These days, even the famous Marie Kondo admits that staying on top of clutter is a difficult job and sometimes it’s okay to live with a little chaos. However, if you are wanting to clear your space because you have an interior paint job coming up or are preparing to move into a smaller space, the principles that professional organizers use and the tips they provide can be a helpful resource. To this end, we are featuring advice from Janet Flint of Space & Time Organized (spaceandtimeorganized.com).
Making a Dent in Home Downsizing
By Janet Flint
Thinking about home downsizing, or considering a move or a remodel? Let this be your jump-start guide! The process can be exciting, rewarding, and a lot less stressful when you have a vision and a good plan of action.
Organize Your Mindset, First
What are the top changes you want to have happen in your life as a result of letting go of stuff? 1. Write ‘em down! 2. Work with a floor plan and imagine — or draw — how you want to rearrange the furniture. 3. Make a vision board: Find photos of cool interiors, hobbies, family, sports, use images or words that express your goals. 4. Revisit these pages often for inspiration.
Decide what kind of experience you want to have while downsizing. Most of us want to have a less stressful experience, right? Starting the process early on in your timeline for making a move and committing to work on it regularly will reduce stress and possibly allow you to enjoy home downsizing more. “Early and often” can also help reduce costs. If instead you choose “late and all at one time,” the temptation to unload your stuff in a hurry at the last hour may lead you to make decisions that you regret, or cause increased moving costs because you didn’t pare down and/or necessitate renting storage for these things. Or you may incur financial losses from offloading items in a hurry for free that, if you’d had more time, could have been sold.
Start an organizing binder. Make tabs to track motivation, design, to-do lists, donations, gifts, sales, receipts, contacts, and contracts. Downsizing is an investment. You will put in time, as well as emotional, mental, and physical energy. There are financial payoffs: The cost of storing items that you could be letting go of, is one. And, if you are selling while living in the home, a decluttered home is one of the top five ways to get a better market price (Consumer Reports, 2015).
Give yourself a pat on the back. Give yourself kudos for every effort you make, every time you make progress. Despite how it looks in the magazines, organizing is more about progress than perfection. Celebrate your wins!
Tips for Calming the Chaos of Decluttering
Supplies and tagging: Use jumbo clear bags for donations and recycling, black bags for trash. If you will be packing some areas as you go, have boxes, tape, and packing paper on hand. I recommend a simple tagging system: Use three colors for: keep / let go / undecided. Unsure if you want to let go of something? Tag it, add it to a list or take a photo of it and keep going. Sit down and consider these items when you have time to relax and think about what fits your goals, in the big picture.
Categories: Making decisions by category (not by room) is more thorough, allows you to make better decisions, and spaces stay tidier as you go. Begin with easily replaceable items – clothing, kitchenware, books, or toys. These are items that would be easiest to replace if you had to, and exercising your sorting and purging muscles here will make the process easier as you get around to the more personal items. Try following The KonMari Sequence: clothes, books, papers, miscellany (everything else), and then mementos. It works!
Sorting: Pull items from ALL of one category together. Spread them out on a table or on the floor. Don’t agonize over what to get rid of; focus on what to keep and where it will go. Let go of multiples. Avoid mental mazes like “I might need it someday, I can fix that, or my grandchildren might want it someday.”
Paperwork. If you are organizing for a move, create a package of essential documents you might need to have handy while the rest of your stuff is in transit. Set up a system for preserving important documents and determine what needs to be stored vs. what can be archived electronically. For more detail on paperwork systems, visit: spaceandtimeorganized.com/paper
Memorabilia. Be crystal clear whether something is in the utility or memorabilia category. If it's sentimental and décor, call it/use it/store it with décor. If it’s both sentimental and a useful tool, store it with tools. Then, decide how much room you have for just-memorabilia and how and where it will be stored. One way to make saying goodbye to mementos easier is to take photos and print a hard-bound memory book that you can enjoy and share.
Hazardous Waste. Paint, batteries, chemicals, and some cleaning products require special disposal. California Law and the Department of Toxic Substances Control govern who can and how to handle these items. Refer to this website for more information: dtsc.ca.gov/managing-hazardous-waste
Getting Value Out of Vintage Stuff
Want to know what your stuff is worth? Start with searching eBay sold data. For antiques, art, jewelry, and collectibles, you might want to consult with a local auction house. Estate liquidators are very knowledgeable. I recommend talking to two or more before you accept an offer. But remember, everyone who handles your home-downsizing items is working for a percentage of its market value, and someone will have to cover the cost of moving and marketing them.
Online tools like OfferUp andLetGo are great for some items, while Chairish and theRealReal focus on very current designer brands. Remoov is a Bay Area company that will haul it all and market your sellable items via their online store, TheLocalFlea. Estate sales can also be an effective way to sell a houseful of stuff if all of your personal items are cleared out first.
What if it’s not selling? Don’t be surprised if you get no offers for large furniture. Bulky, heavy items are even being refused by donation stations in some areas. If you can use donated-values as a tax deduction, that may be the simplest and fastest way to get value out of items that don’t get bought.
What do you want to leave for your kids? Your grown children probably have a house full of furnishings and more, or they are minimalists and really don’t want the task of sorting through old paper and other collections. Use your organizing binder to make a list of the things you think they will want, and find some time to go over it together.
Lean on local professionals. Your Realtor, Stager, Organizer and Move Manager, Estate Liquidator, or Moving Company, offer services that can make home downsizing more expedient, profitable, and satisfying.
As professional organizers my team and I can help you with planning, sorting and home downsizing decisions, to determine the best path for items you are no longer using. We help get memorabilia archived so that you can enjoy it, and heirlooms shipped to their new homes.A professional organizer can pack, unpack, hang pictures, make thoughtful use of storage areas, and re-create the functionality of the rooms you had before, so that you can maximize enjoyment of your new smaller space if you are downsizing, or further enjoy the home you currently have and/or move back into after a remodel.
Janet Flint is a Professional Organizer serving the San Francisco Bay Area.