Downsizing Distress: How to Cut Clutter Before Your Next Move

We all try to ignore it — our crowded closets, disastrous drawers and garbage filled garages, but the time has come. You know you will be moving in the next few months (or years) and you have decided that it is time to cut the clutter.

This, by no means, is a simple task. It is actually quite challenging, overwhelming and intimidating. Years of collective crap has eroded and engulfed your once spacious family home, but it’s time to take it on.

clutter image

A closet in desperate need of downsizing.

Follow these tips to curb downsizing distress and declutter your way to your next dream home.

You Can Never Start Too Soon

Even if you are only beginning to consider a new home – start decluttering. If you are five years out from retiring – start decluttering. You really cannot start the process too soon. It took years to generate all of the junk. You cannot expect to have it cleared out in a matter of days. Get going as soon as possible.

Make a Plan with Measurable Goals

Before you begin sorting, create a road-map for remedying your rubbish. Set specific goals and plot them on a timeline. Remember, this entire process can be time consuming. You do not want to take on too much right away. You need to set realistic, obtainable goals and stick to them.

A key piece of advice – keep organizing and sorting tasks to two hours or less, that way you won’t burnout.

Implement a Tracking System

This is a great strategy for those with the luxury of time. If you have several months to dedicate to decluttering, implement a tracking system.

  • Clothing Closets

Start with your closet. Turn all of your hangers the opposite way. Each time you use an article of clothing, flip the hanger back to the normal direction. After a full season (fall-winter, spring-summer), donate or sell all of the items hanging the wrong way. You can use a similar system for shoes. Place them on the shelf in the opposite direction you typically store them, any pairs that remain in the wrong position must go.

  • Bathroom Cabinets and Drawers

Turn all of your bathroom products to a position where the label is facing inward or down. When you use a product turn it around so you can see the label. After a set amount of time, any products still stored with the label backwards or down need to go.

  • Kitchen Storage

Start tracking how often you are using kitchen gadgets, cookware and dish sets. This can be challenging, but helpful if you follow through. Create an inventory of your belongings and post it to your refrigerator, then when you use an item cross it off the list. Any items still on the list after a set amount of time need to be donated or sold.

Sort, Sort, Sort!

Go room by room, closet by closet and drawer by drawer. Pull all of the items from each area and sort everything into three piles: keep, donate/sell and trash. As you sort, compile a spreadsheet or notebook and jot down items you plan to keep (for now) but want to gift to specific family members and friends.

As for your adult children, it’s time to stop storing their stuff. Invite them to come to your home and sort through their childhood belongings. If they live far away, box it up and ship it to them. Any items they do not want to keep, you certainly do not need to hoard. That also goes for baby and kids clothing, accessories and furniture. If your child has outgrown it – pitch it.

Do not pack paper. Invest in a shredder and start shredding. Create a new filing system for the documents you need. It may be worth asking your accountant or attorney (or even a quick internet search) before you go crazy with the shredder. Unless you are keeping books, news clippings and magazines for a specific reason, those should go too. The same logic goes for photos and cards. Don’t forget to recycle.

As you sort, keep in mind the floorplan for your new space. If your furniture will not fit, or you have too many sets, it is time to donate or sell. Do not waste your money storing items you know you will not use.

Commit to your sorted piles. If you are going to sell, legitimately try to sell. Utilize an estate sale service, an auction company or an online based classified listing like Craigslist. Many community news organizations also offer classified services, social media does as well. Consignment shops are another option along with personal or community garage and rummage sales. Anything you do not sell, donate.

Planning, Patience and Perseverance

At the end of the day a successful downsizing endeavor will require plenty of planning, patience and perseverance. It’s up to you and you alone to follow-through.  Need some motivation?

Think about …

  • The money you’ll save in moving costs.
  • The quick cash you’ll earn from sales.
  • The fact that your donations have made a difference.
  • The relief that this tedious task is finally completed.
  • The excitement in knowing your new dream home will be clean and clutter free!

One you have successfully downsized start thinking about your actual move. If you are planning to take it on yourself check out our DIY moving supplies checklist and start thinking about the supplies you might need to make it a quick and easy move.



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