thumbnail_19th centry tinplate toy sold 1200

Döstädning – Swedish Death Cleaning

by Adam Partridge

Known for regular appearances on Flog It!, Bargain Hunt, Dickinson’s Real Deal and Cash In The Attic, and one of the UK’s finest antique experts and auctioneers – Adam Partridge takes a look at the new craze with the over 65s…

The Swedish word döstädning literally translates to death cleaning, an exercise which goes back generations and essentially is to prepare your estate for your death, this sounds quite dramatic but in reality it can be very therapeutic and good for your wellbeing, In short it just means clearing away items you no longer need.

Previous generations have lived by the saying ‘waste not, want not’ and have hoarded items from their relatives but today we tend not to be hoarders and we don’t like clutter. We like more simplistic interiors with some well-placed choice items rather than recreating a home that looks like a museum or the back room of a charity shop. Anyone that has had to clear an elderly relative’s estate will know what I mean about hoarding, it can be a long, daunting and thankless task and many just don’t know where to start, we always suggest before you start a task like that to call your local auctioneer first for a free home appraisal visit and advice.

Old wood chest of drawers that sold for £200

During lockdown we all took the opportunity to sort our spare rooms, lofts, garages, sheds and our cupboards and drawers of items we no longer used or needed, Swedish death cleaning is just that, the act of getting rid of items we no longer need, in fact wellbeing coaches suggest we do this at least once a year.

But what do we do with these items? What you may consider as junk could actually be of use to others. If you have a flair for craft you should consider upcycling it to bring it to modern tastes or change its purpose, for example if you take the ashtray out of a vintage oak ashtray stand you can actually use it as a wine bottle stand. Repaint an old chest of drawers with pastel shades and finish it with painted flowers.

If you are not craft minded take them along to your nearest auction house to see if they have a value, some social media sites have selling pages that are free or just ask friends and relatives if the item is of any use to them, you may be surprised what you thought was of no use is actually perfect for someone else.

Steven the senior valuer at our Preston valuation office shares three items that were brought in by people who had a good clear out and thought their items were of no value: A 19th century tinplate mechanical toy found in a box in a loft, it wasn’t working and was in a very tired condition, with a little TLC and a new rubber band this toy went on to sell for £1,200.

An upcycled chest of drawers

 In the cellar of a large house in St Annes there were a pile of old cinema posters which were in bad condition with holes, tears, creases and areas of mould but this James Bond poster still went on to sell for over £2,000, if it was in near perfect condition, it would have sold for around £10,000.

An old wood card index chest of drawers which sold for £200, these would have been in the office to organize clients’ details – with a little creative thinking this could be repurposed for the home.

So before you throw anything out thinking its junk, just take a moment and think could I paint it? could I sell it? could I give it away? If you would like a free no obligation to sell valuation please contact your local senior valuer Steven Parkinson on 01772 347 380 or email