A few days ago, a friend mentioned that she is starting Swedish death cleaning and threw away her first bag.

Baffled by that odd term, I asked what in the world she was doing. I learned that the term is from a book written by Margareta Magnusson in 2007. Similar to the popular Marie Kondo trend, Swedish death cleaning is a method of decluttering your life.

Both methods help people get their affairs in order. In theory, with less mess and clutter, people are happier and have a lower stress level because their life runs more smoothly. They also realize more joy from relationships and experiences.

The two approaches are part of the minimalist style of living that has gained popularity with younger generations. We older generations use a similar term — “downsizing.”

The Kondo method encourages people to toss anything that is not essential or fails to spark joy in their lives. The SDC, as I will call it, takes a slower approach — daily cleaning and regularly tossing away a bag of clutter. SDC suggests selling some items and contacting friends, family and charity organizations to ask if they are interested in specific items. Other items are gradually tossed or shredded.

Both systems have value to genealogists for they encourage each of us to focus on what is important in our lives. Instead of waiting for a death or major illness to organize and reduce our trove of records, we genealogists can use the two methods to start immediately.

After reducing clutter from genealogy archives, make a list of family heirlooms and add information about each, make a list of family history files and note where copies of each are kept, and compile a list of documents and photographs and note their location. Check to see if your local library has equipment that can be used to scan documents and photographs so that you can easily store them on thumb drives and share them with others.

Compile a family history directive of your wishes that lists the people and places that have expressed an interest in specific aspects of your research, heirlooms, books, documents and photographs. Include contact details for each person and place. Store the family history directive with your will and business directive (information on bank accounts, mortgages, passwords, etc.).

Comments or suggestions? Contact Frankie Meyer at frankiemeyer@yahoo.com.

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