Colorado Probate Blog - Wade Ash Woods Hill & Farley, P.C.

2 minutes reading time (452 words)

Swedish Death Cleaning

A common problem which many families encounter following the death of a parent or other relative is how to deal with the decedent’s personal property. In the absence of a legally effective personal property memorandum, will, or other governing document signed by the decedent specifying who gets what, the disposition of the personal property sometimes leads to bitter, protracted, and often times expensive controversies between the surviving spouse, children of the first or subsequent marriages, or other family members.

Even in the absence of controversy, it often places a substantial, costly, and time-consuming burden on the personal representative of the decedent’s estate or individual family members to go through a decedent’s home, storage unit, or other location where the decedent had accumulated personal property over the years to determine what items should either be kept for distribution to family members or other beneficiaries of the decedent’s estate, donated to charity, or simply thrown away.

A recent article in “Business Insider” by Shana Lebowitz discusses a growing trend which may help alleviate, if not eliminate, some of the above problems. The article published on October 11, 2017 bears the headline: “The newest decluttering craze is ‘Swedish death cleaning,’ which hinges on the fact that friends and family won’t want your junk when you’re dead.” The article focuses on what was then a forthcoming book by Swedish author Margareta Magnusson entitled “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning” which has since been published by Simon & Schuster.

Ms. Lebowitz believes Ms. Magnusson raises a good point when she suggests (as Ms. Lebowitz puts it) “that if you can’t motivate yourself to clean for the sake of being clean, just think of how much of a burden you’ll place on loved ones when you, um, pass on.” This is something that Ms. Magnusson personally experienced after the death of her parents, husband, and in-laws. Ms. Lebowitz notes that it is also something that many Millennials and Gen. Xers are experiencing today, sometimes paying large sums for people to haul away their aging parents’ furniture and other possessions. In her book, Ms. Magnusson reportedly shares some “solid guiding principles for organizing your home, no matter your age or life circumstance.”

Although some may find the main title of Ms. Magnusson’s book somewhat unsettling, its subtitle, “How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter,” is much less so. In fact, the publishers describe the book as, “A charming, practical, and unsentimental approach to putting a home in order while reflecting on the tiny joys that make up a long life.” If so, it might make a good read for those interested in getting their estate plan and other personal affairs in good order.

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