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Downsizing Your Home

Jun 7, 2021

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Downsizing Your Home? Here's How To Sort Through Clutter

Moving to a smaller home after the last child graduates and moves out has always been a popular choice for older generations. But downsizing isn't just for empty nesters anymore.

 

Young and active individuals are shunning the maintenance involved with larger properties, while others are willing to live in smaller spaces in order to reduce their carbon footprint.

 

Cultural shifts caused by COVID-19 could accelerate the downsizing trend even more among seniors as the U.S. housing market experiences something experts have termed a "great reshuffling." As more companies consider allowing employees to work remotely even after the pandemic ends, Americans are reconsidering their lifestyles and housing needs. 

 

Young professionals are seeking homes in suburban areas, where they can add a home office and enjoy a larger yard without facing a long commute. As they leave their small apartments in urban areas, some experts predict that seniors will flock to cities at a faster rate. While the new suburban families will need to invest in more furniture and decor for their larger space, the senior city dwellers will need to downsize to make the move.

 

Whether you're a millennial or a baby boomer looking to downsize, paring down your possessions can be a difficult task. These tips can help.

Understand the task is both physical and mental

For some people, the thought of parting with belongings can cause feelings of overwhelming dread or anxiety. It's easy to become attached to certain items with sentimental value, even if that item holds no true financial or functional value.

 

Before you begin the process of decluttering, acknowledge that the process will be both a physical and mental exercise. Difficult memories or emotions could be triggered as you dig through old boxes or uncover meaningful momentos. The simple act of anticipating the discomfort can be enough to help you face it when the time comes, but if you are worried about your ability to handle the task at hand, consider journaling or talking with a friend through the process. 

 

Once you're able to overcome those initial negative feelings, research shows that the act of decluttering will actually improve your mental health. Cleaning and decluttering can give you a sense of control over your environment, improve your mood and increase your focus.

Discover the ‘Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up'

An international phenomenon, the KonMari Method provides several tools for clearing away clutter so you can live the life you want. Professional organizer and author of "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up" Marie Kondo promises: "If you adopt this approach, you'll never revert to clutter again."

 

The KonMari Method includes six important philosophies:

  • Set aside the proper time to declutter. Kondo's philosophy encourages followers to tidy up in one shot rather than little by little, as clutter will usually come back if you commit to decluttering in small intermittent chunks.
  • Imagine your ideal lifestyle. Before you begin, the KonMari Method encourages you to ask what type of life you want to lead and how your possessions will play a role in that.
  • Declutter by category, not room. While it may seem easier to clear the clutter room by room, the KonMari Method encourages followers to tidy by category - starting with the easiest and moving into the difficult decisions, so that you've had time to hone your decision-making skills. The KonMari order is clothes, books, papers, komono (miscellaneous items) and sentimental items.
  • Choose objects that spark joy. Perhaps the most well-known aspect of the KonMari Method, the philosophy is focused on devoting energy into only items that bring joy. Here's what Kondo says about it: "Pick up each item one at a time. Ask yourself if it sparks joy - you should feel a little thrill, as if the cells in your body are slowly rising. If it does, keep it! If it doesn't, let it go with gratitude."
  • Show gratitude to all possessions. It may feel silly, but Kondo encourages the followers of her KonMari Method to give a special send-off to every item that will be departing the house. That can even mean saying "thank you" out loud to every belonging for the purpose it served.
  • Designate a home for every object. To avoid reverting to a house full of clutter, the KonMari Method requires finding a home for every single item. If you can't find one, maybe the item doesn't belong in your life after all. 

 

If you're short on time or not much of a reader, Kondo's book is also available as an audiobook.

Go digital with photos and documents

A few pieces of paper may seem unassuming, but those pieces of paper turn into folders full of health records, stacks of manuals for old appliances and decades of tax returns. A series of photographs documenting a year of your family's life takes up a lot more space in a box in your closet than it does on your computer.

 

Spend an afternoon scanning your documents and photos using a home scanner or professional service, and then shred your papers and toss your photos (or gift them to the people in the shot).

 

Cloud storage platforms like Google Drive, Dropbox and Microsoft OneDrive offer secure and free storage for documents (although a large collection of photos may require a paid subscription).

 

If you're not comfortable depending on an Internet connection to access your information and photos, consider storing your files on a CD or USB drive.

Forget the word ‘maybe'

A common approach to decluttering is to tackle a space and sort all of the items into three separate piles: "Yes" (keep), "no" (donate or toss), and "maybe" (to be determined). However, that "maybe" pile ends up turning into the "procrastination" pile. Decluttering requires decisions, but "maybe" allows you to procrastinate making them.

 

Instead, consider putting your undecided items into a box and sealing it. Write a date on the top of the box - maybe three or six months in the future, depending on how much time you have to downsize - and plan on donating or recycling the items if you don't miss them before that date.

Overcome the guilt

Admit it: You're probably hanging on to an item in your home because it was a gift from someone you love and you don't want to hurt their feelings by getting rid of it. Decluttering allows no space for guilt.

 

Realize that accepting a gift is in no way a contract to keep the gift in your possession for eternity. It's possible to show gratitude for a gift (and friendship) without holding onto it forever. 

Gift generously and without expectations

It can be easier to part with possessions if you know they'll be loved and appreciated by someone else. Make a list of charities accepting donations of the items you're decluttering, including clothing and furniture.

 

If you have friends or family members who might be interested, consider taking pictures of the items you're willing to part with and sending them in a text, email or Facebook post to see if anyone wants to claim them. Only approach people about individual items if you're confident they would be interested - many people have trouble saying "no," so you could just be transferring your clutter to someone else.

 

Allow the recipients of your gifts the same grace you would like when it comes to unwanted gifts. Although your questions may be well-intentioned, asking to see a picture of how your old chair looks in its new home can lead to an awkward conversation.

Plan with your new space in mind

Although it's never too early to start decluttering, sometimes decisions are easier when you can base them on data like square footage or floor plan.

 

Your team at Orizon Real Estate can help you determine what size home will be perfect for your new, decluttered lifestyle. If you're ready to downsize, call 260-248-8961 to connect with an Orizon Real Estate agent today.