Throughout our lives, we gather all kinds of possessions, some we keep out of necessity, some because of their sentimental value. As our ages grow, so do our collections of belongings—which can become quite substantial over the years.
When we pass away, those items are often left to our family members and friends to deal with, which can be emotionally taxing and exhausting.
While it’s safe to assume that some of our prized possessions will be cherished gifts to loved ones, certainly not everything we own is going to end up having emotional or financial value to someone we care about—even if the item meant something to us.
To save our families from the onerous task of sorting through our homes and trying to determine what we wanted done with the remnants of our material lives we can try to offer some relief now through Swedish death cleaning, or dostadning.
In this post, we’ll go over what exactly it is and how it can help you and your family.
What is Swedish Death Cleaning?
Swedish death cleaning is the act of organizing your material life before you pass away so that you can take the burden of doing so off of your loved ones and live a simpler, decluttered life.
While dostadning has been a common practice in Sweden for many years, it was recently modernized by Margareta Magnusson, author of The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, who said, “It is about a permanent form of organization that makes your everyday life run more smoothly,” while speaking to The Chronicle.
Essentially, it is the act of going through your belongings as you age and choosing which items you want to keep, which you want to gift to others, and which you should dispose of or sell, and it offers many benefits to both you and your favorite people.
What Are The Benefits of Swedish Death Cleaning?
While some may consider Swedish death cleaning to be a morbid affair, it doesn’t need to be. Once you remove the taboo of talking about death and look at it from a practical perspective, it can actually be a very positive endeavor for everyone involved. Some of the benefits include:
Decluttering your life. As the years go by, it’s no secret that your belongings can start to pile up. From old magazines to VCRs, chances are you have accrued more than you need. Decluttering can help you to feel more in control of your life and your possessions.
Unburdening your loved ones. Most aspects of estate planning, like creating a Last Will or End-of-Life Plan, are focused around your preferences, not necessarily what your nearest and dearest would prefer. And while that does help them to make decisions for you, like what you want done with your remains, the process of going through your worldly goods can be painful and difficult for anyone suffering from grief.
By taking on that task yourself, you can help them to avoid having to decide what you would have wanted done with the contents of your household.
Seeing your possessions take on a new life. While many people gift items to their loved ones in their estate plans, doing so after death keeps you from seeing the people you love enjoy what you have given them. It can be an extremely positive experience to give someone a gift that they genuinely appreciate and to see that item cherished and used instead of sitting in storage.
Choosing what gets left behind. Many people don’t consider cleaning up their belongings before passing away, and by not going through any of your possessions, you leave that responsibility up to your loved ones. That means that they may accidentally come across something that could be hurtful or embarrassing, even after you have passed away.
If there is anything that you would prefer that your family not find or have to deal with, getting rid of it beforehand can avoid unnecessary hurt feelings or awkward situations.
Increasing your disposable income. By selling off some of the items that you don’t want, and that you can’t gift to anyone else, you can make some extra money to do with as you wish. You may also be able to decrease your living expenses by downsizing to a smaller home, giving you even more cash to use towards whatever you prefer.
Simplifying your estate plans. Your estate plans encompass all of the preferences you have for your assets, debts, remains, and more when you pass away. The more assets that you have, the more complicated they become. By unloading some of the items you know you don’t want, and that won’t be of use to anyone else, you can simplify how you want your assets distributed after you die.
This can help to make your estate plans much more straightforward, which can make a big difference to those who have to follow them after you are gone.
Taking Control of Your Life and Your Assets
Don’t think of Swedish death cleaning as a morbid act. Instead, think of it as a way to take control of your material life and all of the possessions that encompasses. Freeing yourself of items that have become a burden can be a cathartic and liberating experience, especially if the benefits are passed on to those you care about as well.
While death cleaning isn’t for everyone, it is a great way to declutter not only your life but your estate plans. Remember that it can be done in small doses and that you can recruit friends and family members to give you a hand if you need to.