There’s no time like the present to start decluttering and downsizing for a future move. Even if you know you’re a few years away from putting your home up for sale, getting ahead on consolidating your belongings can pay off in time and energy when it’s finally time to start packing. Here are six tips to help you get started on your downsizing project:
1. Create a Timeline and Stick to it
Sticking to a timeline is usually much easier if you already have an idea of when you plan to move. However, even if you’re years away from finalizing any sort of move, that doesn’t mean you need to wait to get started. Instead, take a look at your calendar and decide on when you’d like to kick off your cleanup project. Winter, for example, is a great season to start thinking of these things since most folks spend more time indoors—and decluttering can be a great project to pass the time. Once you know when you want to get to work, create a reasonable timeframe for your project, keeping in mind that it could take several months.
2. Tackle Unused Space First
When you’re just getting started, you may already have a few pieces in mind that you’re ready or eager to get rid of, like old sweaters boxed up in a coat closet or kitchen gadgets gathering dust in the pantry. While this can be a great way to clear up some space in the short-term, this approach can be harder to keep up with over time. A more organized system is often easier in the long-term—try decluttering room-by-room, starting with a room or space you don’t use as often. It’s not uncommon for guest bedrooms, home offices, basements and similar spaces to start piling up with excess junk. And since you’re there less often, it can be easier to get rid of the items you find, knowing you probably don’t use them on a day-to-day basis.
3. Get Big Furniture Out of the Way Early
Moving large pieces of furniture out of the way will give you more floor space to start sorting through smaller items. Many large items take up unnecessary floor space and, since they’re much heavier, it can be very expensive to haul these things between homes. If you aren’t accounting for how much space you really have in your next house or apartment, you may end up needing to rent a storage unit for some time. Take an inventory of furniture items, then decide if it’s an important piece you need to take with you, like a bedframe, or if it’s just taking up too much space, like an entertainment center. Once you’ve chosen your essential items, grab a tape measure and make note of the dimensions so you can confirm whether it will fit.
4. Sort Into ‘Yes’ or ‘No’—There is No ‘Maybe’
As you’re sorting your belongings, try to create definitive “yes” and “no” piles. Everything in your “yes” pile is what you’ll take with you when you relocate, while the items in your “no” pile will definitely be left behind. As you go through things, it can seem convenient to create a “maybe” pile of things you need to think a little harder about. When this pile gets too big, however, you may find yourself doing double the work to get through all your belongings. If it seems difficult to know now what you’ll need in your new home, consider how often you truly use the item, whether you’ll be able to store it in your home without taking up too much space, and whether your loved ones would also appreciate it as a legacy gift. If you’re having trouble justifying the item in any of those three ways, it may be a good candidate for the “no” pile.
5. Donate as Much as You Can
Many people start out with all the right intentions to take their old belongings to a donation center, but it can be cumbersome after a few weeks when your “donation” pile is accumulating fast. Especially when the convenient dumpster is just a few feet away… But, try to avoid sending all items directly to a landfill, especially if they’re in fair or good condition. For belongings in a less-decent state, try to recycle as much as possible. Broken electronics, for example, often have special recycling requirements—but you can often drop these items off at an electronics store, which will make sure the item is handled properly. For more information about recycling and going green, check out our blog on environmentalism in your senior years.
6. Consider Giving Legacy Gifts Now
Do you already know what your loved ones hope to inherit one day? If so, downsizing can be a fun and meaningful experience for your entire family as you start to give your legacy gifts now. For those who don’t yet know what their family members may want one day, this can be a great way to start the conversation—you may even be surprised by their answers. While packing up your house can be an emotional time, involving family members can make it more interesting.
Downsizing can bring up a lot of unexpected emotions, especially if you’re parting with things you feel particularly attached to. However, getting started early gives you time to pace yourself throughout the project and give your loved ones more opportunity to lend a helping hand.