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Swedish Death Cleaning: 7 Steps to the Art of Letting Go

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Is your life clogged by clutter? Time for some döstädning!

Move over, Marie Kondo. The new decluttering trend is Swedish Death Cleaning. It may sound morbid, but Swedish Death Cleaning is not about cleaning up a crime scene. It’s a way to declutter and organize your life—not to mention manage your finances.

What is Swedish Death Cleaning?

Swedish Death Cleaning, or “döstädning”, is a decluttering process designed to simplify your life and reduce the burden on loved ones after you pass away. The term was popularized by a 2018 book and 2023 television show that urges folks to intentionally eliminate possessions and process their finances. It’s not just about tidying up—it’s about cleansing the soul. Of course, the process is billed as a means to leave behind a manageable estate, but it also involves grappling with some philosophical and emotional questions.

Steps Involved in Swedish Death Cleaning

1. Start Early

The key to successful Swedish Death Cleaning is to start early. So, begin decluttering and managing your belongings while you’re still able-bodied and in good health. In a perfect world, you’ll start before you’re older or facing health issues, but any measure of advanced effort can create a more peaceful, organized environment.

2. Start with the Big Stuff

With a goal of minimalism in mind, consider your furniture and get rid of any broken or impractical things. Move on to your closet and eliminate anything that doesn’t fit or suit your lifestyle. Work room by room through the process and—if it intimidates you—leave personal and sentimental items for last. Or, if you prefer, completely reverse the process. Start with the difficult things (like photos and heirlooms) and work through the rest of your stuff once you climb that first hill.

3. Assess Your Belongings

Take stock of each item you own, from clothes and books to furniture and sentimental items. Ask yourself if each item serves a purpose or holds significant value (personally or practically). If not, it might be time to let it go. The process will take a while—possibly weeks, months, or even years. Give yourself some grace and don’t rush.

4. Declutter Ruthlessly

Be ruthless in your decluttering efforts. Donate or sell items that you no longer need or use. As you work, consider the needs and preferences of your loved ones and whether they would appreciate inheriting certain items.

5. Organize What’s Left

Once you’ve pared down your belongings, focus on organizing what’s left. Invest in storage solutions that help maximize space and maintain tidiness.

6. Document Important Information

Make sure your loved ones have access to important documents such as wills, insurance policies, and financial accounts. Consider creating a digital inventory of your assets and debts to make it easier for them to manage your affairs. Meanwhile, dispose of excess paperwork like old tax records, receipts, and ancient credit card statements. (As a matter of fact, our upcoming Shred Day is a great opportunity to dispose of those old documents safely.)

7. Sort Your Finances

Managing your finances is another crucial aspect of Swedish Death Cleaning. As we age, we become more vulnerable to fraud, scams, and bad judgment. Cleaning up our finances can help protect us from those threats.

How to Swedish Death Clean Your Finances

Here are some steps you can take to ensure your finances are in order:

  • Create a Budget. Start by creating a budget that outlines your income and expenses. This will help you track where your money is going and identify areas where you can cut back.
  • Pay Off Debt. Work towards paying off any outstanding debts, such as credit card balances or loans. This will, of course, reduce your present-day financial stress, but it will also make it easier for your loved ones to settle your affairs after you’re gone.
  • Review Investments and Retirement Accounts. Regularly review your investments and retirement accounts to ensure they align with your financial goals. Consider seeking advice from a financial advisor to optimize your portfolio.
  • Update Beneficiary Designations. Make sure your beneficiary designations are updated on your credit union accounts, life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and other assets. This ensures that your assets are distributed according to your wishes.
  • Plan for the Future. Consider creating or updating your estate plan. If you haven’t already done so, draft a will and establish any necessary trusts or advance directives. This will provide clarity and guidance to your loved ones during a difficult time.

As trends go, Swedish Death Cleaning has its merits—certainly more than the “#GirlDinner” trend of 2023. By incorporating these financial steps into your Swedish Death Cleaning process, you can not only simplify your life but also ensure that your financial affairs are in order for the future. Remember, Swedish Death Cleaning is ultimately about embracing simplicity and leaving behind a legacy of love and intentionality for your loved ones to cherish.

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