Swedish Death Cleaning is my Ikigai

I never knew that my readers loved me so much. I had not posted anything for a long time as I was on a break. One morning, I opened the inbox of the Facebook page of my blog and was pleasantly overwhelmed. There were so many messages from the regular readers of my blog. Some were worried about my well-being, some were anxious why I was not posting. Everyone had the same question ‘are you okay?’ I am immensely humbled and grateful that my readers thought about me with so much love and concern. Muchas gracias!!

We are going through difficult times. The deluge of bad news is unnerving. During the first wave of COVID, it was scary but manageable. However, this time it seems like a tsunami that is drowning each one of us. Every morning, yes literally every morning, I am waking up to a death news. Every time, I am opening my Facebook or Twitter there are posts from friends about someone they lost. Some are grieving their parents, others are grieving their siblings or friends.

This pandemic has made me ponder about death in a pragmatic way. We often are in a denial. We often unknowingly consider ourselves immortal. We procrastinate living our life assuming that we have enough time. We wait for our retirement to book the Europe trip, we save our clothes for special occasions, we save our chinaware for special guests etc. We never enjoy our today and wait for a better tomorrow when we can enjoy. This pandemic is teaching me to live the moment. This pandemic is also teaching me that it is always better to be prepared for any eventuality. kya pata kal ho na ho.

“The one thing we know for sure is that we will die one day. But before that you can try to do almost anything.”

― Margareta Magnusson, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter

Recently, I came across this book The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnussun. From the title of the book you may think it is a morbid book. On the contrary, the book is humorous and talks about death in a pragmatic and practical way. The book is basically about de-cluttering and organizing but in reality it is more than that. The book is a life lesson on how to live your life to the fullest before it comes to an end.

What is Swedish Death Cleaning?

After my mother died, I found she had so many sarees that she had never worn. She had jewelry in her locker that she had left untouched. I was left with an Herculean task of organizing her stuff. Things that she had gathered over the years but never used. Recently, a school friend lost her mother and she is facing the same problem. Cleaning up the stuff of someone who left us is a difficult task. At times it also makes us feel guilty for throwing away or donating their stuff. Therefore, do not leave any kind of mess behind neither emotional nor material. Sort out everything before you go. One quote that I absolutely loved from the book is:

“Life will become more pleasant and comfortable if we get rid of some of the abundance, Mess is an unnecessary source of irritation.”

De-cluttering is good to have a stress free life. Sort out today for a better tomorrow. This pandemic has transformed my focus from Ikigai to the Swedish art of death cleaning. Let me put it this way ‘Swedish Death Cleaning is my Ikigai‘. This pandemic taught me that I should start focusing on the Today and have very little baggage to carry into Tomorrow. The funda should be travel light into the future.

  1. De-clutter your mind first: Instead of focusing on the material clutter, we should focus on the clutter inside our head. Try to forgive as many people as you can. However, forgiving doesn’t mean accepting the wrong. Get rid of toxic memories.
  2. De-clutter your circle of friends: Trust me, not everyone can be honest about relationships. Treasure the ones who are genuine. Keep your true well wishers close to your heart. Be grateful for friends and family members who truly care for you. No need to keep in touch with the fake friends, abusive siblings, gossipy colleagues and quarrelsome neighbors. You do not need 1000 friends on Facebook. One genuine friend is worth a million fake friends.
  3. Practice Gratitude: Maintain a gratitude journal and write down all the good things that has happened to you. Be grateful for the tiniest things. Life starts feeling beautiful with gratitude.
  4. Sort out your stuff into various categories: Start going through your material possessions one by one and start putting them in categories like things to throw away, things to gift, things to donate and things to recycle/reuse.
  5. Gift your possessions: Call your friends and family members and start gifting them sentimental things that you are not using or will not use in future. Ask them if they would like to accept hand-me-downs. Do not force your possessions on them. In India, we have a tendency to keep everything for our children alone. Do not do that. Your children may not want many of your stuff. My mother had so many sarees that I was not willing to keep, so I gave it to her friends and sisters. Ask your children what they would like to keep. The ones they refuse, call your friends and family and ask what they would like to have. You need not give away everything right away. You can just inform them so that they are aware of what they would get.
  6. Donate: Go through your stuff. You are definitely not using all of them. Start donating the ones that are in good condition but nobody is willing to accept. Donate compassionately and not compulsively.
  7. Recycle and reuse: Instead of throwing away things see if you can reuse and recycle them. Refurbish antic furniture, jewelry, clothes etc.
  8. Make a will: There is no need to make a legal will right away but make a list of items that you would want to go to designated places. If you have loads of books designate it for a library, if you have antic items designate it for a collectible gallery or museum. Create a file with all your passwords and share it with a trusted person so that people are aware of everything.
  9. Organ Donation: This should become mandatory in every country. Please donate your organs. That way, you would live even after you are gone. Your eyes would help someone else to see the world. Your heart may beat in someone else’s chest. There is no need to wait for old age to register for organ donation. Do it right away.
  10. Throw away your secret letters and journals: Let us admit, we all have a secret life that we do not want others to find out. Throw away things that you do not want others to find out. So burn all love letters from your ex, all your secret journals, embarrassing photographs, porn in your laptop. If you are unable to burn or delete them then make water tight arrangement to keep them secret.

Trust me, once you start the process you would feel a sense of calm. A frugal lifestyle would make you appreciate life more than before. This Swedish method would make you more compassionate, accepting and grateful. The less you possess can be the key to enjoying more.

3 thoughts on “Swedish Death Cleaning is my Ikigai

  1. Shweta Suresh says:

    Glad to see you back here, dear. The pandemic does inspire us to live in the moment. Until I had read this post, I had never quite thought about the effect of our clutter if something untoward were to happen to us. This sounds like a great approach. I hope you’re safe and well. Take care, dear.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Corinne Rodrigues says:

    My Mum always believed that one should not leave behind unnecessary things for others to clean up. She kept her stuff to the minimum. Dad was more a hoarder of papers and books, something I too am inclined to be. But I try to keep it as organized as possible.

    Liked by 1 person

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