Swedish Death Cleaning


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Written by Dr. Betty-Ann Svedsen, MD & Certified Life Coach

Swedish Death Cleaning

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Even though I am Norwegian, I wholeheartedly endorse Swedish death cleaning. 

Basically, go through your crap before you die, so as not to burden your family with the job. Give things away while alive, to either see your loved ones overjoyed with the gift (or cringe).

I have had the dubious honor twice of going through my parents’ things after they died.  When my mother died at age 60, I felt compelled to hold on to many of her things.  My mother collected china teacups; I never saw her use one, they stayed on display in the cabinet with the other “good china.”  No way I could donate those.  My mother hung on to everything. So, I saved things of hers; most of which made me sad when I pulled them out. When my father died a few weeks shy of turning 89, my sister and I tackled the job of culling through a long life’s worth of possessions. She and I spent countless hours in my childhood home, drinking countless glasses  (okay bottles) of wine.  I happened upon an EKG of my little sister, born too early. The EKG showed the moment her heart stopped beating.  I’m guessing my mother had it tucked away as a painful reminder, although could a mother ever forget the loss of a child?

Getting rid of that small piece of paper wouldn’t erase the fact that I had a sister that died, but holding on to it would just cause one of my own children to have to make the decision of what to do with it when I died. All of the knick-knacks that fill up a house-the old photographs of people we didn’t know, the outdated furniture that smelled moth-bally.  My father was alive, then he wasn’t.  And all that was left were his things.  Many of his possessions had no story that we knew of. Did I have to save it because my father liked it? My sister and I vowed to never buy each other another present, unless we could eat it or drink it. 

I am starting my own version of death cleaning now so that when I die, my children will be sitting around, drinking wine, and sharing stories of what a great person I was (and not wondering what to do with all of my crap). 




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