People who are looking to downsize will often contact me for help. Whether by choice (hello new life in the city) or out of necessity, this can be an all-consuming project. It's hard to know where to even begin, let alone how to sustain the effort needed to finish.
How easy it would be if you could just rent a dumpster or two, fill it up, and call it a day. For some, that's do-able. For others, well, it's more complicated than that.
Perhaps you feel irresponsible just throwing it all away without giving your stuff a chance at a good home. You may need some space to process all of the emotions and memories that are bound up in your stuff. And, you may be in the same boat as a lot of people who have worked hard for their possessions that they've acquired over the years, and find it hard to let go without recouping some of the money spent.
Or, you may not be able to put your finger on it why it's so hard - it just fills you with dread. Some days, you secretly feel that it would be easier for a house fire to come along and burn it all down, sparing you from having to deal with it.
And still, even though it fills you with dread, you need to figure out a way to get it done.
Is downsizing in your future? Don't worry; someday, it will be in your past. Read on for three mindset shifts that can help you prepare for downsizing.
Recognize that it will take time
Some people who write into me for help with downsizing tell me that they've been trying to slowly get rid of stuff for a while. Perhaps they'll set a goal of something like getting rid of five things every week. And now they're realizing that it's taking forever, and they need to find a way to do it faster.
It's important to keep in mind that you didn't acquire your belongings overnight. It's more likely that if you're a downsizer-to-be, you've lived in your current home for decades. So, you're probably not going to be able to declutter and downsize overnight, either, even if you did decide to throw everything in a dumpster indiscriminately.
So where is the middle ground between decluttering five things a week, and throwing it all in a dumpster? The answer is to create a timetable and a structure for your work. In my program, I work with clients in three-hour sessions, over an initial period of three months.
This may or may not be enough to see them to the end since everyone has a different starting point and a different pace - but I've found that this structure allows you to build momentum and make progress at a faster rate. And, when you give yourself enough time to roll up your sleeves and get some serious work done, you can see a broader perspective that is more helpful in making decisions.
Pick your resale battles
I've written before about how the need to resell your stuff can keep people stuck. What I often see is that people will decide to declutter certain items, and put them in an area to resell - but they aren't able to reclaim the space until they sell it. And it can be daunting to figure out how to seel each item that you want to sell.
I encourage people who are interested in reselling to prioritize selling the highest value items. What I mean by that is, you'll be able to recoup the most money and space for your time and energy.
For example, it's probably not a good use of your time and energy to try to sell a lot of books on Amazon for a couple of dollars a pop if you don't have experience doing that.
It may be worthwhile, however, to take a trip to a consignment store that will sell some of your nicer clothes. Or to list a piece of furniture on Craigslist. Or to enlist the help of an antique dealer to help you figure out what you have that might be valuable.
The important thing when it comes to resale is to keep your expectations low and remember why it's valuable for you to clear out your space.
Train yourself to live in a smaller space
Sometimes people will contact me about downsizing and swear up and down that the rest of their house is immaculate and not in need of organization. It's true that decluttering is the central focus in downsizing projects. And yet, until now, they've been able to lean into their basement, their garage, their attic, or their spare room to keep their living space in order.
Those far-reaching corners of houses are often where deferred decluttering decisions will go. The un-hung wall art. The unfinished projects. The items that need repair. The boxes of memorabilia.
You'll likely have some access to storage in your smaller space, but you'll probably need it for household essentials, rather than your deferred decisions. So, you'll need to get into some new habits, and likely make some tweaks to your household storage to be able to make up for that in your downsized life.
I could write entire posts on what this would entail, but for now, I'll summarize two key points.
First, you'll need to look into ways to save space in your household storage. This may mean scaling back the volume of stuff that you keep in your household storage if you have a lot of duplicates, redundant items, or items that you do not use. It may also mean setting up your storage system to make better use of your available space.
And second, you'll need to create a system to funnel out clutter. WIthout the extra space, any clutter you haven't gotten rid of yet will be piling in your living space. This can quickly get overwhelming and leave you stuck. So it's crucial to have the channels in place - the donation box, the recycling bins, the freecycle account - that will allow you to move things along with ease.
Are you considering downsizing? If so, I'd love to know - what's your biggest challenge? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!