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If you are like most homeowners, chances are you have accumulated furniture, clothing, toys, housewares, papers, tools, and keepsakes over the years. You have ideas about what you want to do with all this extra “stuff,” but you do not have the time to take care of it.
Take expert advice from the clutter professionals. You might benefit from hiring a professional organizer who could save you time and effort.Listed below are Top Ten Decluttering and Downsizing Tips reprinted with permission from Cut the Clutter RVA. Cut the Clutter RVA is a women-owned small business. For additional information call 804-456-4433 or visit www.cuttheclutterrva.com.
Top 10 decluttering & downsizing tips
When you’ve lived in a home for many years, the accumulation of hundreds of postponed decisions can be overwhelming! Decluttering and downsizing is about a series of small steps and small decisions.
Cut the Clutter RVA has compiled a list of 10 decluttering tips to get you ready to downsize:
1. Start at least 6 months before you want to move with “unused” areas.
It makes sense to purge items before you move, so that you’re not paying extra money to move things you no longer need or want. But decluttering takes time, especially if you’ve lived in the same place for many years. Start in areas that you don’t use much, like the guest bedroom or attic. These spaces tend to have lots of unused or forgotten items. You’ll make great progress, which will fuel your motivation for the next areas.
Pro tip: Make a list of all the spaces in your home so none of your spaces are forgotten and put a rough estimate of how long each space might take. This will help you create a general timeline for your decluttering project.
2. Decide “keep” or “go.”
The most important decision for each item is whether you’re keeping it or letting it go. You don't need to worry about where it's going yet - just put it in a “go” pile. See tip 7 for deciding where it goes.
Pro tip: Limit the duplicates that you keep. Ask yourself if you really need place settings for 12 people or a dozen beach chairs.
3. Take the work in manageable chunks.
Set a timer for 15 minutes and do as much as you can before the bell sounds. You’ll be surprised with how much you can accomplish in just 15 focused minutes!
Pro tip: For larger decluttering projects, schedule time on your calendar, just like you’d schedule a doctor’s appointment or meeting. Hold yourself accountable to that time.
4. Start small and practical.
To continue with the previous example, for many people, making decisions about everyday practical things in the kitchen and bathrooms is much easier than, say, photographs or other memorabilia. Though decision-making may be hard at first, it often gets easier as you go. So, tackle the more emotional decisions later in your process.
Pro tip: For emotional items, we recommend that you keep 1-3 of any given category. You want to be able to see your grandma’s teapots and enjoy them in your new space. If you have boxes of them, you can’t do that.
5. Work room by room.
Use a logical progression from space to space, to keep track of your progress. Gather like items from around the house in one place so you can address all of it at one time. Paperwork is a great example – many of us have paperwork in several areas of our homes. It is much more efficient to sort, categorize, recycle and shred paper if you have it all in one spot.
Pro tip: Think about the size of your new place. For example, if you’re moving from a 4-bedroom house to a 1-bedroom apartment, consider which things you love the most and purge accordingly.
6. Prioritize problem areas.
If there’s a particular area that is causing you anxiety - maybe it’s your attic or garage - enlist help and tackle it relatively early in your process. The feeling of accomplishment in tackling a big item on your to do list will feel great - and will keep you energized to continue.
Pro tip: Cut the Clutter RVA loves decluttering and organizing attics and garages!
7. Create piles for gifting.
Once you have a multitude of items in the “go” pile, then work through where the items might go: to a charity, friend, family member, neighbor. Create a pile for each person or organization. Plan to gift them before you move. Schedule time with loved ones accordingly to hand off your cherished items.
Pro tip: Cut the Clutter has many ideas for where things can be donated to help those in need. Let us know if you need advice.
8. Digitize it.
Memorabilia like photos, letters and kids’/grandkids' artwork take up lots of space. You don't have to throw it all away. Take photos or scan them, or hire a company to digitize your favorite pictures and videos onto a small device you can plug in and look at any time.
Pro tip: Consider making a series of photo books that you can easily look at on a regular basis, instead of hauling out big bins of artwork and photos. We like www.shutterfly.com.
9. Create a labeling system for packing.
When you’re ready to pack, a labeling system is key. For example, the label should show the room where the items will go in the new house, and if applicable, the piece of furniture they’re destined for. Also include what items are in the box, so you can find them when you need them in the meantime too.
Pro tip: Number how many boxes you use for, say, the China cabinet, so you know if there’s one missing. (Write “Box 1 of 5,” “Box 2 of 5” and so on.) Always do the numbering step last so that if something changes, you won’t have to renumber every box.
10. Pack the “essentials” and load them into your car for safe transport.
When you move, you'll need some things at the ready. Prepare a separate bag or container of essentials, so you don't have to hunt through boxes on day one. Include:
Toiletries, medication and eyeglasses
Jewelry, heirlooms, family photos and anything else that’s irreplaceable
Cleaning supplies – wipes, soap, paper towels
Basic tools like scissors and a box cutter
Payment for movers (and a small amount of cash just in case)
Pro tip: Be sure to ask your movers what they won’t transport, so you know what you’ll have to move yourself. For example, some movers won’t take cleaning supplies, liquor and other items.
Cut the Clutter RVA is a local, women-owned small business of moms, daughters and sisters who help by removing the chaos of clutter. And we’ll treat you like we treat our families: leading with love, patience and kindness.