Swedish Death Cleaning: Lessons Learned and Living Life in Reverse

Life goals.
Life goals.
Photo by Susie Tommaney

I've mined those open/closed wounds, explaining why I've become a huge fan of Swedish death cleaning, or döstädning, the process of slowly decluttering so that your death isn't a burden for those you leave behind.

As a three-time winner of being left to clean up a messy estate, I tried to find a thoughtful and caring middle ground along the spectrum of possibilities. There are certainly faster ways, including hiring an auctioneer, holding a garage sale, or engaging the services of a junk hauling company. There are slower methods that involve trying to get the best price for each and every object, though that could easily become an all-consuming endeavor.

What I have learned is that, fast or slow, the recently deceased would never have been happy with the outcome no matter how it was handled. I can always imagine enraged scowls from the great beyond. "You didn't get the best price. How could you just throw that away? Why aren't you paying for air-conditioned storage?"

So one of the lessons I've learned is that if you're a collector, and you continue to enjoy those objects on a regular basis, then you've found a nice balance. But there are way too many of us who hold on to objects in hopes of eventually selling them for a good profit; please know that you are the best person to make that sale so best get started now. Same goes for dream hoarding: it's time to sew that quilt or begin that craft or woodworking project.

The other lesson I've learned is that I don't want to leave my own messy estate behind for somebody else to clean up. It's a process, to be sure, letting go of hopes, dreams, memories and souvenirs on micro and macro levels. I fast-tracked that mission by giving up a 1,700 square foot condo in The Galleria in exchange for a 700 square foot shack in the country.

Buh bye, Galleria condo.
Buh bye, Galleria condo.
Photo by TK Images
Hello minimalism.
Hello minimalism.
Photo by Roger Chambers, Market Realty

I call it living life in reverse. After spending years accumulating property, furniture and objects, it's freeing to begin to let things go. Gone are the books and videos; I can always read on my Nook device or watch on Netflix. Gone is the collection of blue glass; the decor looks wonderful in the windows of the new diner down the street.

I'm still holding onto a few things that feed my soul: foster dogs, paintings, and Euro-style board games. I'm not living the minimalist life just yet; still in the process of disseminating a trio of estate matters, but at least I have a mission.

I'll know when I get there, too. The goal is one plate, one coffee mug, and one set of silverware. 

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.