Is it time to downsize? Moving to a retirement village or a smaller house requires some tough decisions on what to bring with you, and can seem like a massive task. Taken one step at a time, clearing the clutter and moving into a different home can be manageable. Here are our top tips for downsizing, to make the transition as easy as possible for you and your loved ones.
Take the Time
One house, several rooms, and a lifetime of memories, it is easy to see why many find downsizing emotionally and physically draining. Moving does not need to be a rushed process. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and expect it all to be done within a weekend. Start early and set aside a few hours a day. Ideally, start to declutter and pack a month before you move. This will allow time for you to consider what you truly want and need, give time for loved ones to collect items, and to sell or donate items. Downsizing provides an opportunity to look back on the life you have had in that home, the adventures you’ve taken, the stories you’ve written, and get ready for the next chapter. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed by leaving some of it behind, so take the time to reminisce. With time set aside, you can move at your own pace.
Where to Start
There is no disagreement, downsizing is a big job. We all collect knick-knacks, photos and memories, and store them in our homes so when the time comes to declutter, it’s hard to know where to start. With the ‘non-practical’ items such as photo albums, medals and heirlooms, ask yourself ‘what would be the first thing I would save in a fire?’ These are the items you care most about, and the ones you know to bring to your new home. Remember, there is no judgement with what you decide to bring, if it’s important to you and brings you joy, it should be kept.
Now we know what the essential items are, it’s time to go through the rest. Room by room, starting with low-stress rooms such as the laundry or bathroom, sort everything into five categories.
Bin: Items you don’t want and will not be used or wanted by anyone else. The broken mixer that has sat at the back of the cupboard, out of date peanut butter and random pieces of paper could all be put in this category. Depending on how much you throw away, it may be of use to hire rubbish removers.
Sell: When you no longer need, or want something, but believe it is of some worth, you may consider selling it. Selling items are more hands-on than donating as you need to photograph, list and facilitate pick up, but can be worth it to get some of your money back. Sites like TradeMe and Facebook Marketplace are good places to list your items but may charge a listing fee. Before selling something, make sure it works properly and is in good condition.
Donate: The alternative to selling for objects you no longer want is to donate it. Many charities will support you through the donation process, including collecting the items from your home. Plus, it can be a great feeling knowing that other people will love and enjoy the items that you once did but have no need for any more.
Give to Family: Family members may have sentimental connections to certain items. Perhaps it reminds them of a great memory with you or is something they grew up with. If you are happy to let them go, it is nice to gift them to your loved ones. Encourage open conversation about what things they love, as it is a win-win. You brighten the day of your loved one, while also clearing some of the non-essentials.
Keep: Some things you just want to keep. Whether they remind you of something precious, have been with you for a long time, or it just brings you joy, you deserve to be surrounded by the things that make you happy. Your new home is a new beginning, yes, but it is also your home and should be filled with the items you love.
When sorting, try not to create maybe piles. ‘Maybe throw outs’, or ‘maybe keeps’ end up being bigger than the other groups. When you decide what to do with something, stick to it. This will make the process much faster and easier for you and loved ones.
Ask for Help
Downsizing is not just a move, but an opportunity to connect with family, and share the stories behind your possessions. Tell them of the adventures behind pictures and the origins of knick-knacks collected along your journey. Not only will this help you determine what to do with these items, but can bring you closer with loved ones as you share your favourite memories. Plus, friends and family may be able to help with the physical component of the move, as it can be difficult for those with physical restrictions.
Your move is all about what feels right for you, and what things you find important. Take the time to process, talk to loved ones and fill your new home with the items that make you happy. After all, while it is the end to the current part of your life, it’s just the beginning for another.