Downsizing & Rightsizing Organizing & Decluttering Quality Home Staging Simple Home Living

15 Tips to Help You Declutter & Downsize – Plus Free Decluttering Checklist

Choosing to live a more simple life with less distractions, less to take care of and more time and energy to focus on yourself can be an exciting endeavour. Downsizing is becoming increasingly popular for various reasons, whether it be financial, environmental, situational, or just a pull towards wanting a simpler life and more freedom, but what do you do with all of your stuff? At first glance it can feel overwhelming having a lifetime of belongings to sift through, but there are some tips and tricks to make it a smoother process.

1.Mindset is key
Know that you have the power over your stuff. You chose to keep it, and you can also choose to get rid of it when it no longer serves you. There can be many emotions that come up when purging your belongings, fear tends to be a big one. The fear of missing something when it’s gone, the fear of a loved one realizing that you didn’t keep their gift (that you never really liked anyway!), the fear of needing something in the future that you got rid of. Try re-framing these thoughts into ones that give you back your power, “I am choosing to let this go, if I ever need it in the future I can buy a new one” or “I am choosing to pass this on because I will still have the memories even when the item is gone”. Think of it as being the curator of only the best, most useful and important items in your life that bring you joy.

2.Start decluttering BEFORE you are even sure you are going to downsize
Even if you decide to never move to a smaller home, do you really want your loved ones to have to deal with all of the belongings you currently have? We all have things tucked away that we don’t need, now is as good a time as any to start going through it. I have a decluttering checklist free download at the bottom of this post, outlining items to declutter room by room, it is a great way to get you started.

3.Be strategic about who you ask to help you
Your lovely friend that always agrees with what you say is not the person you want by your side while you are ruthlessly purging your belongings. You also don’t want the friend that you get distracted and sidetracked with. It can really be a mood booster having someone by your side for a task like this, just make sure it is someone who is positive but also practical, realistic and objective who will help you stay on task.

4.Break larger tasks down into smaller tasks
If it is feeling like a lot, just take little bites of your decluttering to-do list. For example, rather than purging the whole kitchen today, maybe you just do the glass cupboard and cutlery drawer. The satisfaction of completing smaller tasks will snowball and give you the momentum to keep going.

5.Empty, sort into piles, then deal with the piles
This is the tried tested and true way of decluttering any space. Label 4 boxes, bags or just spots on the floor with “keep”, “trash”, “donate” and “keep but belongs elsewhere”. You can add a 5th “sell” pile as well if you’d like. Then, take everything out, don’t assume you know what is in there, you need to physically take it out to see what you are dealing with. After you are done sorting items from one room or area, complete the task and deal with the piles right away. Put the donate items directly in the car, trash in the garbage, etc.

6.Tackle one area at a time
Once you start on one area, finish decluttering that area before moving on. It is too easy to stray off task and get distracted in other rooms and never really finish one spot before you start on another. This tends to happen when you find something that belongs in another room, you go to put it away then you start going through things in there too! This is the reason for the “keep but belongs elsewhere” pile mentioned above. Only put the items in that pile away once you are finished decluttering the area you’re in.

7.Take breaks
Purging your belongings is a process that requires a great amount of mental energy. You are making a lot of decisions about a lot of things in a short period of time. Your brain needs breaks and snacks to keep up with the task. If you are having that feeling of hitting a wall and unable to make a decision on an item then you know it is time for a break.

8.Decide ahead of time how you want to donate items
If it matters to you where you donate your items, I suggest you do your research before you start decluttering. Things to find out are: what types of items they take, what they do with them, who they work with, what their business model is, do they profit off your donations or are they given to those in need etc. Some charities will come and pick your donations up but you need to call and schedule them, other places you’ll need to drop off. Another option is to post free items on your local upcycling or freecyle social media pages or post on your social media to friends and family. This is a good choice if you really want to take the care to make sure your items are going to someone that will use them rather than ending up in a landfill.

9.Plan an enjoyable experience to look forward to at the end of the day
When you are deep into this project you still need to make sure you take care of your mental health. Having a glass of wine and a good book, dinner with friends, or a recording of your favorite show to relax with at the end of the day will be exactly what you need.

10.Remember your “why”
What is your motivation that started you on this decluttering journey? Keep reminding yourself of why you are doing this and how it will feel when it is done. Use visualization to imagine yourself living a simplified life where you can focus on things you love doing instead of spending time managing all this stuff.

11.Create a memory box
You are allowed to keep things! If you have sentimental items that you are finding difficult to let go of then maybe a memory box is a good solution. Make sure it is a sturdy bin to keep these items safe from water damage. The only caveat is to keep your items within the confines of the bin, if they are spilling out and the lid can’t be closed then you might need to re-examine what you deemed worthy of the memory box.

12.Don’t rely on a storage unit whenever possible
It happens so often, the decision of what to do with the stuff is too hard to make so it ends up in a storage unit, just for a little bit. Well, when something is hard we tend to avoid it, so it sits and sits and sits and before you know it years have passed by. Not to mention the financial output. Often it starts out as a good deal but contracts end and fees increase and you end up paying way more than you intended. Things also deteriorate over time, whether in your home or a storage unit, don’t be thinking it’s sitting in there being preserved. If you don’t want to deal with it now then you won’t want to deal with it later, so just sort it out now.

13.Measure your new space before making decisions on furniture
This one is important when deciding what furniture to keep. Often furniture will seem larger or smaller than it actually is in different spaces, so you need to pull the measuring tape out to know for sure. You don’t want to be paying movers to move furniture that won’t fit in your new place.

14.Give yourself grace
Downsizing can be quite the process if you have accumulated a lot of items throughout your life. Remember that it took you a lifetime to accumulate and it will also take a good amount of time to sort through. If your purging doesn’t go as well or as fast as planned, that’s ok. It’s more important that you take the time as you need to move through this and go at a pace that feels manageable.

15.Some great reads for you to enjoy if you are on a decluttering or downsizing journey:

  • Making Space Clutter Free – Tracy Mccubbin
  • Make Space for Happiness – Tracy Mccubbin
  • Real Life Organizing: Clean and Clutter-free in 15 minutes a day – Cassandra Aarssen
  • The Life-Changing magic of Tidying up – Marie Kondo
  • Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up – Marie Kondo

The Harmonious Home, Professional Organizing, decluttering and Occupied Home Staging in St.Albert, AB, Canada