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Swedish Death Cleaning Your Digital Legacy

Reading time: 7 minutes 

Swedish Death Cleaning provides a conceptual framework to encourage us each to organize and declutter our homes to reduce the burden on loved ones who would otherwise need to sift through 1000s of objects one day when we’re no longer here. We might be some of the biggest fans of Margareta Magnusson, who introduced the concept in her book, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, that she’s never met.💗 We all can understand and maybe even relate to the concept but having a term for it gives us a starting point to act on it! 

Artifcts is your best-in-class Swedish Death Cleaning app. It’s a big reason why we write on and provide workshops related to this topic. Today we’re considering Swedish Death Cleaning from yet another angle: Your digital legacy.

Defining “Digital Legacy” 

What ARE we talking about, “digital legacy?” 

Good question! Because, no, in this context, it is not about the entirety of your online life or digital assets, e.g. banking, mortgages, insurance policies, investments, or similar. All critical! All should be a part of your estate plan and/or will. You should also invest in an online digital vault to corral it together, benefit from automated and smart reminders, and enjoy the ease of sharing securely or accessing it yourself in an emergency.

Announcement for Digital Legacy Workshop from AfterLight

Take a deep dive! Our friends at AfterLight have a new workshop offering expert guidance on organizing and securing your digital estate. Register today.

What we are talking about with "digital legacy" are the digital items that reflect our lives and personal histories as well as who we are as members of families and communities. 

What makes up your digital legacy depends in part on your age as well as your personality and views. Some of us have chosen not to adopt certain aspects of digital life or have intentionally created the smallest digital footprint possible. Others of us go big online for personal and professional reasons. 

Below we’ll provide a framework to help you get started as you organize and maybe declutter your own digital legacy to ensure its best chance of meaning and survival!

What: Take Inventory 

Literally pause, grab a piece of paper or digital notebook, and start jotting down your digital footprint. Yes, you might need to wander your home, pull out some bins, open some drawers, but this is the easy part. We’ll help you get started. Do you or other household members have any of these? 

      • Digital music and/or movie libraries, including media that’s natively digital and any you might have digitized when you, oh, let’s say, “decluttered” that VHS, DVD, or CD collection. 
      • Photographs, again, digital native photos from your phone, most likely, and those pics you have scanned or otherwise digitized over time. 
      • Social media posts, and before those, your blogs 
      • Academic and professional research, including publications, patents, and even genealogy, family history, and DNA information.  
      • NFTs and other digital works stored, for example, in your digital wallet(s).

Where: As Tech has Changed, Storage has Changed 

Before cell phones were our go-to video recorders, there were small handheld versions that were wow’ing, because they had great quality and storage for the time, and were many times smaller than those you held with a strap in one hand or the ones that were so big that they sat on your shoulder. Did you ever download all the videos on your digital handheld camera? Treasures untold may be waiting. 

Think creatively through all the digital tech you’ve used and held onto through the years when you consider where your files may be resting, and in some cases, actively degrading. 

Bulk stashes via old and new hardware.

As time has gone on, we’ve been able to more cheaply and conveniently store massive volumes of data on those things and yet you might be surprised how little you actually saved to some. One of our Arti Community members told us she has 15 thumb drives that each contain three songs her daughter recorded during her spring and fall piano recitals.

Dig out those thumb drives, memory cards that may still be in old cameras or spare cases, disks (floppy, hard, and otherwise), and flash drives. Environmental implications aside, harvesting and storing those digital files together, and backed up in a second location, is a relatively easy, cheap, and fast undertaking. Hurray! 

Desktop and laptop hard drives. 

Hopefully before you donated or recycled old computers, you saved the contents somewhere else, a flash drive, your preferred cloud environment, or your new computer, perhaps. Wherever it went, take stock. And watch out if your employer is okay with you using your work device for personal use, too, as you may have some gems on those devices. 

“The Cloud,” e.g. Google Drive, Box, Drop Box, and Permanent, among others. 

You may have gotten on a kick and started storing stuff within a particular environment because a friend or family member was sharing stuff with you there and you followed suit. But what are you using nowadays? Consider if your habits have changed and you need to rescue files from various cloud locations and move to one central archive for storage. 

Memberships, especially apps and websites you love or loved once upon a time.

If you are worried you might not remember them all, you have some options.  

Option A. Checking billing statements is the best starting point. We hope you’re not paying for something you haven’t used in years. While simpler than scrolling through your email for pages, this still gets messy if you are using many different payment methods (credit cards, PayPal, etc.) and/or other household members might be paying via a family account. So, option B ...  

Option B. Go to the apps lists on your phone, tv, and computer. What’s installed? Are you paying for it? While you’re in there, check which have location, contact, notification, and background refresh services turned on. You might want to lock down your privacy! Bonus Tip: For Apple (iOS) mobile users, you can go to your Settings -> Click on your name/circle at the top -> and click “Subscriptions.” You may find surprises there, too! 

Take a moment to consider first what content do (or did) you create or upload to these memberships that you own and can potentially download to back up elsewhere and/or to then close your account. Then, if you want to keep the account open and have backed up the content, check the account’s settings for legacy contact and/or memorialization options and set yours up so you do not lose anything you created or upload to that membership. You also will then hoepfully avoid falling into a scenario in which inactivity grants the company via its terms and conditions the right to delete your data or use your data in a way you do not support.

Best Practice call out box

Now What: What Do You Value Most? What Do “They” Value Most? 

Life comes with inherent limits. Only so much time in a day, money in our accounts, bandwidth in our brains. We must choose carefully how we spend our resources. What matters to you will help you prioritize how you manage your digital legacy. 

Here are three steps you can take to manage your digital legacy. These are not mutually exclusive! Start at ‘good,’ add in ‘better,’ and laugh, enjoy, and gain peace of mind with ‘best.’

Good. Inventory the items and put physical storage devices, e.g. flash drives, in a fire-safe place. Get rid of what you don’t want. This might mean recycling some tech (options exist!) and cleaning out files. But before you get too aggressive with that decluttering, ASK loved ones if they are interested in the types of materials you are ready to shed. You may be surprised what matters to them versus to yourself! This will help you with the next option.

Better. Digitize items with backups and share access to those resources with loved ones. This is now moving into prime Swedish Death Cleaning territory where we have not just organized but we’ve also decluttered in a way that’s potentially meaningful. Loved ones get the option to raise their hand and say, “Yes, that I want.” And the beauty here is it is digital. It won’t take up physical space so it’s less risky for them to say yes.

Best. While we all love photos, videos, and documentary evidence of cool things, like being the mastermind behind a patent, without context, even digital items become clutter we ignore. Here’s the story of one family’s “great” discovery. Whether your format is Artifcts, scrapbooks, or photobooks, find a medium to gift your loved ones a ‘why’ and not just more digital stuff. What is the story behind this photo? In layman's speak, what was this amazing scientific breakthrough in this patent that bears your name? What did it mean to you

Let us know about your progress. What was the easy part? Are you stuck on any specific digital histories of yours? What was the outcome? 


More from Artifcts on Swedish Death Cleaning: 

The Joys of Swedish Death Cleaning 

Swedish Death Cleaning a Marriage After Death or Divorce 

How Swedish Death Cleaning Helps During a Move

© 2024 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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How Swedish Death Cleaning Helps You During a Move

Reading time: 5 minutes 

Today's story features insights from MaryKay Buysse, co-executive director of the National Association of Senior and Specialty Move Managers (NASMM). We're so grateful to her for sharing her perspective and insights! 

The new show streaming on Peacock, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, has returned author Margareta Magnusson’s concept of “Swedish death cleaning” to the headlines. The idea she outlined in her book is deceptively simple: Continuously organize and declutter your home to reduce the burden on loved ones of sifting through hundreds of objects to decide what is significant and should be kept, and what needs to move on out, “to make the later years of our lives as comfortable and stress-free as possible.” (Did you catch last week's piece in ARTIcles on Swedish Death Cleaning a Marriage? Check it out, too!
Artifcting is a means to continuously and easily practice Swedish death cleaning: Keeping track of and acting on “what’s next” for the items you Artifct, while also preserving the memories and stories. As August is Make-A-Will Month and a very popular time for home moves, we think it’s important to bring you matter-of-fact tips and perspective to help you deal with all that stuff!

“You Just Need a Moving Truck and Dumpster”

We know that some people say, “Oh, don’t worry, push comes to shove, in just two days you can clear out a house of all the stuff.” That sounds great – but you might struggle to imagine how that would exactly get done. There’s a good reason for your disbelief. 
“Haste equals regret!” emphasized MaryKay Buysse. “No one’s life should be so marginalized that we believe it can be downsized in 48 hours, start to finish. It’s not just rent a dumpster and a van. It should be done thoughtfully and intentionally. You must honor that life, that home" ... and Artifcts can be the tool move managers use to get it done! Listen in > 
“That’s why we think Artifcts is transformative for the move management industry. It has the power to change how a move manager works and speaks with their clients for this very reason – honoring the history and memories. Artifcts has so much value.” 
What she said! You stand to lose so much history, so many memories, and maybe even provoke family arguments over heirlooms lost, not to mention the potential financial value to all that you toss. Do you know that sometimes people give up on moving altogether because they don’t want to deal with the stuff? Don’t let that happen to you!

Top Tips for Accelerating Your Moving Process

There’s a better way to get through all the stuff. First, bring Artifcting into the process to recognize and record what you cherish and hold onto those memories, even if you do not keep all the stuff. Because, as MaryKay also emphasized, when it comes to sorting and decluttering for a move, “Every object has to have its moment where the client and move manager discuss it.”

For all the rest, the reality is few of us really knows what lurks in every drawer or closet, “And despite the popularity of all these new approaches to organizing, decluttering, and minimalism, people still seem to have the same amount of stuff,” said MaryKay. 
Professional move managers have time-tested strategies to accelerate the process and reduce the physical and emotional stress on you while setting in motion your intentions for all your ‘stuff.’ Here are a few of our favorite tips from our conversations with MaryKay: 
Bite size to-do list.

Tactical lists really will help make you more efficient. There’s a reason why science-backed research on habit formation as well as professionals with decades of experience in downsizing and decluttering recommend starting with smaller (and maybe less emotional, too!) tasks first. You score some wins, find a process that works for you, and get stuff done. Wins building on wins.  
The move manager you hire will consult with you and then prepare a customized list to keep you on track for your move goals, whether the move is in one year or three months, upsizing or downsizing, domestic or international. Action lists will include sorting, space planning, and more! 
Group items.

Listen in to MaryKay's take on "grouping" to help make more rapid progress:

Here are a few examples, so you can get the idea of how grouping can help:

  • Perhaps with your move you want a reset on all linens (towels, pillows, sheets, etc.). You can donate those to better use and start fresh. A whole category, done!
  • If moving to assisted living and there’s no oven in your suite because main meals are provided, then you have no need for any of your baking or cooking tools. Done! Well, except for an item or two that is sentimental or becomes decorative. Aprons and muffin tins anyone?
  • If you are no longer in love with a collection, have dropped a hobby, or are changing lifestyles, you may let friends, neighbors, loved ones, collectors groups, or fellow hobbyists (or aspiring) know, so you can sell, donate, or rehome these items.

Work with a specialist.

Digitization and organization of legal, financial, and other documentation – family research, artwork, and photos, for example – ideally saves you from moving all of it, provides secure storage and backup storage, and make these resources available to you whenever, wherever you need them. We are not saying toss every hard copy. But digitization is your ally and creates a personal archive for you and your family to last generations.

For the physical copies you keep, professional archivists can help ensure the items are protected from the elements and remain accessible to you, like the recipe card from Grandma you’ll need the next time you want to make her famous spanakopita or when you want to redecorate and display the newspaper article you were featured in! If you don’t have someone local, you can at least shop smart for safe ways to store and display your treasured items. Explore Archival Methods and Gaylord Archival.

Monocurate describes benefits of archival preservation

© Monocurate, LLC.

If your top priority is digitizing and organizing photos old and new, a professional photo organizer in your area may also be able to help get you started.

Involve Family.

This tip is more like a strong warning: Do not overlook the adult children. Now, in your situation, you might swap out “adult child” with another family relation, a close friend, or a neighbor. The point is, who else is close to the person who is moving—or death cleaning—and may have strong feelings about what’s going where? 
No one wants to watch grown adults fight over ‘stuff.’ Bring in others and do it early to avoid more emotional pain and trauma.

Happy Artifcting!


Know someone who is planning to move? Gift them an Artifcts membership to help them through the process and beyond!

Green gift box with pink bow


© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Swedish Death Cleaning a Marriage

Reading time: 3 minutes

Yep, you read that right. If you can Swedish Death Clean a home, why not a marriage?  

We wrote about the Joys of Swedish Death Cleaning back in March 2022. In case you missed it ... döstädning ( means death, städning cleaning) is the Swedish practice by which older adults and their families set their affairs in order. By organizing and decluttering your home, you reduce the burden on loved ones who would otherwise be left to sift through dozens (if not hundreds!) of objects to decide what is significant and what should be kept.  

Marriages are a lot like homes. You build them up over time, fill them with memories, histories, and yes, even ‘stuff.’ Mementos from the newly wed days, important firsts and milestones, travel mementos, kid art, photographs, and the list goes on and on. It’s amazing just how much stuff accumulates over time.  

Over the course of our lives, we are apt to move at least 11 times, based on US Census data. In moving, we say goodbye to one location, and hello to another. Marriages are no different, sometimes they come to an end by choice, sometimes not, forcing us to move on, literally and figuratively. When this happens, it may be time for a little Swedish Death Cleaning.  

Death Cleaning Post Divorce 

Divorce, even if amicable, is not easy. I should know, having gone through a divorce myself and having given up most of my stuff except for the clothing and personal items I took with me. At the end of the day, only one person can retain physical ownership of an item, and visitation rights are not usually given for baby books, travel mementos, kitchenware, paintings, and the like. 

Post-divorce, you may be the one who ends up with bins of stuff and no clear idea of what to do with it. Maybe you want to start fresh, and you don’t want the old stuff. Maybe you are attached to the memories but aren’t ready to see these mementos or revisit them right now.  

Artifcts simplifies the (marriage) death cleaning process by helping you keep the memories, while you let go of or re-home some of the stuff. You’re then freer to decide if you want to give the item to your ex-spouse (does it mean more to them than you?), their family, or even your child. Chances are if you don’t want something, or don’t have a need for something, someone else in your family may appreciate the item.  

Death Cleaning After the Loss of a Spouse or Partner  

Losing a spouse may be one of the harder experiences some of us face as adults. Spouses and partners know us in ways no one else does. We’ve grown together, lived together, dreamed together. Sometimes as we slowly find our new normal without them, we simply cannot take all their stuff with us. Other times we may need to part with some of their stuff to bring closure. 

Artifcts can help. Start with the objects that remind you the most of your spouse or that your spouse loved best. Artifct them, and then take a moment to consider if someone else would cherish the object and memory as much as you. If yes, and if you are willing to part with it, re-home the item with love and care plus the Artifcted story.  

If you want to keep what you Artifcted, and you’re feeling up to it, take a moment and fill out the “In the Future” field in your Artifct so that your loved ones will one day know what you want them to do with the item. You can easily export and share the Artifct or entire Artifcts collection with an estate planner or attach to a digital will so your wishes are accessible. You may find that over time you are willing to part with more items knowing that the history, memories, and stories are safely stored for your loved ones in Artifcts.  


You may also enjoy these additional ARTIcles by Artifcts:

What Should you Artifct (Now)?

How to Artifct Family Heirlooms and History

Before You Thin Out That Stuffed Animal Collection, Consider What Scientists Have to Say


© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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The Joys of Swedish Death Cleaning

The old saying goes that there are two things in life that are certain, death and taxes. The funny thing is that we spend more time in our lives preparing our tax returns than we ever do thinking about much less planning for our inevitable passing. Enter Swedish death cleaning.  

Before you get too nervous, please don't worry. It's not about death. It's about life!

What is Swedish death cleaning you might ask? Döstädning ( means death, städning cleaning), or the art of death cleaning, is the Swedish practice by which the elderly and their families set their affairs in order. It involves organizing and decluttering your home to reduce the burden on loved ones of sifting through dozens (if not hundreds!) of objects to decide what is significant and what should be kept.  

The term was popularized in 2018 with the publication of Margareta Magnusson’s book, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning. Magnusson states, “Whether it's sorting the family heirlooms from the junk, downsizing to a smaller place, or setting up a system to help you stop misplacing your keys, death cleaning gives us the chance to make the later years of our lives as comfortable and stress-free as possible.”  

Contrary to the name, you don’t have to be on death’s doorstep to participate. Whatever your age, the concept of Swedish death cleaning can be used to help you declutter your life and take stock of what's important.  

Whatever your age, the concept of Swedish death cleaning can be used to help you declutter your life and take stock of what's important.

I’ve had the privilege to participate in the Swedish death cleaning process with multiple Artifcts community members over the past several months, all healthy, happy, and overwhelmed by ‘stuff.’ As we started going through all that stuff, a couple of themes emerged.  

First, often the most valuable items are not the ones that have any real monetary value. Rather, the items have what one Arti Community member called “heart value.” It is very hard to tell which items fall into this category just by looking at them. Heart value may be found in a favorite piece of costume jewelry, a child’s handprint, or an old photograph of distant relatives or nearly forgotten adventures. It may not seem to have any value to you, an outsider, but it has tremendous value to the owner. Sound familiar? 

Second, our community members were often under the impression that, “No one is going to want my stuff once I’m gone.” Not true. Or at least recent headlines may overstate this sentiment. In working with these families, I saw relatives come out of the woodwork to claim an item once they knew its story, history, sometimes even provenance.  

I saw relatives come out of the woodwork to claim an item once they knew its story, history, sometimes even provenance

I had one Arti Community member reach out to me after she shared an Artifct of a bowl she had bought in Brazil with her son. She had resigned herself to the fact that the bowl would end up in a donation box once she was gone. “Not anymore!” she was happy to report—her son now wants the bowl as a memory of his mother and a memento from his time growing up in Rio. That’s one less object for her to worry about, and one rediscovered piece of family history for her son.  

Artifcts simplifies the Swedish death cleaning process by creating a safe and secure way to pass down stories (aka “heart value”) and not just things. Artifcts gives a voice to the objects of our lives that otherwise would remain silent, collecting dust or buried in a drawer or box. It’s no coincidence that attaching a story to an object, and maybe even adding an audio or video file too, increases the chances that the item will stay in the family. (And if it doesn’t, at least the memory and story can live on in family lore, even if the object is eventually rehomed.) 

Ready to give it a go? Pick a favorite object that you may want to pass on to a loved one or friend either now or in the future. Create the Artifct, including any key details that make it special to you, and then share the Artifct with the intended recipient. (Here's one that I made for my daughter.) Connect or reconnect over the story, history, and memories, and recognize it is okay to let go, especially if the Artifct has found a new home.  


© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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