Swedish death cleaning might sound like some odd Scandinavian detective noir series on Netflix, but it's actually the latest home organizing trend—one that some say could actually change your life.
Remember Japanese tidiness guru Marie Kondo, whose 2014 book, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" (5 million copies sold), introduced the world to the KonMari method of tossing out everything that doesn't "spark joy"? Well, it seems people may have gotten tired of pawing through every pair of socks to see if they get a buzz.
Enter Swedish death cleaning, the latest high-concept approach to organizing that looks to be big in 2018. It's based on the belief in Swedish culture that one should purge all excess possessions before death so your junk won't burden those left behind.
Magnusson decided to write the book after having to sift through the possessions of her parents, in-laws, and husband after their deaths, which made the grieving process even more difficult. As she rather bluntly puts it in a YouTube video, "You could die tomorrow. ... Who's going to take care of all [your] crap?"
And this Scandinavian downsizing trend isn't just for card-carrying members of AARP or downsizers. In fact, despite the rather morbid name, Magnusson suggests we all start death cleaning ASAP in order to live a happy and orderly life.
To incorporate death cleaning into your life, start by following these simple and effective tenets.
Swedish death cleaning should be uplifting, really!
Death cleaning should actually bring relief and even happiness, according to Magnusson. After all, getting rid of stuff is a time-tested way to bring order to chaos. Finally, you'll be able to find your keys instead of searching for them in a panic as you're running out the door!
"Death cleaning is ... about a permanent form of organization that makes your everyday life run more smoothly," Magnusson told Australian newspaper The Chronicle.
Start your death cleaning with easy-to-get-rid-of items
Take death cleaning in sections, starting with what's accumulating dust in the attic or basement. But wait—whatever you do, Magnusson advises not to reach for that box of photographs and letters first. These sentimental items can take you on a meandering path down memory lane and distract you from the task at hand.
Instead, start with what's easy to chuck: clothes that still have tags on them, presents you've received that you pretended to like before stuffing in a box, kitchenware such as excess plates that you'll never use unless you open a diner.
To ease separation anxiety, Magnusson suggests remembering the last time you used the object before parting with it.
Let others enjoy your treasures while you're still alive
In her book, Magnusson describes how her mother-in-law gave away items over the years to her family. These included small yet special things like a beautiful tablecloth, bright napkins, and pieces of china. After her mother-in-law's death, Magnusson realized gifting objects was a way of not only purging but also being thoughtful to loved ones. Jump-start your death cleaning by gifting small items you love yet no longer use.
Take your sweet time
Fact: Death cleaning shouldn't put you in the ICU. Yet anyone who's opened a junk drawer knows even the simplest decluttering can be stressful. Magnusson took a year to go through her husband's possessions and says your own death cleaning may take even longer. Her method is to break down death cleaning by room—she took about a week to deal with each room, after which she would take a break. Make a list of everything in the room and what you want to do with each item, be it giving it to a friend or charity.
Hold onto the sentimental items
Magnusson is no minimalist. Her apartment is a homey mix of books, knickknacks, and plants. On her list of must-saves are photographs and love letters, as well as sentimental items such as your children's art projects. But keep in mind that those sentimental items might not be of interest to others in the long run. Magnusson's solution? Separate your sentimental items into two boxes: the stuff you must keep and everything else.
"I have a throwaway box—my children or friends can just throw it away without looking at it because those things are just for me," she says.