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Style & Living The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning

Meet the Sassy Swedes Who Clean House in The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning

Katarina Blom (the psychologist), Johan Svenson (the designer), and Ella Engström (the organizer) combine their talents to help get things in order.

By Brian Silliman

The most important ingredients in Peacock's unscripted series, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, are of course, the Swedes. And the ultimate de-cluttering program has a trio of them, each of them an expert who brings a unique set of skills to each episode.

Bravo is set to air three episodes of the series on Thursday nights, beginning with “What Lies Beneath” — about how one man struggles to clean out his parents’ belongings that he’s been storing in his basement since their deaths — on August 17 at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT. It'll be followed by “Confessions of a Lounge Singer” on August 24, and “F*ck Cancer” on August 31, in the same time slot. 

Who are the three Swedish Death Cleaners featured on the Peacock series?

Ella Engström (the organizer), Johan Svenson (the designer), and Katarina Blom (the psychologist) combine their talents to help get in order the homes, and lives, of the subjects featured on the series.

Some of those in need of death cleaning have recently lost someone dear to them, one is facing a terminal illness, but others are just trying to simplify things to focus more on living their lives.

RELATED: What is Swedish Death Cleaning? Everything You Need To Know

As executive producer and narrator Amy Poehler says, the show's about “cleaning out your crap so others don’t have to when you’re dead. It’s a very Swedish thing.” 

Also very Swedish? — being blunt, apparently. Poehler has said that one of the reasons she's drawn to Swedes is that "they’re so direct."

That comes in handy when you have to tell people that some of those precious family keepsakes that they've been holding on to simply have to go. 

Two women look at an empty table

Svenson, in an interview that Style & Living conducted with all three Death Cleaners, explained how their frank personalities were received during filming in Kansas City.

“We are visiting the States,” he said. “We get comments that we have a different style that becomes a bit candid and honest in very simple situations ... that we might not find taboo or a problem, or deep or controversial.” He added, “We might say things that evoke things, but we don't think about it. I love those moments because we laugh a lot about it.”

RELATED: 10 Decluttering Tips We Learned from Watching The Gentle Art Of Swedish Death Cleaning

Reorganization and removal of clutter is a key part of the process, and that's Engström’s domain. She's an interior designer and organizer, and she helps the show's featured subjects get rid of stuff as well as redesign their homes. Her background is in both concept development and retail.

Svenson is an interior designer and a set designer, so he's used to paying special attention to one person’s needs. “I think that’s applied in the show, because every person who is participating has a story, and that story should be reflected in their houses," he said.

Blom completes the team, focusing on the psychological issues of those who need to declutter. A specialist in happiness studies, Blom has long been interested in existential psychology, and told Style & Living that she's glad the show gave her a way to “spread a global message about life and death.”

Johan, Katarina, Ella and Flora talking together in a kitchen.

How long have the Swedish Death Cleaners on the Peacock series known each other?

When watching the three of them at work (or having a spa day), you get the feeling that they’ve worked together for years. In reality, they met for the first time during the casting process. The trio had “special chemistry,” as Blom put it, and soon created a WhatsApp message group before they were even cast. 

“We were curious about each other because we are different,” Svenson said, adding, “We are a triangle around this death cleaning, with our own perspectives that make this unity."

The experts still make use of their WhatsApp group, long after filming took place. As Blom said, “Johan sends great songs every Friday, and Ella keeps boosting our mood with viewers to talk about things with us. We share tips and reflect on the process.”

The trio also uses the forum to go through all the feedback the show has gotten, saying they've been inundated with messages of all kinds. They’ve gotten requests from people to be on the show, queries about advice, and emotional messages.

Blom said, “I think the show really depicts people who are in a vulnerable space in their life and it touches people who are finding themselves in that same kind of vulnerable space... I think it's really no surprise people are reaching out to us because they're like, 'Wow, they know what I'm going through. I need a friend here. Let's talk to Johan or Kat or Ella.'"

Ella, Katarina, Johan and Sue laughing together in her home.

The three experts also hear from guests who have been featured on the show. As Engström told Style & Living, the guests may write for more advice, or just to say that they're still using the lessons that they'd learned on the show.

“It's like peeling an onion, you are more mature, and when you have done the work, you get more muscles to [make] even tougher and tougher decisions,” Engström added. "So then, you can go into the next layer."

Blom echoed this. "Even though we went to their house and often worked with their grief in some way, they talk about how this feeling of lightness has spread all across different areas of life and they've improved in setting boundaries, or expressing their needs, or being more clear with their friends, and it just became this daily habit," she explained. "I love that because that's really how you create change.” 

RELATED: What is a Turkey Vulture? We Now Know Thanks to The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning

Svenson said that he believes that the editing process that the show forces subjects to undergo with their possessions helps them return to — or become — their authentic self.

He also said that he hopes that lesson carries over to viewers. “We can lose ourselves sometimes in life, or we get ill, we lose a partner, and suddenly we don't know who we are," Svenson said, adding that letting go of things you don't need can help you “feel good with your everyday life.” 

Engström encourages those watching to take what they've learned from the show and apply it to their own lives. “It's actually to do the work, look through your things and see what serves you here and now in your life — so you don't let things get you stuck in life," she said. "That easily happens, and takes so much energy, and gives you so much unnecessary stress.”

Blom drove home the main point of The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, which — despite the title — is more about life. "Really live life to the fullest, here and now,” she said. “When you're sad, cry. When you're angry, get it out. When you're happy, really celebrate those moments... because life is passing. It's happening now.” 

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning is now streaming on Peacock.

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