Decluttering to Downsize: by Martha Tobin

It’s never more obvious how much stuff we have until it’s time to move. As Donna Smallin writes in her book, Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness, “Clutter is what you end up with when you have more stuff than you need”.
Although daunting, decluttering to sell is a priority for several reasons:
-It creates space and buyers pay a premium for space.
-Too many personal effects become a distraction for the buyer.
-A decluttered home is easier to sell than a home that is packed to the gills.
-With home sales you only get one chance to make a good first impression.
-Buyers these days are looking for ‘move in ready’ conditions

Below are steps to keep in mind for decluttering to downsize:
Start early; by starting early you reduce the stress of being rushed at the time of your move
See yourself in your space: Consider what your lifestyle will be like in your new home/residence. Think about what you’ll need there (i.e lawn mower, full dining room set)
Plan your new space: create a floor plan of your new space so you can visualize the rooms and what you hope to put in them
Declutter one room at a time: start first with your least used room and then move on to the other least used rooms.
Sort all items in each room into these categories: Keep-Use Now, Keep-For New Place, and Items to Purge.
For items you want to purge you have a number of options:
-Yard sales
-Online Community marketplaces
-Consignment and second hand stores
-Estate sale/auction companies.
-GIVE SHOP app: online marketplace with proceeds directed to local charities of your choice (i.e. CHEO, Humane society, The Mission etc.)
-Donations: allows you to donate items that ‘no longer owe you anything’ so that they can have a second life with someone who needs them (i.e. old electronics to Compucorps, linens, appliances to Refugee groups, toys to Boys and Girls club, etc.)
-Green disposal of items: stores like Best Buy, Lowes, Staples etc. accept back batteries, paint, lightbulbs, electronics, print cartridges, Pharmacies accept back old medication.
-Trash: last resort for purging your items.

Remember to clear out closets: Buyers will look inside cupboards and closets to ensure there is adequate space for their ‘stuff’ so the less clutter, the better.
Declutter and organize the garage: Buyers want to know they can park their car(s) in this space so purge what you can and move items to the side so that they can visualize this.
Declutter and organize the basement: even if your basement is unfinished, ensure items are neatly stored along the sides so that the buyer can envision what they can do with the space.
Create a moving binder: A moving binder is a great strategy for staying organized during a move and keeps all moving related items and tasks in one easy-to-find place (i.e checklists, receipts, utility company paperwork, etc)
Number each box: as you pack your boxes, make a list of what each box contains. Assign a number to each box. This will help you keep track of your belongings and will help with locating your items upon arriving at your new home.

Decluttering is physically and emotionally exhausting and can be very overwhelming. Depending on the amount of time you have before you move, the time and energy you want to devote to the task or even your age and level of physical ability, you may want to enlist some help. Family and friends can pitch in but as well you may want to look into hiring outside professional help so that they can set up a plan and keep the entire process moving towards your move deadline. As well they often have a team of experts available for any maintenance you require (ie. repairs, painting, landscaping etc.).

Whether you are moving soon or you just realize that you don’t want to leave this daunting task to your loved ones, it’s always a good idea to start the process of decluttering early. As Ruth Soukup talks about in her book, Unstuffed – Declutter Your Home, Mind and Soul, “thinking about our own possessions in the context of our own demise may help to serve as the ultimate decluttering motivator.”



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The Other Side of Clutter – Reclaiming Your Dream

“You can’t get there from here but if you prepare the here, there comes here.” (Abraham Hicks)

Ellen’s dream of a basement meditation space and workout room had been on hold for years because of all the dusty boxes that occupied that space. The boxes contained family heirlooms that she had inherited after her parents died. The seemingly monumental task of tackling these ancestral treasures weighed her down and made her dream impossible.
Ellen’s story is not unique. As it turns out, inherited items are one of the biggest culprits of clutter in our homes. There are a few reasons for this: -we are loath to part with items that were beloved by someone who has passed away.
even though other family members don’t want these items, we don’t want to break the generational chain and discard them.
-the time and effort required to determine if we should sell, donate, recycle or trash these items overwhelms us.
Here are a few tips and tricks that might help:
#1. Put aside at least double the time you think it’s going to take. Sorting through inherited items is emotional and takes longer than expected.
#2. Have boxes and bags ready for labelling with these categories: SELL, DONATE, RECYCLE, TRASH, SOMEWHERE ELSE and TO SOMEONE ELSE. Also have a box for PHOTOS and another for DOCUMENTS.
#3. Gather all the inherited items (or any items you’ve chosen to declutter) in one space. Start to sort ‘like with like’. All china, silverware, serving sets and glassware together. Furniture together. Clothing, bedding, and towels together. Tools together. Photos (slides, greeting cards, etc) together. Documents together, etc.
#4. Review each item and decide which category it falls into (i.e. to sell, to donate, recycle, etc. as per #2). Remember that an item that was once important to someone else does not determine its importance to you. Getting rid of these items is not a sign that you loved that person any less. In fact, keeping only a few cherished items will make those treasures more meaningful and you’ll be able to display them (vs. in boxes in your basement). NOTE: save photos, slides, cards and documents till last (see #7).
#5. Take the filled boxes and/or bags labelled for DONATION and TO SOMEONE ELSE directly to the trunk of your car. Drop those off respectively as soon as possible. Take bags for RECYCLE and TRASH to their locations outside your home. Getting all of the filled bags outside your home is key. For items that are going SOMEWHERE ELSE in your home, take these items to those specific places and find them a place to live (i.e. put up that painting, display that figurine on a shelf).
#6. For those items or collections that you want TO SELL, take photos and measurements. Do not rely on family lore regarding their value but rather research these items to determine what others would currently pay. TV programs like Antiques Roadshow have convinced us that our treasures are worth a great deal but often the final negotiated price is substantially less. If the time and energy it takes to sell the item is equal or greater to the price you may receive, consider donating the item and know someone else will love it.
#7. Regarding photos, slides, cards and documents, without spending time doing any review now, sort these items into their respective boxes (see #2). Put these boxes beside your favourite chair. In the next few weeks every time you sit down, commit to reviewing their contents. For any photos, slides or cards only keep those that truly remind you of the best days that they represent and place those in a labelled box. Regarding the documents, only keep what you need for tax purposes, file those and shred the rest.
Congratulations. You did it! Decluttering our homes involves more than just freeing ourselves from those things that are holding us back and weighing us down; decluttering is about transformation and renewal. As Tracy McCubbin writes in Making Space Clutter Free, “making more room for what we want to do in life – and freeing up time and space to actually accomplish those things – always has a positive and inspiring outcome even if the process of letting go can feel overwhelming and daunting.”
Creating a home where you can more fully live and be the best version of yourself, is just one way of creating your ‘here’ so that you can realize your dreams. And if like Ellen, your dream is a workout room and meditation space, they are now possible.

Room2Breathe is a local Glebe company committed to making a difference. We’re happy to answer any questions you might have.



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