Swedish Death Cleaning But Make it Chinese

Doretta Lau’s adventures in decluttering

Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom from Pexels


A few years ago I followed Marie Kondo‘s advice in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which helped me get over a lot of the hoarding issues I’d been having for the longest time. The four main takeaways from that book for me are:

  • your belongings must spark joy
  • thank the items you are letting go of for their service
  • do not let anyone guilt you over letting go of stuff that no longer serves you
  • you must clear out old things to make room for new things

I felt myself transform as I donated boxes of books and bags of clothing. After that particular bout of cleaning, I got a new job, I signed with my literary agent, and I started dating someone great within the span of two months.

This was on my mind when I saw The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson at the library. I borrowed it because I’m in the middle of doing this very thing with the stuff I’ve been storing at my parents’ house. Part of what I’m doing is grief cleaning, which makes everything a little harder so the process is slow. I took a lot of naps.

While I prefer Kondo’s philosophy, I do think there are a couple of useful Swedish death cleaning tips:

  • budget a week for each room
  • scan your photographs and put them on USBs to distribute to family
  • make a box for personal items of no value that can be destroyed upon your death

And what have I learned? I feel that having this much stuff to care for has been eating into the time I could be spending with family and friends. So once I finish this round of cleaning, I’m going to be even more careful about what I let into my home.

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