Recently I find myself working with Clients who are downsizing. Some are going from 3000 or so square feet to less than 1000, and from a single family dwelling to a condo. This is obviously a huge difference in space and there are lots of decisions to be made regarding what to take into the new space. Managing this level of downsizing can be tricky so I think it’s worthwhile to take a deep dive into this. While it might seem daunting, it’s not as hard as you may think. As I said often while teaching yoga: “our minds make things seem more difficult than they really are”. After all, this is the perfect opportunity to take stock of what you own and make a fresh start at your new home! Get excited!
There are countless articles, books and videos on how to declutter. Put on your favourite upbeat music and do one room at a time. Yes - do one room at a time. Make 3 piles: Keep, Donate, Throw Away. At this stage in the process, the Keep pile can include things that you will keep but possibly place into storage. The Donate pile should contain items in good condition but that you no longer need or want. The Throw Away pile is garbage, but please divert as much as possible to recycling.
After your move is not the time to declutter! The time to declutter is now, prior to your move. As you do each room, decide if these items belong in your new home and ultimately in your life. That said, if you really can’t decide whether to keep something or not, put it into the keep pile. When it is time to pack, you can decide whether it is an item you are keeping, and assess whether it is a daily use item, or should be placed into short or longer term storage. By then you will be feeling a little differently about it all, I assure you.
Your New Space
Exactly how big is your new space? Get ruthlessly realistic regarding what furniture you will have room for. Smaller spaces require smaller furniture, otherwise the space will feel crowded. Smaller furniture is easier to move in order to create multifunctional spaces. If you will not have an extra bedroom, consider purchasing a fold out couch or convertible sofa (these have come a long way since those ones with the bar in the middle!) for your living area or multi-purpose space. Maybe you love your existing furniture but you are not positive it will fit your new space? One way to determine this is to measure your furniture, get graph paper and make ‘to-scale’ paper cutouts of your furniture. Print out a copy of the floor plan for your new space, and play around with your cutout paper furniture. Take note of how much space you require around your furniture. If it doesn’t work on paper, it’s really not going to work! If it’s not going to work, no matter how much wishful thinking you do, it’s not going to fit. So sell it online or donate it, whatever works best for you.
How many sets of spare sheets, pillows and linens do you need? Take a good look at what is in your closets (treat every closet like a room). I invite you to be decisive in this process, and if that’s hard for you, invite that no-nonsense organized friend over to help you with this part.
If you are like me, most of your art is sacred and has meaning to you. It can be extremely hard to part with Art! Art is a special category and you may need to take more time with it. Here are my thoughts on this. Room by room, go through your art. Do you absolutely love it, inside out, bones to skin? Then keep it! If there is no room for it in your new place, get a quality picture box or container for it, label it and put it into the Keep pile. Your move is not the time to make decisions around matters of the heart (which is what art usually is). Moving can be a very stressful time. Your art is not a couch or a pillow, and is usually more meaningful than other household goods. When you get to your new home, and you see the wall space you have, you can decide what works best. Do you like it but are not that attached? Give it to a friend or family member who has always admired it. Many people do not have the funds to purchase art so donate it and feel good about that.
Finish Each Room and Take Action
When you finish a room, take all the items that you are donating, recycling or throwing away and do just that. Take action! Put the stuff into your vehicle, call the person who wants it, take it to the trash, whatever. Do not let it accumulate in the rooms! Do not put it off until later. No sir - do it right away before you move on to the next room. You say you will take it all to the donation place at the same time? Well that depends on how much there is. You may just be creating a monster sized issue. Taking action room by room will allow you to see your progress and this will motivate you to keep going until every single room is done. This will totally simplify your move day. Large donations or items to be sold will need to be dealt with ahead of time. Take action on the large things right away. Imagine not being able to get rid of a couch or bed or something large on moving day and the stress that will cause. And you certainly can’t leave things behind either. So remember, one room at a time.
Book Your Mover
The minute you know what your move-in date is, pick up the phone and book your mover. Do not hesitate! If you do not have the funds for a mover, organize your support people and have them mark your move date on their calendar. If you are booking professional movers, get on the phone, talk to a person and have them send you an email to confirm everything in writing. If you have it in your budget, consider hiring someone to help you organize and declutter, especially if you are short on time. I can not stress enough that this declutter process takes more time than you will estimate. Professionals who do this for a living can take care of the details that you do not have time for such as drop off and pick up of donations or selling items for you. Professional organizers can also help you create functional storage systems for your new home and bring fresh perspective based on their experience.
Paying for a Storage Unit
Unless you are extremely pressed for time, do everything you can do to avoid renting a storage unit. Consider how much this is going to cost! Do you really need to keep this stuff? Do you just need a couple of months to go through things? Perhaps you have a family member or good friend who has a little extra space you could borrow for a short period of time? In my experience, most of us need a deadline to actually get things done. Storage Companies would prefer you to have no deadline so that you pay them forever! But your friend or family member will hold you accountable and that deadline will motivate you to get it dealt with.That said, it’s ok if you have to put some things into temporary storage while you renovate, or finish building a home and that’s not what we are talking about here - remember this is about downsizing! Whatever you decide to store, make sure it is packed well and clearly labeled as to what it is and what room it came from. Make a master list of where everything is and keep a copy of this on your computer and a paper copy in your home (tape it to the back of a closet or cupboard door). Here are some categories to make this process a little easier:
Seasonal Use or Guest Use Items:
Things that you use for Christmas or Thanksgiving, and things that you use only for entertaining such as larger serving dishes and glassware, do not need to be readily available. Things items should be clearly marked and stored in a storage closet or similar space, or if absolutely necessary, a storage unit. This includes items such as luggage. Heavy blankets and extra pillows can be placed in vacuum bags to significantly decrease the space they require. Holiday decorations and seasonal clothing can also be stored. Summer toys, camping equipment and other seasonal items should all have a designated place. Keep a master list of exactly where these items are in your storage areas. This will make your life easier and significantly reduce the possibility of you purchasing duplicate items because you either can’t find things or forgot you already have them! If you create this list in a program like Word or GoogleDocs, you will be able to 'search' for the items on the list.
Longer Term Storage Items:
Some of your items may be very dear to you, but you don’t tend to look at them often. Items such as keepsakes from ceremonies, creations that your loved ones made when they were children, sentimental items that others gave you which you intend to pass down to you loved ones, baby clothes that you just can’t let go of! You know what I mean. Invest in some tupperware type solid containers that are moisture and pest resistant and place these treasures into a longer term storage area. Don’t forget to mark down their location on your master list.
Organize Your New Space
One of the most important tips to being organized is to have a place for every type of item in your home. “A place for everything and everything in its place” (you’ve heard that one). What items do you use daily? Take some time to determine how you use your things and when. Then create areas and spaces for them that are easy reach and fit your personality. Go online and get ideas by searching “by image” on google or on sites such as Pinterest. Have fun and get creative, because you are going to feel great when it’s done.
Be realistic about what you need:
How many cups, plates, glasses, bowls, etc do you need on a daily basis? Consider keeping only what you need daily within easy reach. If you have 2 x 8 place table settings but usually only entertain once or twice a month, place the extras in a closet or storage space in your home. Again remember to write down where these extra items are in your home and categorize everything according to room. Do you love to bake? Then by all means keep your baking tools and accessories handy. Do you bake twice a year?! Then place these items in a box, label it, and add its location to your master list. There you go, you have freed up space in your kitchen.
How many pairs of socks do you need? Do you know how to fold things and store them in a way that creates a little extra space? There are vacuum bags for bulky clothing items such as sweaters, but there is also just plain having too much stuff. Consider laying out all of your clothes and keeping only items that you feel really good wearing. It’s easier than you think! Put it on and see how you feel. Why do you keep those 5 shirts that you haven’t worn in 3 years? I don’t know either.
Ease of retrieval and return:
Keep items that you use daily in a place that is easy to access for ease of retrieval and return and close to the area that you use them in. I live close to the ocean and when I go for walks from Oct through to May I usually wear a toque. I keep my toques in a drawer beside the door. I have my reusable grocery bags there as well so they are easy to grab and easy to put away after. I also keep my shoe shine accessoriesand my link brush there for easy access. What do you use on a daily basis? Write it down and decide where each of these items should live. You will be organizing and simplifying your life at the same time.
I will leave you with this quote by Bruce Lee: "Simplicity is the key to brilliance."
Take care and best wishes, from my home to yours.