Often I meet with people who know they want to move to a smaller place, but they’re totally intimidated by how much stuff they have. They know they need to begin going through their things and paring them down, but they just don’t know where to start. If you’re in that situation, here are some tips for getting started.
1. Start with the smallest or least-used room in your house.
There are two reasons behind this. First of all, it is less intimidating than starting with a large room, or a room you use a lot. Secondly, once you have finished the downsizing process in that room, you can use it as a storage space for boxes, etc. that you’ve packed, without disturbing your daily life or routines.
2. Make a realistic daily goal for yourself
The hardest thing about downsizing is getting started. Make a daily goal to get yourself motivated. Tell yourself that you will do one drawer a day. Or that you will work on downsizing for half an hour a day—something like that. Make sure it’s a realistic goal, so that you can really stick to it.
3. Divide your things into three piles
The three piles I recommend are keep, throw out, and give away. You might decide to have two give-away piles—one for charity and one for items you want family or friends to have. Don’t let yourself have a maybe pile! Try to touch everything just once, and make a decision that way. I should add that if you think you have a number of things that could be valuable, don’t hesitate to call in an estate sale person and ask their opinion on your possessions. I know of some great estate sale people or organizers who can help you determine if it might be worth it to sell some of your things. Feel free to contact me for more information.
4. Remember your Motivation
For many people, the main thing that stops them from moving to a smaller place is not wanting to let go of their possessions. Even knowing they might be happier in a home with no stairs or in a senior living community is not enough to help push them to pare down their things. Don’t let your possessions weigh you down. Allow yourself a small box of sentimental items, but beyond that, consider giving the things that are sentimentally important to you to family or friends. Remember, you will have to pay to move everything you decide to keep. By letting go of things, you will have a cheaper, easier move, and have more room for living in your new place.
5. Clear as you Go
As you sort through your things, store packed boxes you plan to move in the rooms you have finished packing. But make an effort to put the throw-out pile by the curb once a week. Give a bag to charity as soon as you fill it. Have a family-and-friends get together where you display all of the things you’d like them to have and let them choose what they’d like (have them pick numbers and pick things in turn if you don’t have specific people in mind for each item). Seeing your rooms looking cleaner, more organized, and emptier will serve as continuing motivation for you to keep downsizing.
If after reading these five tips you still can’t get started, consider hiring a professional. An organizer, senior move manager, or estate sale person can come in and help you decide what to keep, sell, or throw away. If you’re not sure that you want to hire someone, it doesn’t hurt to bring in someone and talk to them about what they could do to help. Then you will have a better idea of where to go from there. I am also always happy to come and meet with you in your home to help give you an idea of how to get started or whom you might want to bring in to help. Please don’t hesitate to contact me. Good luck and happy downsizing!