Ever since IKEA set up shop near Belfast City Airport just over a decade ago, we’ve been obsessed with Scandi living and swedish death cleaning will be the trend of 2018.
And with statisticians telling us they’re some of the most contented people on the planet. Then it’s no surprise that we wholeheartedly embraced the recent Danish Hygge craze. After all, anything to make our homes more cozy is always going to win approval.
But this year’s Scandinavian import, Dodstadning, is less of an easy sell. Pronounced ‘du-stad-ning’ it literally means ‘death cleaning’ – the mindful process of decluttering to help your loved ones before you pass on. Before you start spluttering “but I’m only 37 – I’ve got decades ahead of me yet”, it’s apparently a process we could all benefit from.
And thanks to a new book called The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson, it’s going to be one of the hot new trends of 2018. So let’s just hope it really is gentle.
Swedish Death Cleaning is not actually as morbid as it sounds. As we live longer lives, we naturally accrue more possessions – but this is all stuff that our loved ones will one day have to sort through.
What is Swedish Death Cleaning?
This is where dodstadning comes in. It’s intended to help you decided which things really matter. If you get hit by a bus tomorrow, have you left behind precious treasures and memories for your family to keep; or will they have to plough through mountains of junk, paperwork, unopened mail and clothes you haven’t worn since 1992? Think of it as your annual spring clean… just with more focus! Keep the things that actually matter, and ditch all the needless junk. Gwen Montgomery, from Killinchy, runs her own decluttering business ‘Sorted by Gwen’ and has made organizing and tidying her life’s work.
She reckons Swedish Death Cleaning could help you order your home and reap the benefits, whatever your age.“Clutter can be really bad for our mental health,” she explains. “People don’t realise how much stress and bother they are causing themselves by always having mess in their eyeline.“It doesn’t create a restful atmosphere; it’s unsettling and it’s a constant reminder of things undone. It can also be a big stress factor on relationships – especially when one partner is naturally tidier than the other.”
Whats the key to success?
The key to successful de-cluttering, according to Gwen, is knowing where and how to start… and what to let go.
“So many of our possessions have emotional connotations,” she says. “We keep a lot of things out of obligation or guilt, telling ourselves ‘she bought that especially for me’ or ‘he would have wanted me to keep that’.“That’s where Swedish Death Cleaning comes in. Think of all the things in your home that have been handed down to you – your grandmother’s tea service, for example, or jewellery. Do you ever use it? Or is it just cluttering a sideboard or boxed up in the loft.
“You can help your descendants by making better decisions on what to leave behind. A photo album might be a much more treasured hand-me-down than chipped china.”Paperwork is one of the things we hoard that invariably creates a chore for the next generation. “University or college coursework is a big thing people keep,” laughs Gwen. “So much sweat, tears and late nights went into gaining that degree that we keep all our notes and essays, even though we’ll never use them again and they’re just a fire hazard. You need to get rid of it all and just keep the certificate.
Why the Scandinavian way?
We often look to Scandinavia for ideas on how to live well; numerous polls rank these nations as amongst the happiest and most contented in the world, so it’s no surprise we’re keen to emulate them. And our ‘Scandimania’ ranges beyond minimalist flat pack furniture; Scandinavian noir crime fiction regularly tops our bestseller lists and its TV series prove instant Netflix hits.
Swedish academic and politics lecturer Dr Stefan Andreasson, from Queen’s University Belfast, agrees that Scandinavian people have a reputation for being laid-back and well-organised, but thinks we’re in danger of viewing them with “rose-tinted glasses”.
“It’s true that things are very well-ordered in places like Sweden, there is something to the stereotypes,” he says. “But when we talk about the Danes, for example, being the happiest people on the planet, it’s easy to forget that they also have some of the highest rates of prescription for anti-depressants.”
A pinch of salt might be needed when we look to our Scandinavian cousins, but when it comes to Swedish Death Cleaning, Dr Andreasson thinks it makes good sense.
“I’ve lived in the USA, South Africa, and now Northern Ireland,” he explains. “And when I go home to Sweden to visit family, it always strikes me how much time they really do spend cleaning their houses.
“In Sweden, for example, we are obsessive about indoor hygiene and you would never walk into the house with your shoes on.
“People like my grandmother would look around the house and say ‘look at all this stuff lying around – who will want it when I’m gone?’ She would have been keen to clear things and throw things out – the complete opposite to an Irish grandmother hoarding everything to pass down to the next generation.”
Top Tips to Declutter
• Avoid getting overwhelmed by tackling small areas at a time, such as the cupboard under the stairs, or that kitchen drawer crammed with odds and ends.
• Make a home for everything. Having a go-to place for things like scissors and spare batteries will save you buying duplicates.
• Give gladly to your local charity shop. If you haven’t worn something for a while, or an item brings back bad memories, let it go and bring joy to someone else instead.
• Ditch old tech. There’s no need to keep hold of unused chargers and connection cables, and you can recycle old phones and laptops.
• When storing items in the loft or cellar, use plastic storage boxes, clearly labelled, to protect the items from damp and mould. If you’re going to keep something then it’s worth looking after.
• Avoid cluttering other people’s homes with unwanted gifts by giving them memories instead. Treat them to a meal or event tickets in lieu of a present. Or buy something that can be enjoyed in the short term, like luxury chocolates or flowers.
• If you’re having a big clear-out, enlist the help of your friends and family, or hire a professional.
Gwen Montgomery’s non-judgemental decluttering services start from £100 for a morning. Visit