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Swedish Death Cleaning: Clearing the clutter for good

Cleaning like there's no tomorrow. That's the guiding principle behind the latest craze in housekeeping, called Swedish Death Cleaning. (WJAR)

Cleaning like there's no tomorrow.

That's the guiding principle behind the latest craze in housekeeping, called Swedish Death Cleaning.

It may sound a little dark, but the goal is to make life easier -- for you, and your loved ones.

“Swedish Death cleaning is really, it sounds very morbid, but it's actually a gentle art as they say,” said Kate Bosch, who is the owner of Kate Bosch Professional Organizing.

Bosch said the slightly macabre goal of Swedish Death Cleaning is to get rid of all the stuff you no longer need, and your family doesn't want, with the mindset, "What if I die soon?"

Swedes over 60 have been doing it for decades. But now, older folks outside of Scandinavia are taking up the habit, thanks Margereta Magnusson.

Magnusson's book, "The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning," hits the US in January. It will make you think twice about holding onto your daughter's seventh grade report card.

“A lot of yearbooks, and just like a lot of her memories, a lot of her stuff,” said Megan Delamare of Providence.

Delamare's basement is prime example of what happens when you don't Swedish Death Clean.

Her mother passed away a few years ago, and Delamare inherited a lot of her stuff. So, Bosch is going through her basement, showing her what should stay and what should go, according to the Swedish Death Cleaning method.

“Well, I lost her pretty suddenly, so it's hard to just get rid of her stuff, but this is a very small house,” said Delamare. “There are four of us -- it's too much for me to hold onto it.”

“These are really your mom's memories. They're not yours,” said Bosch. “I would go through this, taking the things that you want, and there are great photo digitizing services.”

Bosch outlines a few key principles to Swedish Death Cleaning:

Don't start with pictures. You'll get bogged down with memories. Save photo digitizing for the end.

Keep a box of things that matter only to you: Your kids probably don't want your old birthday cards, so put them in a box that's labeled: "Throw out when I die.”

Gift or sell valuable things you no longer use. It’s unlikely your relatives will enjoy figuring out who gets your wedding China while they're grieving.

Create a book of passwords for your heirs.

Don't think of death cleaning as a one-time task.

“It's not, ‘Today, I'm going to Swedish Death Clean and then I'm done,’” said Bosch. “It's an ongoing process for many years, where you start to look at your belongings with a more discerning eye.”

Armed with the death cleaning playbook, Delamare is looking forward to a full life with less clutter.

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