Downsizing offers a wonderful opportunity to reinvent yourself and create an exciting new life. Part of the process of downsizing from the family home is sorting through the possessions of decades and deciding what to take with you.
The process of decluttering may seem overwhelming and challenging, so take it easy, and take it room by room.
There are advantages to starting the process as soon as you decide that you will move house. That way, sorting and decluttering becomes part of this stage of life, not an emotional and overwhelming task to be rushed.
An early start gives you time to find people who may welcome the items you no longer want.
Put the word out among friends and acquaintances who would know of young people setting up their first home, or people who may be interested in your cookbooks or workshop tools. Or you may want to use a online platform such as Gumtree or Ebay which allows you to promote goods which are for sale or free.
Often, it can be surprisingly hard to get rid of goods even if they are in excellent condition, so another reason to start early.
Single beds and older televisions, for example, can be difficult to sell or give away.
Leave it all too late and you may find yourself sending items off to landfill simply because you don’t have time to do anything else.
The last thing you want to do is take stuff to your new home with the idea of dealing with it there. That’s just taking the problem with you.
Decluttering beforehand gives you the pleasure of moving in and setting up home easily and efficiently.
Plan to make it easy
As soon as you can, get a floor plan of your new home and make sure that it shows cupboards and storage spaces. This will help you decide what to take.
Make a plan and arm yourself with three boxes, a bin bag and post-it notes to stick on larger items.
Create five categories. The most beloved and meaningful items, as well as those you will be using, will definitely be going with you, so mark one of the boxes “keep”.
Some you are not sure about, so you can come back to them. Mark that box “maybe”. Some you will want to give away or sell. That’s the “give away” box. Recycling has its own box and the things that go in the bin bag will be discarded.
Be very strict with the “maybe” box, or it will end up like any “miscellaneous” category – full to overflowing with unmade decisions.
Involve the family if possible. They will most likely want to keep certain items and can probably help you decide about other things. There may be other people who you think would like certain items. Make a list.
It may be a good idea to start the decluttering adventure with a cupboard you’ve been meaning to clean out anyway. That way, you get a positive introduction to the task and the warm glow of achievement.
Tactics for success
With documents and paperwork, there will be things that must be kept in their hardcopy form, such as deeds, birth certificates, contracts etc, but a lot of paperwork that you are holding on to can be scanned, or photographed with your phone, and stored digitally.
Check with your accountant to see what must be kept.
Remember, this is the opportunity to reinvent aspects of your life and your home.
If you have never liked a piece of furniture, but held on to it because it was practical or “good enough”, then this is the time to kick it to the kerb and replace it with something you really enjoy.
Apply the same principle to clothes, kitchenware, china and cutlery, linen – to everything as you go along.
Downsizing instead of throwing out is another strategy that will increase the available space in your new home.
If, for example, you do craft then maybe the materials could be contained in a smaller, but more well-organised and appropriate, container.
If you have a collection of DVDs, it’s the cases that take up space.
Small books of plastic sleeves, available from office supply stores, are the perfect size here. Remove the title paper and the DVD and slip them into the plastic envelope.
One book holds at least 50 DVDs.
There is also the standard rule of decluttering: If you haven’t worn or used something for a year, then you don’t need it.
If it all becomes too daunting, call in the experts. Budget for around $75 an hour plus travel and allow at least three hours for the consultation.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
If you can’t bear to part with something, then you can’t and that is all there is to it.
If you come across items that you really won’t use again, but want to remember, photograph them. That way, you still have the memory forever.
Comments from our CEO
Downsizing.com.au CEO Amanda Graham said decluttering was one of the less recognised benefits of downsizing.
“While we often talk about the financial or lifestyle benefits of downsizing, decluttering is another clear benefit,” Ms Graham said.
“By the time most people are considering downsizing, they have amassed a large amount of household goods, many of which are no longer being regularly used, and a clean out is usually well overdue.”
“These goods are often just getting in the way of efficient living and sometimes even present a trip or safety hazard around the home.
“Downsizing is an important catalyst to get people moving on a decluttering process which may not have otherwise happened.
“In addition to the practical benefits, there are also some major and unanticipated psychological benefits from decluttering. Importantly it can offer a sense of achievement and freedom to move forward into this next exciting stage of life”.
Find out more:
For a deeper dive into downsizing tips, try Downsizing in Australia: important tips to help your move
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