Is the Swedish Death Cleaning craze the end for Marie Kondo?

Swedish Death Cleaning is sweeping the world. Could Margareta Magnusson's approach to decluttering make her the next Marie Kondo? And what is Swedish Death Cleaning? Find out here...

Swedish Death Cleaning: folded laundry

If you thought Marie Kondo's KonMari tidying method was extreme, check out Swedish Death Cleaning, the latest decluttering craze. Thinking about your demise might not be what you immediately associate with successful decluttering – but it's exactly what Swedish artist and writer Margareta Magnusson advocates as the way to achieving a clutter-free home and a peaceful mind. We've covered it in some depth in our feature (see the link above), but here's a quick rundown. 

Her book, the Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning draws on the Swedish tradition known as döstädning, or cleaning your house in preparation for your own passing. Magnusson's own interest in this practice developed as part of grieving the death of her husband of 48 years. She discovered that having to throw away decades' worth of her partner's stuff before downsizing was extremely painful, and her book advocates an approach to decluttering that considers loved ones – how you'd like to be remembered by them, but also wanting to make the loss easier for them to come to terms with. 

Swedish Death Cleaning, as Magnusson explains it, is similar to the world-famous Marie Kondo's KonMari tidying method: start with clothing, leaving more personal items such as photographs until later, since they'll be more difficult to sort through. Where it differs, however, is in its communal approach to decluttering: it's not just about thinking whether an item 'sparks joy' in you, as Kondo would say, but is also about what others in your family feel about it, and whether they'd want to find it in the cupboard after you've passed away. This 'gentle' art is all about consideration and the care of loved ones, as well as making your home neater. 

This decluttering technique will be particularly useful for people in later life (it's loosely aimed at the over 50s), but, as Magnusson explains, we now accumulate so much stuff, so quickly, that it makes sense to start practising Death Cleaning much earlier, and might even help many people feel more peaceful and less stressed in their daily lives. And it isn't about cleaning, but rather streamlining so that you only keep what makes you happy. 

'Death cleaning is not about dusting or mopping up,' Magnusson told The Chronicle. 'It is about a permanent form of organisation that makes your everyday life run more smoothly.' And, if all that thinking about death makes you a bit sad, finish your decluttering session with a pleasant walk or evening out with family or friends. 

  • For more tips on keeping your home clean and tidy, visit our cleaning hub page