Written by contributor, Jim Vogel.
Downsizing your home is difficult — every item in your home has a story, and that story can be hard to let go of. The paper ornament your 5-year-old grandchild made in 1989, your daughter’s favorite stuffed bear or the gift your husband gave you for your first anniversary. These are all precious keepsakes, but perhaps you don’t need to continue keeping them forever.
If you’re thinking of downsizing your belongings for whatever reason, there are some steps you can take to make it less painful.
- Start small — Begin in rooms that you don’t use very often, such as the laundry room, bathrooms, attic, basement, screened porch and guest bedrooms.
- Room by room — Only tackle one room at a time. This will give you the chance to assess each room and what you need and don’t need in it, then find a home for it.
- Make piles — Choose items that you want to keep, donate or toss. If you like, you can add a fourth pile to give away to family, and add heirlooms and things someone might want.
- Sell what you can — There are lots of places online to sell things, including websites for collectors, eBay and apps like OfferUp. You will be able to make a little money and perhaps use it for a nice trip.
- Say goodbye — Letting go is hard. If you’re having a difficult time letting go, ask yourself if you really need this item. Make a scrapbook or keepsake box for a few genuinely precious items.
- Go digital — Consider scanning your photos and documents to keep them forever digitally, and you can even share copies among family and friends. You can do this yourself, or there are services who will do this for you for a reasonable price.
- Hire help — If you can, hire a professional organizer to help you go through your items and sort where they go.
- Give stuff — Some organizers suggest getting rid of one item per day. This is great if you have plenty of time and can slowly get rid of stuff. But if you’re in a time crunch, you might need to up that schedule to 50 items per day.
- Trick yourself — One psychologist suggest using the eBay trick. Say you have an item you’d like to get rid of. Check that item on eBay and see how much it’s selling for. Then ask yourself if you’d pay that much for it now. If the answer is no, then sell it.
- Finish it — Don’t leave things lying around to be put away later. Finish each task, such as taking out the trash, delivering the donations, putting away the kept items. Leaving stuff undone just creates more work for you later, and never gives you that feeling of completeness.
- Be disloyal (not really) — Don’t keep things out of loyalty to someone else, especially if you really don’t need it. Just because your aunt gave you that hideous tissue box cover one Hanukkah doesn’t mean it should take up space in your closet.
- Don’t spend — Don’t buy containers before you need them. It’s fun to go out and buy a bunch of cute organization tools, but don’t do it until after you’ve organized things and know what you actually need.
- Label it — If things are labeled, they are easier to find when you need them. If you like, you can even label the shelves so you know what goes where, especially if you have a family who might need to know where to put things.
- Get it together — Store things where you use them. Your furnace filters shouldn’t be in your dining room, and tools shouldn’t be in your crafting room (unless you use them there). Put your towels near your shower, your ironing board near where your clothes are stored (or the laundry room) and your sheets near your beds.
A few extra steps can help you get through a mountain of stuff pretty easily. Don’t tackle it all at once, and take it slow. You’ll have a clutter-free house in no time.