“Dostadning” – Death Cleaning

A friend recently hired a professional to help organize her house, not because she was downsizing, but because, as the expert suggested, she needed to “right size.” My friend liked this guidance through finding order in her home, discarding and shredding some things, repositioning others.

So there’s a word for such activity in Sweden – the country of hygge brings us dostadning, a word which combines death and cleaning – not scrubbing the bathtub, but a gradual, before death clearing out of possessions. According to the buzz of articles surrounding artist Margarita Magnasson’s book, “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How To Free Yourself From a Lifetime of Clutter,” dostadning is a common practice in Sweden.

The book won’t be released until January 2 but this Washington Post article gives the flavor (don’t miss the video of Magnasson encountering her daughter’s storage unit). Magnasson says this is an ongoing endeavor, suggests 65 as an appropriate age to begin, but admits it’s never finished.

Billed as not so rigid as the KonMari approach (you know what she’d do, making quick work of everything with black plastic trash bags), I’m curious about Magnasson’s method of dealing with copious, accumulated “stuff” in a house.

Because Magnasson is an artist I wonder if she addresses the particular muddle created by art-making, the tools and supplies, but also sketchbooks, drawings, unloved paintings that might live under some of our staircases (not naming any names or making any admissions).

Few words are less enthusiastically embraced than death and cleaning, so I do admit that reading this book – even writing about it before publication (!) – might be just another way to avoid actually doing the dostadning!



12 thoughts on ““Dostadning” – Death Cleaning

  1. I’ve been undertaking some variation of this over the past few years. — looking at things and asking myself not ‘does it bring me joy?’ but would my kids want this? Of course I’m hanging on to some things that bring me joy (lots of books and my grandmother’s blue and white pitcher for example) even though I doubt my kids would want them. But I am slowly de-accessioning. Another twenty years and maybe my house will be in death order.

  2. Dostadning will happen at my house as soon as I return to it after a week in Minnesota To celebrate family and old friends. It’s the people in my life that are precious – not the stuff. A nostalgic trip to the homeland is a perfect reminder!

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. My little house which I downsized into 17 years ago is full and in need of decluttering. But where to start? So much more fulfilling to sit and read a book. I’m the one who needs to find someone to hire to push me towards getting my clutter under control. Send help my way Katy!

  4. I am still dostadning my parents’ house, and they’ve been gone for years now. It never ends! Well – I guess we end, but our stuff doesn’t. And I do often like to be reminded of people I love by seeing objects associated with them. That’s why I can’t be as ruthless as I probably should be.

  5. Oh, this touches the core! When my mother died more than a decade ago, we five adult children were faced with emptying a 6 bedroom house, in which Mom had lived alone for 25 years or more. Every room, every closet was artfully arranged, and entirely full. It was, indeed, a chore. And it came at a time when we were sad, and not thinking clearly, and so very fractured. We did it, and without rancor — a testament to how well she raised us, but I swore then I would not do this to my own offspring.

    Leaving AK was the first step. We sold and got rid of a lot then. Some of our friends who helped could scarcely speak to us for a time, but wounds have healed. The storage units (yes! there are two!) hold not only our personal belongings and treasures, but the accumulation of Mike’s thirty plus years of architectural practice. He loved that work so, and it is hard to let it go. Taking a frame from the video in the Washington Post article, I think we should label it all “Throw Away” and just ignore it.

    Since moving to Snohomish, I have been trying to do a box a week. Most weeks I succeed. My friends have all encountered the resistance of the next generation to adopting our stuff. They don’t want it. So it goes. And I agree that the mom of your young friend would be magnificent in this role.

  6. OMG! Not the book, not the description, but your interpretation! The spaces in MY home that require dostadning are exactly “…the particular muddle created by art-making, the tools and supplies, but also sketchbooks, drawings, unloved paintings that might live under some of our staircases…” Thank you for the thoughtful laugh.

I love to read your comments - thank you so much for taking the time to leave one!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s