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What is Swedish Death Cleaning?

Mar 13, 2018 • by Vali G. Heist, Certified Professional Organizer®
Vali G. Heist M.Ed.

I’m sure many of you have heard the saying, “You learn  something new every day.” I know it’s true because my clients pass along interesting stories and articles to me and I frequently use that information in my enewsletters! Such is an article entitled ‘Swedish death cleaning’ is the new decluttering trend. In Swedish, the word is “dostadning” and it refers to the act of slowly and steadily decluttering beginning in your fifties or earlier. The ultimate purpose of death cleaning is to minimize the amount of stuff, especially meaningless clutter, that you leave behind for others to deal with. You can read the full article here.

The reason I’m so fascinated by this trend is because in the last chapter of my book, I introduced a radical new concept called: Die Clutter-free. In my organized, utopian, fantasy world, there would be a law (okay, suggestion) that between the ages of 65-75, people would start to downsize their possessions. It could be called the “The Great DUMP” (Downsize Useful stuff to Maintain our Planet). During the Great DUMP, homeowners would begin to unclutter long before they are ready to actually leave their current homes. Items that are no longer being used, are no longer needed, or are just taking up space in the home could be passed down to family, recycled, donated to people who need it, or sold to get money for things the homeowners really need like food, debt and medical bills.  

Professional organizers across the country could lead “The Great DUMP” effort to assist these early downsizers. Retail thrift stores such as Goodwill, Salvation Army, Habitat 

Restore, and Hope Rescue Mission would receive federal dollars to open additional stores to handle the intake of many more items from the public. Additional large warehouse stores (let’s call them “DUMPing Grounds”) would be established to accept everything from clothing to furniture items on consignment. You could designate a certain charity to receive the profits from the sale of your items. It would be chic, politically correct, and cool to shop at these stores and these stores would charge less sales tax (Of course you must bring along your own shopping bag or box to shop there.). Private entrepreneurs could open their own facilities, but they wouldn’t get as much of a tax break and they sell items to local clients and to world-wide clients on the internet.

If you are between the ages of 65-75 and haven’t started the process of downsizing or Swedish death cleaning, start now. Make the hard choices, don’t delay those decisions and begin to donate your unneeded items. Your friends, relatives, and children will thank you. No one wants to see their belongings in a dumpster or a landfill because the family is too busy to go through household items piece by piece. Take control and downsize on your own terms.

Start the process with these two steps:

Ask your children now if they want the things you’ve been saving for them in your attic or basement. This also includes their childhood belongings.Make a list of five precious items you want to hand down to your family. Write down the stories about those items so others understand why these things mean so much to you.

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