Article by Jason Gelios
Knowing tips for decluttering and downsizing will help keep the process organized. Remember, it took years to fill your home with the belongings you have, so it may take awhile to go through everything you have to decide what you’ll do with it.
1. Start now
If your home could compete in a hoarder reality show or you’d like to park both cars in your garage, start sooner rather than later. Giving yourself weeks and months to sort through your house will help you get into a groove and avoid tossing something you’ll miss later.
2. Learn how to declutter
If you’re not sure where to start, try some of these great “minimalist” tips. Give one item away each day. With 365 days in a year, you could make headway faster than you realize. Speed fill a trash bag. Grab your stopwatch and the nearest pile of stuff and start filling the bag. Once it’s done, head straight to your local charity’s donation drop-off. Try the reverse-direction clothes hanger trick. Hang all the clothes in your closet backwards, and only correct them when you wear them. Get rid of the ones that are still reversed after a month or two. Share your before and after photos on social media. Pick a space, and post the before and after pics in your feed as you clear it out. You’ll see your progress and who knows – maybe your story will go viral. Give the four-box method a shot. Label four boxes as trash, donate, keep or store. Each day, make sure one thing goes into each box. Speed things up by increasing the number of items that go into each box until you fill them up, then start over.
3. Take an inventory of what you have
Once you start decluttering, you’ll probably see a pattern to the items you plan to keep and those you plan to get rid of. That will make it easier to start making an inventory list room by room. You may be surprised by how many duplicates and unused items you have – that extra
non-stick pan hidden behind the crockpot you got a few birthdays ago, or the popcorn popper that you haven’t used in years because you microwave your popcorn these days.
4. Have a plan for getting rid of things
Sort your belongings in four piles, or better yet try the four-box method with the following categories: keep, trash, donate or store.
Keep. Your keep box is for those items you know without thinking you’ll be hanging onto. Make sure you clearly label this box so you don’t inadvertently send it with the donation box.
Trash. There should be no “maybes” in the trash pile. You know these items are done, and you may want to make it a habit to add the trash box items to your regular garbage pick-up bins to avoid the temptation to go back in the box and second-guess what you’re throwing out.
Donate. Whether it’s Goodwill or your favorite church charity, the donate box should be clearly marked.
Store. If you don’t have the heart to get rid of some belongings, give them a new home in storage. You may find the emotional pull you felt for the “store” box wanes after you’ve paid the storage bill for a month or two.
5. Sell your extra furniture
Large furniture pieces like hutches and sectional couches may not fit well in a small home, but may fetch a pretty penny if you sell them online. Consider setting aside the sale proceeds to pay for new items that take up less square footage in your home. If you plan to downsize to a smaller home, check out small-home open houses or model homes to get an idea of the mix of furniture pieces that will fit. You may even want to bring along a measuring tape and notepad to keep track of the furniture dimensions you like.
6. Pick your storage options
If you’re just not ready to part with the bulk of your belongings, start looking at storage options in your area. The more space you need, the more you will spend. Depending on what you’re storing and where you live, you may need climate-controlled space to preserve items
that might be sensitive to weather extremes, which will add to your monthly cost. This is especially important in humid climates – an air conditioned unit might protect your belongings from extreme heat and cold, but a climate-controlled space protects your wood and leather furniture, artwork and other humidity-sensitive items from damage.
7. Take your time
Unless your downsizing needs are urgent, pace yourself with one space or room at a time. If your home is filled with boxes and piles of stuff everywhere, you’re more likely to give up if you try to sort through everything in a short time, rather than if you set a schedule to focus on one room, closet or even just one box at a time. If you’re downsizing due to the death of a spouse, reach out for help from family or friends – it may be especially difficult to make decisions about what to keep if you’re still grieving a loss.
Pros and cons of downsizing your home
Less space to maintain.
A smaller space is easier to clean and maintain, which gives you more time to spend on the activities you really enjoy.
Lower monthly bills.
Smaller homes usually come with lower costs for utilities like electricity, gas and water.
More cash flow for other goals.
If you spend less on housing costs, more money is freed up for other financial goals, such as boosting your retirement savings or emergency fund, or paying down debt.
Can be overwhelming to get started.
The sheer magnitude of what you have to go through, especially if you’ve lived in a home for decades, may cause you to throw in the downsizing towel early.
Will need to adjust to having fewer square feet.
The walls will be a little closer in a smaller home, and you’ll need to stay organized to keep it tidy.
May need to sell your existing home, which can be costly.
The cost of selling your home can add up to tens of thousands of dollars subtracted from your sale profits. It also may be hard to find a home in your price range.
Jason Gelios is a Husband and Father. After that, a Top Producing REALTOR®, Author of the books 'Think like a REALTOR®' and 'Beating The Force Of Average', Creator of The AskJasonGelios Real Estate Show and Expert Media Contributor to media outlets across the country.