Downsizing the detritus of life is not an overnight event, so give yourself plenty of time.
Whether you’re moving into a smaller space, moving in with a significant other, or simply want to pare down as you look for a new place, downsizing your home is not always an easy proposition. Rather than tackling the task blindly, it’s important to make a plan and execute it with intention. Use the following expert tips to learn how to downsize your belongings and declutter your home this summer.
1. Start early
Downsizing is not an overnight event. Getting rid of “stuff” is often an emotionally charged process and, if rushed, stress levels can rise like the mercury in July. Instead of trying to attack all your clutter in one weekend, plan your stuff-shedding process over the course of a few weeks. Tackle big projects room by room. As you get closer to your moving date, treat yourself to a tasty dinner out or listen to an entertaining podcast while you’re decluttering to keep up momentum. Factor in time to list and sell items of value that need a new home. But remember: Moving unwanted items to your new home is a no-no. Even if those items were expensive to acquire, holding on to them will cost you more in the long run.
2. Organize the chaos
It can be easy to drift from room to room aimlessly working on an area and flitting to the next when you hit a stumbling block. Should I keep these cake pans? I don’t bake, but they were Grandma’s. I’ll work on the hall closet instead.
Rather than creating several small messes, set goals and tackle your clutter room by room. Josh Becker, author of the New York Times best-seller The More of Less, suggests using the four-box method: trash, give away, keep, or relocate. Each item in your home needs to classified in one of the four categories and be dealt with. Set ground rules upfront to keep yourself on task — once you touch an item, you must decide its fate. If you’re unsure, place it in the give-away pile for 24 hours. If the day passes and you haven’t thought about it, then toss it.
3. Let go of guilt
If you’ve inherited items you’re keeping out of guilt, now is the time to divest yourself of the burden. “Make a list of the things you’ve inherited. Consider each one and ask if you’re enjoying this thing in your life, or if it is best to let it go,” says Brooks Palmer, a decluttering expert and author of Clutter Busting: Letting Go of What’s Holding You Back. “For most people, if they knew that you don’t care for the inherited item, they would want you to let it go.” Define clear priorities for your new space and sell or donate items that no longer fit your narrative. You will have more breathing room, and hopefully make some decent cash to offset your moving costs.
4. Eliminate multiples
Storing four huge soup pots in your 3,500-square-foot home wasn’t a big deal, but wedging just one into the kitchen of your new one-bedroom apartment is going to be a challenge. When it’s time to downsize, discarding multiples is a no-brainer. Turn a critical eye to your “keep” pile and question the necessity of each addition. Just because you’ve always had an overflowing linen closet doesn’t mean you need five sets of sheets at your new place. (Let’s be real: You probably wash and use the same set week after week anyway.) Clear out the clutter and create some space.
5. Fall in love
Invest in quality, not quantity. When you’re in downsizing mode, begin to think of your things in terms of love. Not the romantic kind, but the “if you don’t love it, then get rid of it” kind. Sell or donate those five black winter coats you bought on sale and invest in your dream coat. Not only will your closet feel roomier, but you’ll also have a smile on your face when you put on that new coat that you love.
6. Get help
When your car is sick, you take it to the mechanic; if your leg is broken, you see a doctor. If your home is overflowing with items and you’re apprehensively staring at a move-day calendar, it might be time to call in the professionals. The National Organization of Professional Organizers (NAPO) offers a set of questions to ask potential organizers. NAPO also suggests choosing a professional organizer based on personality and skill set rather than price. An organizer with a skill set that best matches your needs is most likely to deliver the greatest value by helping you achieve the results you desire in the shortest amount of time.
If you’re short on cash, consider asking a trusted, well-organized friend to help you with the process. When Shirley and Dick Wilson downsized from their three-bedroom Pleasant Hill, CA, rambler to a one-bedroom condo in San Francisco, CA, they asked their longtime friend and neighbor to help them with the process. To avoid conflict, they set some ground rules upfront. The Wilsons’ friend had absolute power to make decisions, except for three vetoes each from the Wilsons. The arrangement worked wonderfully. The couple learned how to downsize quickly — and they’re all still friends!