Downsizing comes in many shapes and forms. For some, clutter accumulates in common spots such as the garage or guest bedroom. Sometimes personal transitions require a lifestyle change.
“There are lots of reasons to downsize,” said Kammie Lisenby, owner of The Organizing Experts, which provides professional help managing personal and professional spaces in Snohomish and King counties.
“At some point, we all experience transitions. It’s the cycle of life. The healthy thing is to also cycle through some of your belongings.”
Lisenby encounters many needs: senior citizens needing less space; families moving to smaller, more affordable homes; or health diagnoses that demand better household management.
Life’s constant busyness — careers, working parents, frequent travel — also requires efficient organization.
“Your environment should be a reflection that uplifts you and becomes a place you want to be,” Lisenby said.
For do-it-yourself downsizing, the following tips will help clear the clutter.
Downsize or organize?
Evaluate whether an area contains too many things or too little organization. “Some people don’t actually have too much, but they don’t have a system so it ultimately becomes clutter,” Lisenby said.
For example, a home office might appear unmanageable thanks to boxes piled everywhere. However, a filing cabinet might be all you need to save space and important documents without discarding a thing.
Know your space
If you’re moving into a smaller home, measure the new space to establish how much you can realistically accommodate. Identify must-have items — bed, kitchen table — and how much room they require.
Work backward to determine what “extra” space remains for non-essentials. An actual floor plan can visually ensure you’re not cramming in too much.
Box by box
Downsizing can be daunting. “Do one box at a time,” Lisenby said. “Select one box or area and complete it from start to finish. Everything you touch ends up having a home or purpose. That way you’re not overwhelmed with all things at once.”
Set a realistic goal to finish each individual project but don’t let your progress lag. Lisenby recommends a box-a-day approach.
To stay or go
To get the job done, don’t leave loopholes. “We only give two options: Keep it or donate it. There is no ‘maybe’ pile,” Lisenby said.
If you’re investing the time, commit to decisions as you go. A “maybe” pile only creates work for later. “Keep it because you love it and have a home for it,” she said.
Some people find it helpful to start in more utilitarian areas. The kitchen or bathroom generally don’t house as many sentimental items.
Finding new homes
Downsizing is an opportunity to help yourself and others. An item you may not need can still be valuable to others.
“We donate some clothing to organizations like Dress for Success (which provides professional attire to women in need). We also support Goodwill because they accept most donations, and it helps create jobs for others,” Lisenby said.
Other options include selling items at local consignment stores or on eBay. Recycle as much of the remainder as possible before resorting to the garbage.
Dollars and sense
Whether life demands downsizing or you just want more elbow room, the end result is financially smart.
“The cost of clutter is so expensive,” Lisenby said. “Once you downsize your belongings and figure out exactly what you have, it cuts back on multiple purchases.
“Also, it often means people don’t have to pay for a storage unit, she said.
From a real estate standpoint, it additionally ensures better use of the space you pay for.