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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Swedish death cleaning is the new trend

It's well known among estate planners and estate administrators that most of the household stuff accumulated over a lifetime is simply not wanted by the next generation. The days of passing down the good chinaware and silver are gone.

So what is the answer to the dilemma of what to do with your houseful of stuff?

I've recently come across an article about a process called "Swedish death cleaning". Apparently it's the process of taking years to systematically de-clutter your home before you pass away so that you don't leave a lot of work and unwanted items for your children to deal with. Click here to read an article in that explains the process.

I would personally like to see more people take on the challenge of ridding themselves and their homes of dozens - if not hundreds - of items that will only be sold or given away after the person's death. Every week I have at least one conversation with people who want to know what to do with their treasures because their kids have already said they don't want them.

Obviously you aren't going to get rid of items that you actually use, or the really special items that bring back good memories. But perhaps more of us could think about down-sizing some of the possessions that mostly sit in boxes or on back shelves.

The attached photo is the cover of a book called "The gentle art of Swedish death cleaning" by Margareta Magnusson and is credited to Scribe Publications.


  1. Time will come when we will appreciate again the hand-me down stuff, and will find meaning and history in personal property of our parents and grandparents. Some old things are better quality than the new things cheaply made. Also it is more environmentally friendly to reuse old items rather than take them to the dump. It is truly awful to suggest that our old people should also clean up before dying.

    1. Sometimes it not a matter of cleaning up, but of insuring that all family members get a fair chance to say if they want something that is considered a family heirloom and having it given to them instead of competing for it after the elder relative is gone.

    2. You make a good point, Claire. Anyone who is leaving personal and household goods behind needs to leave instructions for how those items are to be distributed. You used the word "compete", which really is very accurate. That's exactly how people feel when they are left to fight for something they want. This is part of wills that is really overlooked too often.


    3. These days, kids and grandkids don't want things that previous generations treasured, such as the good set of china displayed in a cabinet. Such items were once considered staples in a well-set-up home but not any more. If an older person had those things and wanted to sell them for extra cash, that is probably a better idea than handing them down to someone who won't appreciate them and will just put them out in a garage sale.

      Often there is little or no need to re-use old items because when a person passes away, his or her children are usually grown up, independent, and have a fully set-up home of their own. The kids usually don't need used furniture, dishes, etc.

      Families can be very different though. In some cases, the kids want everything that belonged to the parent, but that is not the norm.



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