Tips to Approach Decluttering and Downsizing

Feb 4, 2016 | 1 comment

No doubt about it, it’s a challenge to undertake downsizing and decluttering. Here are eight tips to help approach the daunting task of minimizing your stuff.

Give Yourself Time to Downsize

Calendars by monthIt takes decades to amass a significant amount of stuff. Don’t expect to get rid of it all in one weekend. When my parents were downsizing from their home of 33 years to a three-bedroom condominium, it took months of work – including three yard sales and multiple donation trips to various charities.

If you’re not in a hurry, six months is a good window of time. Tackling a small area for 30 minutes a day over six months adds up to 91 hours of downsizing. You can expend bigger chunks of time over a shorter period: one hour daily over three months yields the same time commitment – though perhaps more stress.

Give Yourself a Deadline

While you want to give yourself enough time for the downsizing process, you also want to give yourself a deadline to get the majority of the work done. De-cluttering can be an endless task. Target a specific finish day, such as preparing for a holiday, birthday, anniversary, out-of-town guest visit or other special event. Deadlines provide a sense of both urgency and accomplishment.

Evaluate Your Stuff

Take a critical look at your home or office. Do you love everything you see? Do you use everything you have? Are you overwhelmed with paper? Do you enjoy the way you are currently living? Do you cringe when you open certain closets, cabinets, drawers or rooms? Would you be comfortable having guests drop in unannounced?

Chances are, if you are reading this blog post, you have way more things than you love, use or need. The world will not end if you let go of objects cluttering your life. Start looking at your things and evaluating if they’re worth keeping around.

List What You Need or Don’t Need

Diary and penList-making can provide guidance as you decide what to keep and what to get rid of. Make a list of 100 treasured things you MUST keep. Make a list of 100 items you are tired of possessing. Your values become clarified as you list more items, helping to kick-start your downsizing adventure. More suggestions here.

Focus on Joy

Consider the KonMari Method of clearing away clutter, created by Japanese professional cleaning consultant Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy. She recommends focusing on how each item makes you feel. Does it bring you joy and make you happy? If not, why are you keeping it? Send it on its way by donating or selling it so someone else can treasure it. If it has no redeeming value whatsoever, recycle or trash it.

Take Downsizing Breaks

Clock at 4:02

Time to declutter or take a break!

Sorting through your possessions and clearing excess objects is time-intensive and emotionally draining. If you’re in the middle of a huge downsizing project, step away from the task at hand for a five minute break every hour. You can appreciate your progress when you come back refreshed.

Bring in a Friend

Friends can provide downsizing objectivity. Can’t decide if your big shouldered jackets from the 1980s are worth holding on to? A friend can provide a fresh pair of eyes to help evaluate whether you really need to keep items of dubious value.

Beware if they advise you to donate things they secretly covet and offer to take items to the donation center for you. Your discards may end up adding to your friend’s treasure trove of clutter.

Keep a Clear Head

Avoid downsizing under the influence of drugs or excess alcohol. This can negatively influence your judgment of an item’s value. It can also trigger unhelpful emotional reactions. You might become clumsy and break objects, or even a part of yourself.

Need a few reasons to get going? Check out this blog post, Five Good Reasons to Downsize Your Stuff.

Gail Rubin, funeral expert and Celebrant

Gail Rubin, CT, The Doyenne of Death®

Gail Rubin, CT, is a pioneering death educator who uses humor and funny films to teach about end-of-life issues. The author of the award-winning book A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die, her newest book is Hail and Farewell: Cremation Ceremonies, Templates and Tips. She “knocked ’em dead” at TEDxABQ in 2015 – watch the video!

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