A new series is bringing to life athat aims to declutter both your space and soul: Swedish death cleaning.
Inspired by by Margareta Magnusson’s best-selling book of the same name, “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning” (out April 27 on Peacock) follows Americans from different walks of life as they take a journey to declutter their home – and heart – with the help of death cleaning experts.
But what exactly is death cleaning?
As narratorexplains in the show’s intro, death cleaning is all about “cleaning out your crap so other people don’t have to when you die.” But it goes beyond just the physical.
While the name may sound a bit scary or depressing, the show’s psychologist, Katarina Blöm explains this style of sorting through your belongings helps clean your home while also having a positive impact on your mental health.
“We often say that death cleaning is for life,” she tells CBS News, explaining how talking about death and leaning into the uncomfortable emotions that often come with those conversations helps create a perspective shift.
“What really matters and what’s really close to your heart comes to the surface,” she says. “A lot of the show’s purpose is actually reminding Americans of all the ways they are alive. Because we will die one day, and no one knows when, so let’s make these days matter.”
Not only can it be a beneficial journey for the individual, it can also help your loved ones.
“If we can do the death cleaning and lighten our burden and lighten our load, it’s really like an act of love both for ourselves – it’s one form of self care – but also it’s an act of love for the people that matter the most to us so they don’t have to stand in that dusty basement, going through things maybe while battling grief on their own … they can enjoy their lives as well if you don’t put this burden on others.”
Who can benefit from Swedish death cleaning?
As viewers can see from the wide range of participants on the show, anyone can consider death cleaning.
“You don’t need to be old before you start doing it. You can do it any day because no one knows when we are about to die, so we need to keep things fresh, like our relationship with life,” Blöm says, but adds it can be especially helpful for two people:
- Those in the middle of a transition. “If you’re transitioning in life, that should be reflected in your home … Things will shift in your wardrobe, things will shift in your appliances,” she says, whether you’re moving to a different-sized space, changing jobs or something else.
- Those who feel shame towards their space. “If you’re surrounded by clutter that you’re not proud of, you can become ashamed, more self-critical and even stop inviting people over,” she says, adding your home should be a space you feel safe in that brings you peace and joy. “When we start to isolate ourselves, that’s really not a good trajectory. So if you notice that you’ve stopped inviting people because you’re ashamed of what it looks like at home … That’s really a warning sign that it’s time to take action.”
Tips to start your own death cleaning journey
If you want to give the process a try at home, Blöm suggests keeping these tips in mind:
Start small: Create a cleaning habit that works for you, and don’t start with the nostalgic or emotional stuff.
“Start somewhere where it’s not loaded for you emotionally so just as soon as it starts with your destiny habit just a little every day. I think you will get this momentum that makes it easier and easier to move towards the more heavy stuff.”
Be in touch with yourself: If you’re feeling a strong resistance to getting started, Blöm suggests asking yourself why. What is that avoidance protecting you from? You may find the answer is pain, she says.
“But that pain is important … That pain can actually add to your life if you can unlock it, look inside it and (find) what’s the need behind this pain,” she says, suggesting to avoid pushing those thoughts away and instead “feel your way forward.”
Get help: Death cleaning can feel like a daunting task, but you don’t have to go about it alone.
“I would highly recommend to engage your friends or a neighbor or anyone that you feel comfortable – call your kids,” she suggests. “Doing this cleaning, it’s uplifting, but it’s also a burden and tricky to face those painful moments alone. So you want to share the uplifting parts and you want to share the more heavy parts as well.”