Move over Kondo
Decluttering fads are everywhere, from Oprah’s ‘let it go’ guru Peter Walsh, to Japanese organisational doyenne Marie ‘Spark Joy’ Kondo. The latest incarnation is ‘Swedish Death Cleaning’.
These days most of us have a lot of ‘stuff’ – our homes and offices often overflow with ‘things’ we have accumulated. And it’s the culture of ‘too much’ that has led to the birth of an entire decluttering industry.
The latest decluttering exponent is Margareta Magnusson pushing the concept of döstädning – translated as dö meaning death and städning meaning cleaning. Swedish death cleaning might sound morbid, but it is simply a way of decluttering, where you are encouraged to take your time going through possessions and deciding what to do with them. For anyone who has had a spurt of decluttering and later regretted disposing of something, it’s an idea that appeals.
Döstädning is a word that is used when you or someone else does a good thorough cleaning and gets rid of things to make life easier and less crowded. “It does not necessarily have to do with your age or death. Sometimes you just realise that you can hardly close your drawers or barely shut your closet door,” explains Magnusson. “It’s about a permanent form of organisation that makes your everyday life run more smoothly.”
Death cleaning isn’t about throwing away all of your stuff; instead it’s about streamlining your life so you’re only holding onto what makes you happy and brings you joy (an idea shared by other decluttering experts like Walsh and Kondo).
Magnusson advocates a methodical, thoughtful process, perusing the contents of each room in your home at your own pace before deciding whether to gift, recycle or dispose of an item.
Key principles of the system:
This is not a quick fix
It will take time to make decisions about how to get rid of things. You also need to continually keep tabs on yourself to make sure you aren’t accumulating more stuff as time goes on. You might need a bit of sisu (okay it’s Finnish not Swedish) – focus on having grit, perseverance and courage in the face of challenges.
Avoid the emotional minefield when starting out
Don’t start with photographs, letters or personal papers as it is easy to get bogged down taking a trip down memory lane. When it’s time to tackle these items, look at ways of downsizing, for example you could digitise old photos and videos. Try to limit yourself to one box of keepsakes that are truly important to you.
Tackle non-emotive items first
Start with clothing and accessories – most people have many garments that they seldom wear, don’t fit, no longer like etc. Check spare rooms, garages, basements, attics or cupboards by the front door – as these are places where you ‘temporarily’ store excess things but which have more than likely actually been there for ages and you’ll probably realise you won’t miss them. Then move onto the kitchen cabinets, linen closets etc.
Decide what to keep
To frame the inner monologue debate that will go on in your mind when you start to declutter, ask yourself if anyone will be happier if you save a particular item, or if anyone would actually want it if you weren’t around. “My motto is, if you don’t love it, lose it. If you don’t use it, lose it”, says Magnusson. Only keep what you love and what makes you happy in the moment.
Spend one last time with the objects you want to rid yourself of and then dispose of them. Each item has its own history and remembering that history is often enjoyable – you may find that you don’t need to hold onto the object to trigger a memory. Take the time to reflect on your life and what is important to you, relive the best memories and archive your most precious treasures.
Instead of simply throwing objects away, think about those close to you who might appreciate them and give them as a gift – Magnusson suggests instead of taking flowers to a friend’s place, take a book or other item you know they would like to have. Let people know what you are doing and invite them to take things that they’d like before you donate or toss them. Magnusson also recommends selling as many items as you can. Donate items you can’t sell or family don’t want. Having others know what you are doing also helps keep you accountable and on track.
When you finish with an area or part of your life, treat yourself – just not by going shopping and accumulating more stuff!
Whether you opt for the efficiency of the Kondo method or take the relaxed approach with Swedish death cleaning, once the decluttering is finished, it’s often the perfect time to review your insurance, particularly contents cover – this applies for landlords, tenants, homeowners and Real Estate professionals who have cleared up the office! If you need to update your contents cover or OfficeCover, contact your RentCover relationship manager.
With that sorted, treat yourself to another Swedish tradition – fika (to meet up for a chat over a cup of coffee or tea and something delicious, often a kanelbullar, that is, a cinnamon bun).