This new macabre-sounding cleaning technique may be more than just a passing lifestyle fad thanks to its unexpectedly inspirational common sense philosophy. Swedish death cleaning is simply the act of scaling down our belongings so that our loved ones will not have to deal with the mess after we’ve passed on. The only somberness in this book relates to our society’s hoarding tendencies. “Our planet is very small; it floats in a never-ending universe,” writes Margareta Magnusson, the author of The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning. “It may perish under the weight of our consumerism – and eventually, I fear that it will.”

But, fear not! Ms. Magnusson’s book is an easy-to-read, uplifting manual that lays out a permanent form of organization that makes your everyday life move more smoothly. A cleaning system with no mention of dusting, scrubbing or mopping, it systematically goes through all of our belongings from clothes to furniture to photos providing suggestions on how to recycle or remove them from your home with poetic prose, shrewd insight and fun family stories.

An interesting “cleaning” tip from the book for young and old focuses on a little black book. The colour is insignificant; it’s the contents of the book that are relevant. With the Internet as an integral part of our daily life, the number of passwords we collect continues to grow. Every website from the local library, to our favorite clothing store to the bank, requires a password. So, keep all these important access codes in one place for easy retrieval. That little non-descript password-filled book will greatly help your family find what they need to put all your affairs to rest.

Aside from the plethora of helpful tips, the best part of Swedish death cleaning is the contemplation along the way. Taking the time to recount the memories that an object holds, sharing those memories and then letting them go so they can continue their story elsewhere is what it’s all about. Far from dark, Swedish death cleaning is a form of environmental stewardship, we should all consider. In the words of the author, “living smaller is a relief”.


(Photo by Mr Cup / Fabien Barral)