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  • Writer's pictureVincent Giacalone

Are You Ready to Transition?

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

Here are 20 Tips to Help You Downsize & Get Rid of Junk.

Downsizing and getting rid of junk can be a daunting task. Whether you are settling on an estate for a loved one or moving homes, after divorce, loss or retirement, life can be stressful enough without the added hassle of figuring out what to do with so much stuff!

Whether it is overbearing clutter, a sea of paperwork, construction debris from a DIY project gone wrong, or just an overabundance of family “heirlooms” and items that need to be handed down or helped to the trash, we can ease some of that stress. Check out these 20 tips to help make the process of downsizing and transitioning to a new place a bit easier.

1. Set Goals: Start by creating a plan that outlines what needs to be done to determine the scope of your project. Consider the size of your next space to determine how much you need to declutter. For example, if you know you are downsizing from say a four bedroom down to a two bedroom, you have to plan to get rid of two bedroom’s worth of stuff, this includes mattresses, bed frames, dressers and other items. Having a general idea of how much you need to get rid of will help you estimate how much time and resources you need to devote to the project.

2. Set a Timeline & Start Early: Determine how much time you have to get the job done. Planning just a day or weekend to downsize is not practical and can easily become overwhelming. If you can, set aside a month or two, and set days that will allow you to go through the project room by room and take breaks between major efforts.

3. Break it down: Do not try to tackle everything at once; break the process down into smaller, manageable tasks. Start with some of the simpler and easier tasks to manage rooms and work your way up to the more challenging areas of the house. It is unrealistic to tackle the entire house at once, so do not even try. Having guidance in this process can be extremely helpful and just so happens to be something, The Organized Guy excels at!

4. Take a Full Inventory of Belongings: Sorting through anything can be tough. We all seem to have an issue with throwing away or donating something we spent good money on, or something that we have an emotional connection to. You will want to go through belongings considering as you look at each item, whether or not you actually need it. A good rule of thumb is that if you have not used it in the last year, chances are you can get rid of it. If you forgot you owned something, chances are you no longer need it. If you know right away you want to donate or sell something, create a list of those items or put them in a box, and donate sooner than later before you change your mind.

5. Prioritize: Make a list of all the major items that need to be sorted through and prioritize them. Focus first on the things that need to be done right away, like throwing away perishables or sorting out hazardous waste. Anything that makes the project go smoother is a good place to start. So, if you are working with a DIY hoarder, you will need to have room to work in, and removing debris or unused construction materials may be the first thing you need to do. Keep the list where everyone can see it and prepare them for what happens next as each phase and priority is completed.

6. Do not Start with Photos: Start decluttering rooms with less sentimental value. Chances are if you start with items like photos that trigger old memories, you may get swept away or sidetracked. Consider starting with say the laundry room or bathrooms instead so that the emotionality of the project does not slow you down.

7. Organize: As you go room by room, stay organized and consider making three separate piles or boxes. One box for items you want to keep, one for items to get rid of and one to put in storage. For items in the “keep” category, simply pack them up and label them for your move. For items in the “get rid of” category, you can begin considering which of those to donate, recycle, give away or throw out. Move sentimental or seasonal items into the “storage” category.

8. Watch Out for Duplicates: As you make your way through each room, be mindful if you come across multiples of an item and only keep your favorites or the items in the best condition while considering donating or getting rid of the dups.

9. Donate Items: Consider donating items to charities like Goodwill or Salvation Army. Many donation centers will provide you with a tax deduction voucher, a great incentive to give some stuff away! If you do not have time to drop off items, ask if the charity has a pickup option.

10. Sell Items: Consider selling items in good condition at an estate or yard sale. Additional places to sell items are local thrift shops, online community pages like Facebook Marketplace, ebay and OfferUp. Do not be surprised however that items will likely sell for a lot less than their purchase price. Expect some haggling, and remember your ultimate goal is to get rid of your items. For some homes and estates, an estate sale may be a good idea to handle furniture, antiques, collectibles, and other high-ticket items. In this case a qualified professional will assess your items and oversee the sale of them, taking a percentage of the sales, or a flat fee for their services. Knowing who you trust and work with is key. Your Professional Organizing Consultant can help you identify the best professional to handle your project and coordinate those efforts on your behalf. 11. Recycle / Upcycle: Many items cannot be donated or sold, but they may still have a use. Look for local recycling centers that might accept certain materials like electronics or furniture and for other on-line portals like Free-Cycle.

12. Rent a Dumpster: Renting a dumpster helps reduce stress, especially if you have a lot to declutter and know that you will be throwing away larger household items like appliances and furniture. Finding a reputable company that takes care when they drop off and pick up the dumpster takes a bit of research, or the help of an Organizing Consultant who has a vetted list of quality vendors for services such as these.

13. Pass it Down: For items with great sentimental value, consider passing them on to loved ones. Give a family heirloom as a gift. This is a simple way to keep treasured items nearby without keeping them in your new space.

Host a day with family in the home, with a method to distributing sentimental items enabling loved ones to take ownership of family memorabilia and helping you to declutter the home.

14. Take Pictures: Sometimes the things we hold onto actually serve as a visual reminder of something we do not want to forget. Consider snapping a photo of any items that are attached to positive memories before you sell or donate it. With these photos, you can create a folder on your phone to house these memories so that you can look back on them whenever you need.

15. Seek help: Downsizing is a lot easier when you have help. See if there are any friends or family members who can lend a hand and make the process go faster. Having an additional set of hands will help with any heavy lifting and of course provide moral support. But remember, that family may not always be an impartial third-party. To truly streamline the process, you will want a team member that can act in your best interest. A professional organizing consultant can do this for you, and we would be delighted to help 16. Treat Paper Clutter with Care: Sort through paper clutter and throw out or recycle anything you do not need. Store important paper files like tax returns in a plastic bin to keep them safe. Scan any other paper files you may need in the future so that you can keep a digital copy and get rid of the paper. Be sure to shred any paper with confidential information.

17. Go Digital: Not only is it a good idea to make digital files of paperwork you keep but you can also convert home movies, music and photos into digital files. This will free up a lot of space in your living room and office.

18. Measure Furniture: If you are transitioning to a new home, make sure to measure your existing furniture to make sure it will fit in your new space. Keep a notebook of dimensions of key pieces so that you can make sure the things you love will be able to be part of your new décor. Use this notebook of measurements to determine what furniture to keep or what you may need to sell, donate or throw away. Doing this ahead of time will save you time and frustration.

19. Take Breaks: Decluttering can be emotionally taxing. Be patient with the process and give yourself time to take a break, reset and reflect. You can set a timer for 30 minutes, then give yourself a 5-minute break and then get back into it. You will need a clear head to make sound decisions that will allow you to make forward progress with less stress.

20. Reward yourself: After all the hard work, give yourself something to look forward to – like a nice relaxing weekend, a movie out or dinner out with friends. You will have an immense sense of satisfaction once your project is complete, and you deserve something to look forward to after all of that hard work.

When life is in transition, downsizing, rightsizing, getting rid of junk and making sense out of chaos does not have to be overwhelming. By following these 20 tips, you can make the process simpler and ensure that everything gets done in a timely manner. With a little bit of planning and organization, you can successfully navigate any downsizing project. And when you need some help from the pros, find a professional organizing consultant you can trust, like The Organized Guy.

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