The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning

How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter

eBook - 2018
Average Rating:
Rate this:
A charming, practical, and unsentimental approach to putting a home in order while reflecting on the tiny joys that make up a long life.
In Sweden there is a kind of decluttering called döstädning, meaning "death" and städning meaning "cleaning." This surprising and invigorating process of clearing out unnecessary belongings can be undertaken at any age or life stage but should be done sooner than later, before others have to do it for you. In The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, artist Margareta Magnusson, with Scandinavian humor and wisdom, instructs readers to embrace minimalism. Her radical and joyous method for putting things in order helps families broach sensitive conversations, and makes the process uplifting rather than overwhelming.

Margareta suggests which possessions you can easily get rid of (unworn clothes, unwanted presents, more plates than you'd ever use) and which you might want to keep (photographs, love letters, a few of your children's art projects). Digging into her late husband's tool shed, and her own secret drawer of vices, Margareta introduces an element of fun to a potentially daunting task. Along the way readers get a glimpse into her life in Sweden, and also become more comfortable with the idea of letting go.


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Sep 10, 2020

A very easy and gentle read. Well worth the time to read it
It's make me consider what exactly my relationship with "stuff" is.

Aug 22, 2020

Nice idea and written in a sweet way, although the writing rambles a bit and she complains some (sort of sounds like "oh people these days" or "those darn kids"). The idea is solid though--cleaning out one's things before passing on (or earlier in life) and to just live better/more simply. Some of the method reminded me of Marie Kondo's tidying and I think you could actually just use the KonMari method to do a "death cleaning"

Sep 29, 2019

Not worth the time.

Sep 26, 2019

Rarely have I enjoyed about doing something so onerous. The author, who is between "eighty and one hundred" has a wonderful and wise voice, humourous and insightful. This small and gentle book is a quick, easy and wholly pleasurable read. You will come away knowing you have learned something valuable quite easily.

Sep 23, 2019

Reminiscent to Marie Kondo's book to rid of things that don't bring joy and to simplify your life, this book has a different motivation driving it: downsize so survivors who need to come behind and clean up after you leave with better memories ... don't burden them in their grief with hundreds of decisions you could have made yourself. Sound advice for a loving considerate transition.

Jul 20, 2019

pretty much the same as all the other cleaning books on reducing your stuff and downsizing. author is between 80-100 years old and tells sweet stories, a quick read.

A gentle read but not particularly helpful. For those of us who have downsized a few times there is nothing new here. Any generous and thoughtful senior will have done a few sorts of their possessions before they turn 70 and those that have not, likely will never do it. I cannot imagine a son or daughter giving this book to mother and telling her to 'get on with it'. So simplistic advice which I read it in an hour.

Jun 16, 2019

I began reading the library copy, but quickly decided to order a copy from Half-price Books Marketplace so that I can highlight parts, write notes, etc., etc. Therefore, I haven't completed the book yet so can't critique the entire work. ('Don't know what I'd do without H-p B M !!) Doing the actual tasks needed, at age 80 now, will keep me busy for the rest of my life and make laboring over my "stuff" unnecessary for my family members unless something unexpected happens and I "die young."

Jun 04, 2019

Swedish Death Cleaning is a somewhat morbid title, however, author Margareta Magnusson tastefully describes why you might want to clear out your house of unneeded/unwanted clutter instead of leaving it for your surviving family and friends.

The author's approach is much more civilized than that of the more publicized decluttering books. Ms. Magnusson advises that a DIY "death cleaning" takes time. Pour over those old letters and cards, and then disposed of most if not all of them. Have a friend who admires a vase or a no-longer wanted/needed table? Tell them the story behind the item, and then gift it to them. You're moving to an apartment and no longer need a shed full of tools? Gift them to your children and their friends who are new homeowners. The proposed process is thoughtful, not rash.

The author doesn't provide an exacting how-to declutter your house, but more of a thought-provoking suggestion that everyone tends to hold onto more than they need, people will be happier in a less cluttered environment, and {depending on one's stage of life} your family will be very grateful that they don't have to spend days combing through old tax returns and magazines to find the one meaningful family-history letter that is worth treasuring.

It's amusing that there are several copies missing from the Tulsa library. Do you suppose they're lying around in piles of stuff to be sorted through someday Real Soon Now in peoples' homes? People who didn't read the book? I do.

View All Comments


Add Age Suitability
Jan 31, 2018

cherokeetears thinks this title is suitable for 21 years and over


Add a Summary
SPL_Sonya Oct 31, 2018

In The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, the author reminds us of the common courtesy of cleaning up after ourselves. In a frank but charming and humorous manner, Margaret Magnusson encourages and guides readers to rid themselves of unnecessary possessions to enhance their own lives while not leaving a burden for their loved ones.

In addition to making life easier, she sees the practice of death cleaning as an opportunity to start a conversation with loved ones about the inevitable and to address it with ourselves.

Her methods allow for the careful and thoughtful disposal of possessions. Once completed, it frees us up to spend more time with family and friends and the activities we enjoy.

She suggests that the practice takes time and ideally shouldn’t be rushed as a result of a crisis. She recommends starting with the large items in your home and finishing with the small. She provides advice on how to sort through clothes, photographs, books, letters, kitchen things and tools. She also stresses the importance of destroying secrets which might cause your loved ones unhappiness after you are gone.

Magnusson introduces the clever concept of a "throw-away box". It is a labelled box, no bigger than a shoe box, within which we can place items which have no value to anyone else but ourselves. It can simply be thrown away once we are gone.

The wisdom in this book is not only helpful to those in their later years. It is a philosophy which can be useful at any age. In the words of the author, "Life will become more pleasant and comfortable if we get rid of the abundance."


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further


Subject Headings


Find it at SLPL

To Top