Have you heard of “Swedish Death Cleaning” — or döstädning — the concept of decluttering and organizing one’s possessions before passing away? This practice has gained popularity in recent years, and it can be a helpful tool in preparing for the end of life, as well as for estate planning.
What is Swedish Death Cleaning?
Swedish Death Cleaning is the process of going through one’s possessions, deciding what to keep and what to discard, and organizing them in a way that makes them easier to manage and pass on to loved ones after death. This practice was popularized by Swedish author Margareta Magnusson in her book “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning,” which outlines a step-by-step approach to the process.
While it may sound morbid, the concept is actually a thoughtful and affirming one. The idea behind Swedish Death Cleaning is that, by organizing one’s possessions and reducing clutter, individuals can make things easier for their loved ones after they pass away. It can also be a way to reflect on one’s life and legacy, as well as a chance to let go of items that no longer serve a purpose or bring joy (a concept that will be familiar to fans of Japanese author Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”!).
How Can Swedish Death Cleaning Help with Estate Planning?
When it comes to estate planning, the act of Swedish Death Cleaning can play a valuable role in helping simplify the process. Here are a few tips to get started:
- Start Early: Encourage your loved ones to begin the process of Swedish Death Cleaning early on, rather than waiting until they are too busy, ill, or unable to do so. This can help reduce stress and make the process less overwhelming for everyone. It’s not a one-time act, either! Just like estate planning involves occasional review and reflection, it’s never a bad idea to organize and review your possessions from time to time, discarding what is no longer needed.
- Create a Plan: Work with your loved ones to create a plan. This might include setting goals, identifying which possessions are most important to keep, and deciding what to do with items that are no longer needed. Think in particular about what will happen to possessions that are needed now but will not be of interest or use to loved ones. Perhaps there is a favorite charity for housewares or home good donations you can identify.
- Involve Family: Encourage your loved ones to involve their families in the process. This can be a way to share memories and stories with future generations, spend important time together, and to ensure that possessions are passed on to the right people.
- Consider Legal Implications: Does your will need to be updated? How long has it been since you updated your beneficiary designations? Are there special gifts you want to make upon your death? Updating your legal documents is an important part of the process.
- Provide Resources: Finally, be sure to provide your loved ones with resources and support. This might include something simple like offering assistance, or referrals to professional organizers or decluttering experts, as well as guidance on how to dispose of unwanted items.
- Don’t Overlook Digital Assets: In today’s digital age, it’s important to remember that possessions extend beyond physical items. Digital assets, such as online accounts, social media profiles, and digital files, should also be considered. Encourage your loved ones to create a plan for how they want these digital assets to be managed after their death, and to ensure that their loved ones have access to important accounts and information like passwords. A password manager is an invaluable tool and can ensure that accounts stay secure while consolidating vital information in one place.
- Be Mindful of Sentimental Items: While Swedish Death Cleaning is about decluttering, it’s important to be mindful of sentimental items that may hold special meaning for your loved ones. Encourage them to create a separate list of items that they want to pass on to specific individuals, such as family heirlooms or cherished mementos. This can help ensure that these items end up in the right hands, and that their legacy is preserved. In our experience, it is often possessions with limited monetary value that create the most conflict, as those items hold great emotional value.
- Consider Donating or Selling Items: When going through the Swedish Death Cleaning process, your loved ones may find that they have many items that they no longer need or want. Consider donating or selling these items, rather than throwing them away. This can be a way to give back to the community and to help others, while also reducing waste and minimizing the burden on your loved ones.
- Communicate with Family Members: Communication is key, both in Swedish Death Cleaning and estate planning. Encourage your loved ones to have open and honest conversations with family members about their plans and wishes. This can help reduce the likelihood of disputes or misunderstandings and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
- Consider Professional Assistance: This process can be overwhelming, particularly for those who are facing the end of their life. Professional support can help ease the way. An estate planning attorney can assist with the process from a legal perspective, providing valuable guidance and support, and ensuring that your loved one’s wishes are carried out.
Swedish Death Cleaning can be a valuable tool for individuals who want to prepare for the end of life and make things easier for their families and friends after they pass away. An Avisen Legal attorney can play a key role in guiding them through this process and providing them with the resources and support they need to succeed.