Making a Dent in Home Downsizing

Thinking about home downsizing, a move or remodel? This is your jump-start guide. The process can be exciting, rewarding and a lot less stressful when you have a vision and a good plan of action.

Visualize First

One day you’ll be relaxing with your favorite things around you and something will click like: “I got my time back!” What are the top things you want to happen as a result of downsizing? Write ‘em down. Work with a floor plan and mentally re-arrange the furniture. Snip photos of cool interiors, hobbies, family, sports, any images or words that express your goals. Revisit these pages often.

Decide what kind of experience you want to have while downsizing. Starting early and making it a priority are two ways to reduce stress and possibly enjoy home downsizing. “Early and often” can also help you reduce costs and the temptation to unload things in a hurry at the last hour. If your goal is to get more organized during the process, give yourself kudos for every effort, and consider that organizing is more about progress than perfection.

Start an organizing binder. Make tabs for motivation, design, to-do lists, donations, gifts, sales, receipts, contacts and contracts.

Downsizing is an investment. You will put in time, emotion, mental and physical energy. There are financial payoffs too: a decluttered home is one of the top 5 ways get a better market price (Consumer Reports, 2015). The cost of storing that clutter might not make sense for items that are no longer used.

Calming the Chaos of Clutter

Supplies and Tagging – Jumbo clear bags for donations and recycle, black bags for trash. If you are ready to pack in some areas, have boxes, tape and packing paper. A simple tagging system to start with is just 3 colors for: keep / let go / undecided.  How things go away can be decided later. Undecided items? Make a list or take photos and consider them when you have time to relax and think about the big picture.

Work by categories. Making decisions by category (not by room) is more thorough and allows you to make better decisions. Spaces stay tidier as you go. Begin with easily replaceable items – clothing and kitchenware, books or toys. These are items that would be easiest to replace if you had to, and the practice of sorting and purging here will make it easier as you get around to more personal items. The KonMari Sequence: clothes, books, papers, miscellany (everything else) then mementos, it works!

Sorting – Pull ALL of one category together, literally place it on a table or on the floor. Don’t agonize over what to get rid of, focus on what to keep and where it will go. Let go of multiples. Avoid mental mazes like “I might need it someday, I can fix that or my grandchildren might want it someday”.

PaperworkHave a system for preserving important documents and deciding what to purge or preserve electronically. Create a package of essential documents you might need to have handy while the rest of your stuff is in transit.

Memorabilia. Be crystal clear whether something is in the utility or memorabilia category. If its memorabilia and décor, call it/use it/store it with décor. If it’s both memorabilia and a tool, store it with tools. Decide how much room you have for memorabilia, how and where it will be stored. Saying goodbye to mementos can be easier if you take photos and make a hard-bound memory book that’s easy to enjoy and share.

Hazardous Waste. Paint, batteries, chemicals and some cleaning products require special disposal.  California Law and DTSC govern who and how to handle these items. See link below for more information.

Getting Value out of Vintage Stuff

Want to know what things are worth? Start with Ebay sold data. Antiques, art, jewelry and collectibles benefit from consulting a local auction house. Estate liquidators are very knowledgeable, so consult with 2 or more before you accept offers. Everyone who handles your home downsizing items is working for a percentage of its market value, and someone gets to cover the cost of moving and marketing them. Online tools like OfferUp andLetGo are great for some items, while Chairish and theRealReal focus on very current designer brands. Remoov is a Bay Area company that can haul it all and market your sellable items via their online store, TheLocalFlea. Estate sales can be effective after all your personal items are cleared out.

What’s not selling? Don’t be surprised if you get no offers for large furniture. Bulky, heavy items are even being refused by donation stations in some locations.  If you can use donated values as a tax deduction, that can be the simplest and fastest way to get value out of items not picked up by dealers.

What do you want to leave for your kids?  Your grown children probably have a house full of furnishings and more, or they are minimalists and really don’t want the task of sorting through old paper and other collections. Use your organizing binder to list the things you think they will want, and find some time to go over it with them.

Lean on Local Professionals. Your Realtor, Stager, Organizer and Move Manager, Estate Liquidator or Moving Company can make home downsizing more expedient, profitable and satisfying. You can probably learn to do any of these tasks well, but why go through each learning curve, and who has the time?

As professional organizers we can help you with planning, sorting and home downsizing decisions about the best path for items you are no longer using. We help get memorabilia archived so that you can enjoy it, and heirlooms shipped to their new homes. Space and Time Organized can pack, unpack, hang pictures, make thoughtful use of storage areas and re-create the functionality of the rooms you had before.