Don’t Make Your Family Ask, ‘Does This Spark Joy?’
If you’ve found yourself at any point blissfully origami-ing your underwear a la Japanese organizational guru Marie Kondo, you may be ready for the Scandinavian decluttering trend of “death cleaning.”
Following in the Nordic footsteps of all things “hygge” (read: cozy), there’s a Swedish trend bubbling up in pop culture. It’s called “döstädning,” and basically, it’s all about, well, dispensing with our stuff—papers, possessions, paraphernalia—before we die and before our families have to deal with all that crap for us. Sometimes I feel like I’m proactively döstädning my way through life… and then failing and going to IKEA to accumu-binge again.
That said, the processes of döstädning are actually quite appealing. In “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning,”author Margareta Magnusson guides us, gently as it were, through how to approach this task with style and substance.
Sleeping with the Mushrooms
I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with funghi. Their slippery, spongy texture that terrified me as a child can resurface without warning in the wrong recipe and put me on edge even today. Mushrooms may be an acquired taste, but could you grow to love them so much you’d want to be buried in a state-of-the-art suit made of them when you die? The Infinity Burial Suit, as worn by actor Luke Perry at his eco-friendly funeral service earlier this year, was said to be embedded with material from specially cultivated mushrooms.
The biodegradable suit’s Californian creator Coeio claims it efficiently delivers nutrients from the body to surrounding plant roots. The company also pledges to plant two trees for every suit it sells, which really is a “beautiful thing for this beautiful planet,” as Sophie Perry wrote on Instagram to share the trend following her father’s cool farewelling/funeral.
Death Doulas: A Friend for the End?
A doula—whether for birth or death—is ultimately there to alleviate fear, add comfort and enable empowerment during one of life’s most important transformations. Like their birth-oriented counterparts, death doulas usher you through uncharted territory, providing guidance on what to expect and helping you fully live (!) the journey feeling well-supported. A death doula can be a source of solace to your family as well, who may be freaked out by or unfamiliar with the processes and realities of a coming death, even though it’s the most natural thing in the world. A qualified death doula can explain options, help connect you to resources and offer reassurance throughout an uncertain, intimate, complex time.
I’ll Have the Lasagna and the Death, Please
We often think of death as a taboo topic for the dinner table, but appetites are growing around the world for “death cafes” and “death dinner parties,” designed to open informed conversations around end of life.
As an example, Death Over Dinner is igniting honest conversations about mortality—during potluck meals. The organization has fostered existential dining experiences for over a million people of all ages and life stages, with downloadable scripts to prompt lively dialogue. Similarly, the Death Café global program has gained momentum across 65 countries, gathering people together to simply “eat cake, drink tea, and discuss death.” Because, as we say on the Farewelling podcast, “If you’re going to talk about death, you deserve a treat.” (link to Sarah Cooper podcast Episode 1)
All of this proves that there’s a clear global trend towards not just dealing with death when it hits us, but actually preparing for it physically and emotionally, with positive intention, before we need to.
By removing taboos about death, we can empower ourselves within the space of something so intimate and personal. The idea is to normalize the conversation and make it, if never our favorite topic, then at least one that’s more familiar and possibly a little less terrifying, even if it does occasionally involve mushrooms (yuck).
Lucy Titterington is a writer, mother and creative director living in London. You can see more of her words in action on her website here.