[ORIGINAL] Decluttering / Organizing Before and After Downsizing
Declutter Before DownsizingThere are so many details to manage and so many tasks to complete during a move that it may be tempting to quickly pack everything in boxes and deal with decisions on what to keep and toss later on, after the move when you are not pressed with a deadline. In reality, I’ve found that post-move decluttering takes enormous discipline and motivation and rarely gets completed. Whether you own or rent your home, every square foot of space is valuable and paid for. Therefore, if your moving timeline allows, I recommend putting in the hard work before the move to review your belongings and decide if they belong in your new home and your life.Potential Lifestyle ChangesIf downsizing reflects a lifestyle change for you, such as moving to a retirement community or splitting households due to divorce, your new home will serve you differently. When I was young and my family moved from a New York suburb to a small Hong Kong flat, we could no longer host Thanksgiving dinners because there just wasn’t enough physical space to accommodate many people. Social gatherings took place in restaurants and it didn’t make sense to keep home entertaining items such as punch bowls a...
Multi-Function SpacesIf your new home is much smaller or if you are losing rooms, the new spaces may need to do double duty and cover multiple activities. For example, will your dining table also serve as your office desk? Or will your bedroom also include an exercise spot? If so, consider if there are any duplicates you may be able to eliminate from combining rooms. If you will only have one living room instead of a living room and a family room, you may be able to reduce some pillows, throws, and artwork in addition to the more obvious furniture, like couches and chairs.
Home-Specific DecorSometimes, decor and holiday decorations can be very home-specific. What worked in your old home may not work in your new home. If you have much less wall space, your artwork and wall decor may not all fit. If you are losing any outdoor space, you can perhaps pass along your outdoor decorations to a neighbor who will appreciate it. If you have beloved framed photos that you don’t want to dispose of but don’t have the space to display, consider removing and saving the photo only and donating the frame.Remove Unwanted Items Before MovingI recommend removing all items marked for donation, recycling, or trash promptly and before moving day. This will eliminate any confusion about what you are keeping and minimize any mistakes of accidentally moving unwanted items to your new home. It may also be helpful to schedule several donation pick ups, so you can remove items in stages. If your timeline is limited, consider donating to one organization that will take a variety of items instead of splitting up donations to several specialized organizations that only take limited items. Return all items that belong to others.
Consider Outsourcing Tasks If Necessary Downsizing and moving requires a lot of energy. If your timeline is very short and if it is within your means, it may be worth outsourcing tasks. Professional Organizers can guide you through the decluttering process, pack for moving, unpack and organize your new home, space plan for efficiency, create a functional storage system, and arrange for disposals appropriately. Movers and freelance labor can provide the muscle to move your items quickly so you can spend your time and energy setting up your new home instead.
Use of Storage UnitsFor most people, decluttering is time consuming, mentally exhausting, and not enjoyable! So it’s very easy to put it off and face at another time. Only, that time sometimes never comes. I generally discourage keeping long-term storage units for housing items that need to be reviewed. In my experience with clients, many “I’ll-look-at-them-later” boxes kept in storage units contain items that are ultimately unwanted. Consider the cost you may be paying to store potentially unwanted items. But of course, there may be situations where renting a storage unit may be the best option, when you are unable to review and edit your belongings at that time.On the other hand, I do understand when longer term storage units may be necessary, in cases such as temporary downsizing due to home construction/remodeling or when the storage unit is used as an addition to a small home with inadequate storage. If the latter is your case, consider organizing your storage unit so it is truly a working, active extension of your home. Shelving units that allow easy access to boxes - as opposed to stacking boxes - make retrieving and putting away things relatively effortless. If your storage...
Occasional Use - If space is limited in your home, review which items are truly daily use and which items don’t need to occupy prime space. For example, items used solely for planned entertaining, such as tablecloths, napkins, serving bowls and platters, can perhaps be packed in storage, along with excess dinnerware and flatware. Likewise, suitcases and travel accessories can take up valuable space and may be better kept in storage if you don’t travel too often. Keep these types of items within easy access in the storage unit for when you need them.Annual Items - Holiday decorations, seasonal clothing, seasonal sports equipment, and other items that will be used for only a small portion of the year can be stored away and taken out as needed to free up space in your home. Think beyond the obvious holiday items and consider how often you need to use other household things such as guest bedding, camping equipment, portable heaters/fans, and vacation-only items, and whether it may make sense to keep some of these items in storage.Deep storage - You may have some items, such as sentimental t-shirts, childhood and school mementos, photos, wedding keepsakes, archived files and documents, ...
Organize Your Downsized SpaceOne of the main keys to staying organized, regardless of the size of your space, is to have a system where every item has a home and items go home after use. Spend some time evaluating how you use your space and your belongings and keep these guidelines in mind when deciding where to place things: Keep Categories TogetherOrganizing your items in categories makes sense and may make locating what you need easier. However, be sure you are categorizing correctly. Think more about how you use your belongings and less about what the actual item is. You may want to store all your drinking glasses together in your kitchen cabinets. But if you have twenty glasses and only regularly use no more than eight, and keep the rest for parties, then perhaps twelve of those glasses can be stored with your entertaining supplies, freeing up space in your main cabinets.
Locate Frequently Used Items Within Easy Access Prime space is space that is easy to reach and allows quick access to your belongings. This usually means you don’t have to climb step stools or move things to reach this space. Prioritize what you use most frequently and be sure to reserve prime space for these items. Easily, your daily dinnerware and drinkware deserve prime space. But perhaps your coffee bean grinder that you use everyday can also take a spot conveniently in the front whereas your less used water pitcher can take a backseat. The priority list will differ for everyone so decide what yours is. You can also switch out what occupies your prime space seasonally if that makes sense for you.
Make It Easy To Put Things AwayA system only works if it is actually being used. In the case of keeping organized, success occurs when you are able to maintain your space by putting things back where they belong. When thinking about storage, consider what it will take to create an easy return system. This may include using open baskets where you can simply toss things inside or making sure you don’t store an often used kitchen appliance in the back of a crowded corner cabinet.For some, seeing empty space feels like an invitation to fill it. I recommend leaving some literal wiggle room and not packing your spaces, if possible. It’s much harder and more discouraging to put things away when you have to squeeze them into tight spaces. If you have to push your socks or shirts down to close your dresser drawer, then you may know what I mean.
Create A FlowFinally, try to create a flow when deciding where to situate your belongings. This goes beyond keeping categories together and thinking more about the big picture. I don’t keep my sunglasses and knit hat with my accessories and I don’t keep my wrist weights with my workout equipment. Instead, I put these items in my entryway cabinet as I always use these items during walks, and the entryway cabinet nicely corrals all these items for me to grab and go on my way out.