In many ways, most forms of minimalism allow you to keep all of the things you truly love. Sure, you get rid of the clutter and “chatch” that gathers over the years, but the things you hold most dear – be it your first grade yearbook, graduation cards, old letters or pictures of friends from years ago – get to stay and take up space in your life.
In Swedish death cleaning, this idea is challenged outright. It takes the basics of a starkly minimalist lifestyle and takes away all of the fluff of sentimentalism.
The basic principles of SDC are simple: if your items would be a burden on your family if you were to die, get rid of them or make it easy for them to get rid of, and make sure you are prepared and organized in case of your death. That means all of your paperwork, like your will, your banking information, any assorted legal documents – all of the very real, very adult things that are important to have in order – should be put somewhere safe and accessible. It’s more daunting than other types of minimalism, but it might be the most effective at truly de-stressing your life.
Step one of the process begins like most others – by cleaning out your closet. Pulling out all of your clothes, laying them out, and having a good look at them can reveal a lot about how you wish to dress and what things you may want to get rid of. Rinse and repeat with all of the other areas of your house, until you have decluttered each space. However, in this method, you think of your ideal life, and the life you wish you could be living, but you also factor in the people who will manage what you leave behind after you die.
Is there anything you wouldn’t want them to see? Any physical evidence of a deep, long-held secret? Are there things that make you happy that you know will not be loved by the people you left behind? Those things can go in one space under the category “get rid of this/burn this when I die”. Make sure to mark those things accordingly so that they aren’t confused with your other possessions.
Is there an item a friend has loved for years that you can bear to part with? Are you struggling to part with something enough to give it away to a stranger? One of the most fun parts of death cleaning is the stress put on giving items away as gifts. It makes the method more sustainable and makes it even easier to get rid of “sentimental” things we may be holding on to just for the memories.
The hardest part of the cleaning are the things that fall in between these two categories. Personal things can seem very important to us, and it can be difficult to imagine others not seeing their value. In death cleaning, there is some leeway for those personal items – but it is stressed that those items are to be kept to a minimum and are allowed to be added to the throwaway pile later.
In the end, Death Cleaning is a dramatic name for an important process that can help you grieve, learn to see death as a less negative idea, and help family members to move on.