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Exclusive articles, interviews, and insights covering downsizing & decluttering, genealogy, photos and other media, aging well, travel, and more. We’re here to help you capture the big little moments and stories to bring meaning and even order to all of life’s collections for generations.
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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!

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© 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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