Do It Like The Swedes

The fine art of death cleaning

Frances Hickmott
Published in
4 min readOct 13, 2021


Photo by Edward Cisneros on Unsplash


No, this is not a new IKEA offering, car, or music app. This term, translated to English, is Death Cleaning.

If you’ve ever been tasked with clearing the house following the death of a parent or a grandparent, you know what I mean. We’re often astonished about what is kept, especially those family members who lived through the world wars.

They kept everything!

Let’s not be like them.

You know the stuff you love? The Swedes, bless them, know that the time to get rid of the stuff you love and your adult kids don’t, is before you die. The Swedes begin this in their 50s.

If you haven’t heard, most adult kids don’t want your carefully purchased treasures or family heirlooms. From the china, silverware, and crystal you’ve kept to the artwork and antique items you’ve collected. The time of passing down cherished family relics is gone.

Knowing that fact means you can start to plan what should be done with those items before you die.

The first step is to have a conversation with your children, to ensure you know what they want or don’t want. It’s possible that there’s one item from those things they’ll want as a keepsake. And you might be surprised what that item is.

When I had the conversation with my kids, my adult son expressed wanting the cookie jar that sits atop the fridge. More decoration than an active, cookie-holding jar these days, it has a meaning for him I wouldn’t have guessed. It might not be bringing me Marie Kondo-style joy, but it does for him. So, it stays.

Once you’ve had those conversations, consider putting a sticker on the items or creating a written record to be stowed with your will. That way, there’s no confusion when the time comes.

Next, consider if there’s a way to continue the pleasure of those items by gifting them to non-family members. Just because family members don’t want them doesn’t mean they are without value elsewhere.

Do you have a charity that might want your items? Art to grace their walls or as an item to sell that would help them continue to thrive?



Frances Hickmott

Writer/Speaker/Author-” Journey to Joy,” writes about mental health, self-improvement, and resilience.