The woman behind decluttering trend 'Swedish death cleaning' asks a simple question to decide what to throw away

Woman trying on clothesShutterstockIt’s not about you.

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning” guides readers in organising and winnowing down their possessions in preparation for their impending demise. Really.

Much of the book is premised on this idea that, if you can’t motivate yourself to declutter your home to preserve your own sanity, you should at least think about the burden you’ll place on friends and family when you pass on.

In this vein, author Margareta Magnusson — a Swedish artist “somewhere between 80 and 100 years old” — says there’s one question that can help you decide whether to get rid of an old possession: “Will anyone I know be happier if I save this?”

In other words: Stop thinking about whether the object is meaningful to you. Eventually, you won’t be here anymore, and your loved ones will be left to deal with your junk. Will the object be meaningful to them?

Magnusson uses the example of a letter she’s considering saving: “If after a moment of reflection I honestly can answer no, then it is into the hungry shredder again, always waiting for paper to chew.”

Magnusson’s question differs considerably from other suggested questions from decluttering experts. Japanese organisation guru Marie Kondo, for example, asks people to consider whether an object “sparks joy” in them. But again, it’s about you and your feelings — not anyone else and theirs.

Importantly, Magnusson says the fact that you’re getting rid of an object doesn’t mean the associated memories disappear.

Just as Kondo urges people to “thank” the objects they’re getting rid of for their service, Magnusson writes: “[B]efore it goes into the shredder, I have had a moment to reflect on the event or feeling, good or bad, and to know that it has been a part of my story and of my life.”

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