What the Heck Is ‘Swedish Death Cleaning' and Why Is It Sweeping Scandinavia?

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Three years ago, Marie Kondo asked us to part with any belongings that don’t “spark joy” to wrangle our junked-up homes. And now, a new book by Swedish artist Margareta Magnusson would like us to declutter with even more severe criteria: As if we’ll die tomorrow. Seriously.

Say hello to “Swedish death cleaning,” the decluttering craze that’s taking Scandinavia by storm.

Minimalist and—yes—morbid, it centers on the reality that when folks pass away, they tend to leave a mess behind for loved ones to sort through. To avoid this burden (and it is a big one), Magnusson thinks we should practice “death cleaning” as soon as we’re old enough to understand it. “Don’t collect things you don’t want,” she says. “One day when you’re not around anymore, your family would have to take care of all that stuff, and I don’t think that’s fair.”

Her primary decluttering advice to kick things off? Start gifting belongings to friends and family as you presumably would anyway—when you, you know, die.

Hmm. Nothing like thoughts of your own mortality to kick-start that closet cleanout.  


Home Editor

From 2014-2019 Grace Beuley Hunt held the role of Home Editor covering interior design, styling, trends and more.