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Organization overhaul

Discover the value of decluttering.

AFTER A LONG WINTER COOPED UP INDOORS, spring is the perfect time to take stock of how much stuff you have – and what you might be willing to part with. Simplifying your surroundings can give you a feeling of renewed energy and an overall sense of accomplishment.

The idea of decluttering your space is nothing new, but a recent trend alert points to a couple of different decluttering mindsets from very different corners of the globe: Sweden and Japan.

Swedish death cleaning

It may sound morbid, but the Swedish tradition of döstädning, which translates literally into “death cleaning,” is practised by seniors to sort and organize a lifetime of possessions before they pass on. The purpose is to ease the burden on the loved ones who are left to wrap up an estate. The beauty of it is that “life cleaning” can be a productive practice at any age. The same principles offer sound guidance if you feel as if you are being buried alive by household clutter.

This decluttering trend is gaining a foothold in North America thanks to the bestselling book The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson.[1]1 Magnusson suggests determining what possessions you can easily get rid of (such as an excess of clothing, china and trinkets) and what you might want to keep (like photographs and cherished keepsakes).


The KonMari method is another decluttering trend that has picked up steam thanks to the bestselling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Japanese organizational consultant Marie Kondo.[2] This method encourages you to keep only those things that spark joy, and to organize everything you do keep to ensure a clean and tidy space. 

There are five guiding principles to the KonMari method:

1. Let go of clutter to make room for the stuff that matters.

2. Keep only the things that spark joy.

3. “Someday” never comes. (Think of that pair of pants that fit a bit snug.)

4. Treat your possessions as if they were alive. (Value the items you choose to keep.)

5. Your possessions reflect your state of mind.

Getting started

When faced with a chaotic scene of overflowing closets or piles of paper on every flat surface, it can be hard to figure out where to begin. Rather than hyperventilating over the enormity of the job, cut yourself some slack and break it into smaller tasks. Giving yourself a time limit to get the job done is also a good idea.

Here are some guidelines from the KonMari method:[3]

  • Tidy “like” objects, rather than decluttering room by room. Start with clothing, then books, papers and finally things with sentimental value. 
  • Set aside the time for a focused bout of decluttering, doing all your clothing or all your books in one session.
  • If you’re having trouble deciding what needs to go into the discard pile, remember the KonMari mantra, “Does touching the object spark joy?” Are you happy wearing clothes that don’t give you pleasure? Do you feel joy surrounded by piles of unread books that don’t touch your heart?

The benefits

It might seem hard to let go of possessions like those stacks of old university books, piles of birthday cards and even boxes of electronic cables, but trust that you might reap some unexpected psychological benefits when you choose to say goodbye to that stuff you’ve been hanging on to.

Decluttering can help you flex your decision-making muscle, which in turn boosts your confidence. And then there’s the tranquility you can experience once your living space feels more clean and orderly, with everything in its place.[4]

Financial housecleaning

As you get the hang of decluttering your living space, similar principles can help you become a bit more financially organized. Getting your financial house in order can make a big difference to your daily finances, and your advisor is the best person to help you get organized. 

With a bit of elbow grease and determination, decluttering your life and organizing your finances can truly be a cathartic experience.  Letting go of stuff that doesn’t bring you joy can create a wonderful sense of accomplishment and freedom. And then there are the feel-good endorphins that kick in when you donate clothing, books, toys and other household stuff to people who might really need it. 

Happy decluttering!

image of cardboard boxes

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[1] www.simonandschuster.ca/books/The-Gentle-Art-of-Swedish-Death-Cleaning/Margareta-Magnusson/9781501173240

[2] https://konmari.com

[3] www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2015/04/15/dont-just-spring-clean-change-your-life-clean

[4] www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/in-practice/201802/6-benefits-uncluttered-space

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