Downsizing – A Journey Through Decluttering

Are your cabinets overflowing? Attic filled with boxes? Decluttering may be a necessary task prior to downsizing and/or relocating in your retirement years. Know that downsizing can be an emotional experience and it is best done with a positive outlook and focus on the future. If the term downsizing bothers you, think of the process as clearing or cleansing instead. Focus on needs versus wants. Purge only what you don’t NEED. Go with a four-pile approach – keep, sell, give away, and throw away. 

The entire process does require thoughtful consideration. Measure your new space, if you can. Twice! Determine what will physically fit. The big items that can go with you and those that need to go completely will be more obvious than the little things.

Know how much storage space you should plan for. Even if you overestimate, you can easily move smaller items with you, just in case there is room, and give them away later if there isn’t. This approach is much less expensive than over-clearing and having to buy new versions of what you just got rid of.

Keep items that serve a specific purpose, even if you only use them a few times a year. Work through one closet at a time, one drawer at a time. Start with larger, more obvious items first and work your way to the smaller mementos.

Your home can quickly be consumed by items that have no place or purpose. Clothes, regardless of how unworn, should be thinned out. Two black turtlenecks – okay. Nine? Some duplicated items serve a true purpose, others, not so much. There are few things outside of silverware that you actually need ten of. Pick your favorites and get rid of the rest. If you have a large collection of anything, take the most important pieces with you, not the entire set. If you haven’t used something in a year…three years…five years…it’s time to let go.

Re-home items that hold special meaning by gifting them to family, friends, and neighbors. If you have children and, more importantly, you still have their “things” consider calling a family meeting for the specific purpose of your children reclaiming their personal belongs as well as any furniture or knick-knacks you are ready to part with. Don’t assume family members want things. Ask first and try not to take it personally if the item ends up being donated instead. Consider whether a local school might appreciate a donation of musical instruments, art materials, or camera equipment.

It can be difficult for some to simply throw away unused things. Sell or donate if that makes you more comfortable. It can’t hurt to have a garage sale before getting rid of things. Just be sure to approach it with a “priced-to-go” attitude. Look at downsizing as an opportunity to practice generosity. There are college students, young couples, and others who will appreciate your gently loved things and will give them further use.

If you, yourself, are not tech savvy, enlist the help of someone who is to sell more valuable items online. Donate useable items to charity whether it is to a local shelter, church, or a larger repurposing organization. You may find, when you pare things down, that all the extra stuff was detracting from the important things. It truly helps simplify things.

Recycle those piles of magazines and newspapers you’ve saved over the years. Digitize whatever possible such as CDs, videos, pictures, and important documents. You can scan or take a picture to make an electronic copy of important documents or paper mementos and then you can recycle or shred them. Most paper items, such as instruction booklets and bills, can be recycled or shredded. There is little that can’t be found online should the need arise. You can also take digital pictures of any items you might like to visually reminisce about. Electronic photo galleries take up no physical space.

If you know you will need the occasional (or regular) extra push, you may want to hire a professional organizer to assist you through the process. Senior-focused moving services also exist to help with everything from decluttering to decorating your new home. As you look to set up your new place, don’t feel as though you have to recreate complete rooms from your old home. Use the opportunity to find new combinations of furniture and other items to decorate. Remember to downsize seasonal items, too.

Go through all of your boxes, even those that haven’t been opened for years. You never know what might be tucked away and once it is thrown out, it is gone for good. Recycle old electronics. Check what local options you might have or locate your nearest large electronic store such as Best Buy. For large items like old lawn mowers or grills, call the junk man. If you have decided to utilize rented storage space in order to stage your home to sell, only store things that will eventually go to your new home. Moving unorganized boxes into storage will only prolong the process of downsizing.

There is a Swedish tradition of döstädning. This is simply the process of taking into your own hands the process of decluttering your belongings so it is not someone else’s burden later on. Embrace the experience and keep your focus on a simpler, clearer existence.

Having been through the process of downsizing myself, and helped countless other easily navigate the process, I have the experience, resources and compassion to help you successfully navigate the process from beginning to end. Even if a move is not imminent, decluttering is a great process to go through and it doesn’t have to happen all at once. It becomes a lifestyle – a regular way of organizing and keeping things. For more information on downsizing, decluttering and all of your moving and real estate needs, contact me today. I look forward to working with you through the next exciting phase of your life.