Dostadning-a Sweedish hybrid of the words for death and cleaning
This movement started in Sweden and has moved to the USA. Hopefully, it will catch on here in Canada. As a death doula, I love this promotion of the death positive movement.
A new book called The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by author Margareta Magnusson is available through Amazon and other fine retailers.
“Death cleaning” has benefits for those who are doing the cleaning as well as those on the receiving end of the items gleaned from this ritual. The idea is not quite like any deep cleaning and organizing one might do on a seasonal (think spring cleaning) basis. Spring cleaning tends to be fast and furious. Death cleaning, however, is a continuous, gentle process and ends at death.
“The difference between death cleaning and just a big cleanup is the amount of time they consume,” Magnusson explains. “Death cleaning is not about dusting or mopping up, it is about a permanent form of organization that makes your everyday life run more smoothly.”
In the decluttering process, you systematically go through your house and decide what things you want to keep, what things need to be discarded, what things can be sold, what things can be regifted (don’t we all have a stash somewhere of unwanted gifts?) and what things can be donated to charity. The one difference is that you regularly give the smaller things you want your friends and families to have so that they can enjoy them now. The larger, more valuable and heirloom items of course should still have clear directions left for them in a will to be dispersed after your death.
Throughout the process you appreciate each object before you get rid of it. Another important caveat is to have a separate, but manageable, keepsake box that houses sentimental things to you but can be discarded after you die. This box doesn’t need to be even looked at by those cleaning out the house after your death. Labelling it clearly “throw away when I die” is a suggestion made in the book for these non-monetary items.
So, you are probably thinking this sounds like downsizing that may naturally occur as living situations change as people age. True. The process does benefit those loved ones left behind so there is less for them to sort after a death. The author suggests that anyone over the age of 50 should engage in this practice as a necessity, but also sees the value in younger people getting into this habit of decluttering. It can be emotionally challenging to do this “life review” so the author also makes a case for rewarding yourself after each stage of the process (and for starting small) and to do it in an ongoing basis.
For those on the receiving end, it leads to less emotional trauma and less financial burden (e.g., storage fees, loss time from work having to sort through a huge mess, estate sale auction fees, etc.).
Think of the process as “life enhancing”.