves you later on, while you clean and make more space for yourself. All the while, you have had the opportunity for a good visit with someone who will always remember that you love them- both while you keep on living your best life, and later.
After a person has done all the hard work of döstädning, it might be the perfect time to transition to your hygge (pronounced who-ga or hooga). Hygge is a self-care concept all about creating a home designed around comfort, coziness and just being as content as possible. It’s about enjoying life in well-being and simplicity. Give it a try, you’ve earned it!