One of my most popular workshop topics is downsizing. People want help with where to start and how to progress through the difficult task of letting go. They’re looking for guidance on how to make decisions about sentimental items and all the other things that have been accumulating in their homes. They’re hoping to get rid of stuff so their children won’t have to deal with it all. Therefore, I’ve devised a 7 Step Downsizing Action Plan that I share and discuss in my workshops. Here it is.
Step 1 – Prepare
Get ready for the transition by taking a close look at your options and where you are headed. Psych yourself up to make decisions about your next home and material possessions. Share the news with everyone and ask for help from family and friends, or seek professional assistance.
Step 2 – Write it down
Plan to work 8 hours for every year you’ve lived in your current home. Schedule 2 or 3 hours at a time and work for 20 minutes followed by a 5 minute break.
Step 3 – Get started
If you have a far off deadline (more than 8 months), start by removing items that you don’t want, use, or need. These items will include things that have been stored for others, unfinished fix-it projects, old hobbies, duplicate items, surplus stuff, items of which there are excessive quantity, broken things, expired items, outdated stuff, and damaged goods.
If you have a near deadline, divide items into 6 different categories and tag them. (I use colored painter’s tape to tag items.) The 6 categories are keep, recycle, toss, donate, give or return, and sell.
Step 4 – Reduce
Set limits by taping off cabinets, closets, storage areas, and rooms in your current home that won’t be available in your new home. Work to empty those areas of their contents.
Ask “W” Questions to help you make decisions:
Who? Who will use and maintain this item? Who gave it to you and is that relevant?
What? What purpose does this item serve? What would the giver tell you to do?
Where? Where do you want to make room for this item?
When? When is this item used, appreciated, viewed, treasured? When is it maintained?
Why? Why would you need this item in our new home? Why are you holding onto it?
Step 5 – Address Sentimental Items
Consider the cost of clinging to sentimental items. It takes a lot of money to pack, move, ship, insure, store, and maintain our belongings. Concentrate on keeping the memories, but not the stuff, by preserving them with words and photos. Do this with digital scrapbooks, videos, and a gratitude journal. Instead of having them gather dust in the attic, treasure them by highlighting the best and letting go of the rest. Re-purposing them or use them in a different way so they sever a current need or look for a way that items can bring joy to others.
Step 6 – Establish Exit Strategy
An exit strategy is physically removing stuff by giving, donating, selling, or recycling what you no longer want, need, or use.
Give options: Ask people you know if they want what you’re discarding. Ask family, friends, neighbors, club members, church members, past co-workers, and others. Put items on the curb with a free sign. Use Freecycle or Buy Nothing.
Donation options: Give to charities, non-profits, religious organizations, Boy/Girl Scouts, senior centers, schools, camps, day-cares, shelters, libraries, theater groups, historical societies, and food banks.
Selling options: Look into antique dealers, auctions, estate sales, consignment shops, on-line sites, newspapers, garage sales, estate liquidation.
Removal Companies: Consider junk trucks, dumpsters, all-in-one clean out, complete house clean out companies.
Step 7 – Thrive in Smaller Space with Less Stuff
Here are a few tips for creating and maintaining order in smaller spaces. I hope they help you enjoy your new downsized, simplified lifestyle.
©April 2018 Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer All Rights Reserved