The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning – An Inheritance

A loved one wishes to inherit nice things from you. Not all things from you. -pg 33

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson is not so much about death, as it is about what remains when you’re gone.

There is no standing by the bedside, listening for that last breath, or saying goodbye. Unless it’s saying goodbye to the broken flip-phone you had in 1999, or the meat grinder from grandma, sitting in the back of a cupboard for the last 10+ years, or the cute & colorful picnic plates that you’ve never, ever used, not once! Then, yes, it’s time to say goodbye!

What is Swedish Death Cleaning?

Let’s begin with the obvious:

In Swedish döstädning” is a combination of the word “dö” (which means death) and “ständning” (which means cleaning). <<< This is the actual word for Death Cleaning.

However, I think Magnusson sums it up best in this paragraph:

Do not ever imagine that anyone will wish – or be able – to schedule time off to take care of what you didn’t bother to take care of yourself. No matter how much they love you, don’t leave this burden to them.– pg. 7

As you know, I am a purger of things. About twice a year, I go through and get rid of stuff, sometimes at my peril (which is WAY too dramatic a word!) Sometimes, I miss the things I give away. Sometimes, I have to re-buy something. Sometimes, I gain or lose 30 pounds and have no clothes that fit because I gave all the (fat or thin) clothes away. <<< Yeah, current issue that I’m not upset about at all, really.

Reading this book made me really, REALLY want to organize! This is NOT about keeping things that give you joy, a’la Marie Kondo.


This is about thinking about the future, which yes, I know, flies in the face of living in the NOW. Magnusson has convinced me that it is a trade-off worth pursuing! It is the ultimate gift to your loved ones who will be left behind once you’re gone.

This little book (just over 100 pages in hardcover) is packed with everything you need to know about the subject.

It’s written in a gentle (it’s in the title!) voice, knowing we will bristle. Of course, we will! It is the complete antithesis to what we want to do – which is hold on to EVERYTHING.

So… death cleaning can be sad at times, as you go through sentimental things. But it is not a sad undertaking. In fact, it’s a positive thing!

Although it’s not easy, thinking about these questions and how you might approach a loved one is the first step. Bonus points if you ask them of yourself:

  • You have many nice things, have you thought about what you want to do with it all later on?
  • Do you enjoy having all this stuff?
  • Could life be easier and less tiring if we got rid of this stuff that you have collected over the years?
  • Is there anything we can do together in a slow way so that there won’t be too many things to handle later?

Before you think that everything gets unceremoniously dumped in the garbage – NOT SO!

There are sections about the really tough stuff, like Photographs, Letters and Correspondences, “Stuff You Can’t Get Rid Of,” and “The Throw Away” Box, which allows you to keep some things that are just for you, and whoever is cleaning up after you knows to throw the box away, without worry.

At the end of the book, there are three Swedish recipes. It’s wonderful, because there’s actually a section on recipes because… don’t we all have at least one recipe from Mom that we want to pass on to younger generations?

So, in the realm of paying it forward, I’m gonna share Mom’s Everything Muffins recipe, with her notes, of course!



  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar (I only used ½ cup sugar)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups grated carrots, (4 medium)
  • 1 apple, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped Mission Figs
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 3 large egg
  • 1/2 cup apple butter (I used apricot preserves)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2  cup chopped walnuts
  • Pumpkin seeds, roasted or unroasted (sprinkle on top of muffins before baking


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat 18 muffin cups with cooking spray.
  2. Whisk whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Stir in carrots, apple and raisins. Whisk egg, egg whites, apple butter, oil and vanilla in a medium bowl.
  3. Make a well in the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients with a rubber spatula until just combined. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling them about three-fourths full. Combine walnuts and wheat germ in a small bowl; sprinkle over the muffin tops. (Batter is very thick and difficult to blend, but keep at it!)
  4. Bake the muffins until the tops are golden brown and spring back when touched lightly, 15 to 25 minutes. Let cool in the pans for 5 minutes. Loosen edges and turn muffins out onto a wire rack to cool.

I wish I was closer to Mom. They taste even better when she makes them!


  1. “Do not ever imagine that anyone will wish – or be able – to schedule time off to take care of what you didn’t bother to take care of yourself.”
    These are words to live by.

    Liked by 1 person

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