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.
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 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 Started
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 on more than ever
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).
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
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!
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.
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!