The Swedish practice of dostadning — otherwise known as “death cleaning — is gaining popularity in the United States, and it’s not as morbid as it sounds. 

Explained by Swedish author Margareta Magnusson in her book, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, dostadning is the process of minimizing in preparation for the end of life. It’s all about beginning to downsize in order to make life easier for your family after you’ve gone. Death cleaning allows you to gift things to people that you’d otherwise leave to them after you died. This can be a very meaningful process because you can let them know why you wanted them to have these items and why they’re important.  

Magnusson’s book encourages people age 65 or older to mindfully simplify their lives, thinking about the fact that others will have to do something with their belongings after they’re gone. The book’s practical concepts include: 

  • Letting go of things that will be a burden after you’ve gone. This is a valuable concept at any age because decluttering your home can help unclutter your mind and make your life easier. Don’t keep things you’re not using, and be willing to part with things that are extraneous. 
  • Blessing others by gifting things. One of the wonderful things about letting things go is that you’re able to give them to someone who might truly need them.  
  • Photographing things that aren’t necessary but have sentimental value. It can be hard to part with sentimental treasures, but if they don’t have any real value, a photograph may be all you need.  
  • Writing down a list of items you’d like people to have after your death. You may not be ready to part with some things, and that’s OK. Make sure, though, that you have a written record so your loved ones don’t have to wonder how you’d want your things distributed. 
  • Emotionally declutter by saying things that need to be said and releasing grudges. Let go of anger and other toxic emotions by journaling, meditating or making amends. Think about how you want to leave things when you die, and make strides toward creating the life you envision. 

Just as dostadning simplifies things for the loved ones you leave behind, preplanning for your final arrangements helps prevent unnecessary stress for them. When you preplan, you make your wishes known, choosing all the details of your final service and relieving your family of the burden of making decisions at an already stressful time. Preplanning can also contain costs, which alleviates a financial burden.  

Skylawn Memorial Park has been helping families in our community plan life-honoring funerals since 1959. Call us at (650) 227-3142 for more information, or visit our Plan Ahead page to request your preplanning guide.