No matter how young or old, rich or poor, organized or unorganized you are, as each and every one of us enters (and exits) the different chapters of our lives, circumstances, such as death and taxes, are inevitable.

It’s how we transition and navigate these passages that make the difference. We can choose to be in control of our lives and surroundings, or not. We can choose to hold on to “stuff” we don’t use, want or need, or not, or we can choose to lighten the physical, emotional and all-encompassing control holding onto too much stuff has on our lives and the lives of our loved ones.

Thanks to Margareta Magnusson, a Swedish woman, who in her words, is of a privileged age, somewhere between 80 and a hundred, for writing a book called The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning/How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter.

The theory is simple; we spend the first fifty years of our lives collecting stuff and the last thirty getting rid of it, in the hope that our children and loved ones won’t be excessively burdened with the task of getting rid of our possessions after we die.

Gone are the gimmicks, including: one-size-fits-all organizing schemes advertised on Facebook, the kiss-your-tattered-underpants-goodbye-because-they-no-longer-make-you-happy trick or buying slews of books on how to declutter your life, only to end up with piles of unread books cluttering your hallways.

Swedish Death Cleaning (Döstädning in Swedish) works! It’s meant to be a slow and on-going process that will evoke memories, thoughtfulness and peace of mind. It’s serene, contemplative, liberating and essential, not to mention considerate of those who will have to pick-up the pieces (literally) after you die.

Death cleaning isn’t about dying; it’s about simplifying your life. And guess what? It’s not just for 50-year olds! In this day and age of excessive material consumption, everyone should practice a little Döstädning.

You’re probably wondering; what’s the difference between Swedish Death Cleaning and downsizing? In theory, they are one in the same, but in reality, the two concepts are oh so different.

Downsizing typically takes place when a person is anxious to sell his/her home and move, but before the For Sale signs go up, he/she desperately needs to de-clutter, consolidate and decide what will “fit” in their new home and life. Nine out of ten times, downsizing tends to be time sensitive. Most people are so overwhelmed by the thought of downsizing and moving that they wait until the very last minute, making the process more disruptive and stressful than it needs to be.

Death Cleaning, on the other hand, is a less traumatic way to pare down, declutter and get organized, allowing you more time to think about what you need, use, want and enjoy, as well as giving you more time to think about how your children and their children will be affected, not by the stuff you choose to give away, but rather by the stuff you keep.

Death Cleaning is a peaceful experience and a lifestyle game changer, which allows you the opportunity to decide what you want to do with all the stuff – donate, sell, consign or give away! Trust me, after you’re done with what might end up being a year-long project, you probably won’t want to buy another thing as long as you live, knowing how much stuff you had to get rid of to become clutter-free and ready for the next chapter of your life.

I’m not here to tell you how to go about Death Cleaning (buy the book or hire a professional organizer to help you get started!), but I will tell you the facts:

  1. Your kids and their kids do not want your stuff. Period. End of conversation.
  2. Consignment stores do not want your musty, out-of-date furniture and tired accessories.
  3. If you’re holding onto something because you think it’s worth a lot of money, think again and let it go!
  4. When you die, your kids won’t have the time, inclination or wherewithal to deal with all your stuff, and will end up calling a professional organizer to sort through everything before calling a junk collector to haul it away.
  5. If you die and leave your kids with all your stuff, they will be very, very angry with you for not having taken the time to get rid of all the junk.
  6. Dealing with the death of a loved one is hard enough. Why saddle your loved ones with the physical and emotional weightthat comes with having to unload all your stuff?