Death Cleaning is a great way to start the new year and clear out clutter! It comes from the Swedish term which means you remove unnecessary things and make your home nice and orderly when you think the time is coming closer for you to move on from this life. The Swedish word is dostadning: do is death & standing is cleaning.
I read “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning” by Margareta Magnusson, an 80-year-old Swedish artist. Her first chapter title is: Death Cleaning Is Not Sad.
I work with a lot of down-sizers, that declutter before they move. Some want a smaller home because their children have grown and moved away, some have lost a spouse, and some want less maintenance and/or one-level living.

By far the hardest death cleaning is after the loss of a family member. This normally takes my clients about a year to accomplish because of the emotional toll.
It is also difficult for my clients to leave their home and go to assisted living, as some of them look at the move as their last chapter in life, and they don’t have room for things they have held onto for decades.
Whatever the situation, decisions need to be made to get rid of things that are no longer needed.
Margareta explains that people have so much clutter because we are hoarders, we think may need the items someday even if we haven’t used them for years, or we are afraid to confront an emotional connection by getting rid of it.

She says you should ask yourself if anyone will be happier if I keep the item. By dealing with your possessions yourself you free your loved ones from the burden of having to evaluate your stuff before disposing of it

It is good to start with your family or friends and see if they are interested in any of your items, otherwise there are plenty of charities that would appreciate your donation.

If you have high value items totaling over $20,000, an auction may work for you, or an online sale or garage sale. Either way, you might be surprised how much you will throw away.

Margareta also says it can be rewarding to spend time with your objects one last time, remember them, and then say good bye before you dispose of them.

Whatever your process is for downsizing, de-cluttering, or death-cleaning, an organized home that feels less crowded will make life more comfortable for you and your loved ones.

If you are thinking about a move and need advice with staging or decluttering, consult with an experienced real estate agent.

Ask the Real Estate Agent is a weekly column by Cheryl Kempenich of Coldwell Banker Realty. Submit your questions to All information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. For legal assistance consult an attorney.