My Thoughts on Swedish Death Cleaning

Swedish Death Cleaning

I recently learned of the term “Swedish Death Cleaning”.  My kids are getting a little older and I am seriously sick of the house being cluttered.  So after the holidays this year, I launched into my own Swedish Death Cleaning.

What is it?

Lisa over at the Kitchn, describes it well:

In Swedish there is a word for it: döstädning. “Dö” means “death” and “städning” means “cleaning.” The idea is to remove unnecessary things and get your home in order as you get older. To minimize the amount of stuff (junk, clutter, things you don’t need, etc.) that you will end up leaving behind for others to deal with.

Why now?

There is a big reason that this method of cleaning really resonated with me.  For one, I have a crazy busy schedule.  And stuff accumulates.  And accumulates.  After holidays, stuff gets stashed in the basement.  In the summer, camping stuff gets stashed in the garage after camping trips.  And between all that, the clutter just builds up.

Not only that, but I have a bunch of other things that have accumulated since we moved to our home in 2005.  My mom passed away over 10 years ago, and a lot of things from her house and my childhood were packed up in boxes and went right into storage, and then into my basement.  I am feeling overwhelmed by all these boxes, and now that the grief is more manageable, it makes it easier to deal with going through things.

I read an article on Mother News Network too that makes a lot of sense too, “Nobody Wants Family Heirlooms Any More“.  It talks about how generations have changed, people are downsizing, and how people just aren’t valuing things like antiques any more.  While I do value items with sentimental value, these are all things I am working to pare down.

Another reason I have hung on to things is to save money and to be eco-friendly.  I’m not saying to throw away all your stuff.  I try my best to find a new home for everything, so I am not just sending everything off to the landfill.  I also do as much as I can to reuse and recycle things, but I also can’t keep every little thing with the intent of using it “some day”.

How I got the ball rolling

This is not about being rash, and throwing away things you might regret.  It is about reconsidering if you really need so much ‘stuff’.

After Christmas, I started cleaning – a lot.  One challenge was finding a place for all the kid’s new things we had gotten for Christmas.  I worked to make space and clean things out of their rooms, like books they were done with, games they had outgrown, and so on.  We bagged up donations, took things to the consignment shop, and gave away items to friends and family.

I worked on putting away all the holiday decorations, wrapping supplies, etc.  And at the same time got rid of a lot.  I have been hoarding things like ribbons and tissue paper, and I did a quick once-over and got rid of ton of stuff.  If I need a gift box?  I’ll get one when I buy something.  You can buy a hearty pack of tissue paper at Dollar Tree for $1.

Going through family and childhood things

I have a bunch of things from my family members, from my childhood, and from when my own kids were younger.  It is much easier to go through this stuff after a few years go by.  The grief of losing someone isn’t as intense, and you can be less emotional about deciding what to keep and what to get rid of.  Yes, I am sentimental, but you have to pick and choose what you are going to keep.

As far as my own kids, I had bins of things I had saved from when they were younger – like all of their books and  papers from preschool and kindergarten.  There is simply no way to keep all of that, so I made decisions about which items were most important and pared things way down.

Some of the things I more recently started paring down more than ever

~ Clothes

Clothes are always a big one, as there always seem to be articles of clothing and accessories that don’t get worn.  Even saving old shirts or shoes with the intent to wear them for some kind of muddy yardwork or painting – well, you don’t need a bunch of those.  I said goodbye many shirts that were pilled, fabric was thinning, or even had pit stains (yes, I said it).

~ Linens

I have always been really thrifty, but it was time to throw out some linens that were completely shot.  We are talking sandpaper linens, or ones that were wearing thin or lost their ability to hang on to the corners of the mattress very well.  Towels that were getting ratty or washcloths that were stained got tossed or joined our rag bin (great for mopping up spills or even scrubbing floors!).  We don’t need heaps of linens cascading out of the linen closet

~ Papers

I had years and years of paperwork in my basement.  A lot of it was paperwork I had inherited (and was important), but it was finally time to get rid of it.  Papers from taxes, old cell phone bills, house closings, legal documents, etc.  Plus, now a lot of bills are online, so I sorted through years of papers and shredded stacks and stacks.  Yes, these are my bags of shredded papers!  These bags represented two file boxes worth of shredded papers!

Shredded Paper

A few that I was already ahead of getting rid of

~ CDs & DVDs: We really don’t own a lot of these.  Honestly, I would rather rent these from the library or Redbox, or stream online.

~ Books: While I love a good book, I don’t really re-read books other than cookbooks.  The internet is an awesome thing, and if I feel the need to browse recipes, I can stop by the library.  I have a few special cookbooks, but just a handful.

Final thoughts

My goal is not to let stuff accumulate.  I have a habit of saving things, like empty containers, old gift wrap supplies, etc.  While it’s great to be frugal, those things can add up and create a lot of clutter.

It feels great to have purged so much from our household!  I love seeing less clutter, stumbling around less in the garage and the basement.  Not having to dig through so much when I go to find something.  It really has made me feel a sense of relief!




By | 2018-03-07T02:59:17+00:00 February 20th, 2018|Organization|22 Comments

About the Author:

Busy blogger and mom of two girls! We love traveling and the great outdoors, and are always looking for our next adventure!


  1. Amber Myers February 21, 2018 at 1:14 pm - Reply

    I need to go through things and get rid of them. The garage is scary! It’s full of bins I’ll eventually go through. I’m glad you were able to get rid of a lot of stuff!

  2. candy February 21, 2018 at 1:18 pm - Reply

    I know many older people who have done this as they have gotten older. My mother started giving as birthday and christmas gifts certain things she wanted us kids to have. We loved receiving these gifts and nobody could argue over who received what. Perfect solution for her to down size and not spend money she didn’t have on gifts.

  3. valmg @ Mom Knows It All February 21, 2018 at 1:32 pm - Reply

    I just heard of this swedish death cleaning for the first time recently. If someone finds it helpful why not. while I have no interest in going to the extreme I can admit that I’m overdue for a thinning out.

  4. Karen Morse February 21, 2018 at 2:17 pm - Reply

    It’s a great way to de-clutter and say goodbye to the things that you no longer use at home. It’s a good practice to start, keeps the house clutter free and gives your more space for other things.

  5. Joanna @ Everyday Made Fresh February 21, 2018 at 3:23 pm - Reply

    I have OCD about clutter, so we never have any. Of course then I always look for stuff that I’ve tossed out!

  6. Wanderlust Hearts February 21, 2018 at 3:46 pm - Reply

    Last year my husband and I downsized and it was wonderful for us. We went through all of our belongings and donated, sold, or threw out a lot of unnecessary items. We did save a lot and have stuff in storage. This spring we are going through storage to minimize our clutter again!

  7. Lisa February 21, 2018 at 6:09 pm - Reply

    I have never heard of swedish death cleaning. It sounds so drastic and final. But I can see how it really helps to get more organized.

  8. Rosie February 21, 2018 at 9:47 pm - Reply

    Wow it must feel really great to have all that done! One thing I have read that one thing NOT to get rid of are old pay stubs – forever. You may need them to prove to social security, or for your company’s pension and/or 401k, etc. If your employer and government are missing any work history, the only thing you can do is show them pay records. Employers from a long time ago may not even be in business anymore or can lose your work history. It happens more often than you think. A former employer said I hadn’t worked there for several years that I did, luckily, the government record had the information, and it took two years for it to get rectified. If I was not able to prove it to the company, they would not the benefits for those years.

  9. Tomi c February 21, 2018 at 10:13 pm - Reply

    The name is macabre but the principle makes a lot of sense. We had to clean up my great grandmother’s house after her passing and although it wasn’t cluttered there was a lot of stuff. I know for some it’s hard to let go of some things but it’s important to get rid of items, repurpose them or donate them.

  10. Saidah Washington February 21, 2018 at 11:21 pm - Reply

    My schedual is very busy too. I never have time to clean everyday so I make sure to do something here and there then I make a deep clean on Saturdays.

  11. Jenn @ EngineerMommy February 21, 2018 at 11:57 pm - Reply

    I never heard of this term before but I am totally intrigued. I do love purging stuff we no longer need. Nothing makes me happier than a clean, tidy home.

  12. Pam February 22, 2018 at 12:38 am - Reply

    Wow, that’s so much paper! That inspires me to actually go and clean out my files and stuff…soon.

  13. Heather February 22, 2018 at 1:32 am - Reply

    This is always my goal in my home. We moved recently and you’d think we would have less stuff since we had to pile it al in one U-haul…nope I’m still finding that I can get rid of a lot more things. I try to sell them and if that doesn’t work, off to Goodwill they go.

  14. Sara Welch February 22, 2018 at 4:06 am - Reply

    This is a really helpful post to some people I know. I do not let my stuff clutter or get stacked up.

  15. Kita Bryant February 22, 2018 at 4:06 am - Reply

    I might have to try this cleaning method. Lord knows I got my work ahead of me.

  16. PattiAnn Green February 22, 2018 at 4:26 am - Reply

    I tend to hold on to stuff. A learned behavior from my Mother. It was amazing the stuff we found after she passed. She wasn’t like an episode of Hoarders, but I don’t think she needed 32 pads of post it notes with different company logos. Neither do I. Maybe it’s time I did a bit of tossing too.

  17. Our Family World February 22, 2018 at 6:13 am - Reply

    I try to do this every month, but it seems like there is always more and more to discard. This month, I will involve the entire family. They should decide which of their stuff needs to go.

  18. Carol Cassara February 22, 2018 at 6:54 am - Reply

    I like the idea of clearing your home especially your closet of things that you no longer use. It doesn’t mean you don’t value these things it’s just that it’s better to let them go or donate them when you can so that people can make better use of them. I’d love to do this often.

  19. Mini Green February 22, 2018 at 1:02 pm - Reply

    I have been doing a lot of this lately. We had to much junk. We bring in new things but didn’t purge the old. I’m currently reorganizing and donating our linen closet.

  20. Laura Dove February 22, 2018 at 10:11 pm - Reply

    Oh I so need to do the same! I am a real hoarder and the clutter in our house actually really depresses me!

  21. Food and Footprints February 23, 2018 at 8:39 pm - Reply

    That must have felt like a huge weight off your shoulders after getting rid of all of that stuff! It definitely is difficult, but its good to just knock it all out at one time if possible.

  22. Marissa November 4, 2018 at 5:52 am - Reply

    I just learned of this term. I’m interested in the difference between this method and the KonMari method. I’m currently hosting a decluttering challenge called NovemPurge and it’s going well so far.

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