Decluttering to downsize: Should it stay or should it go?

Whether you are a hoarder or a compulsive declutterer — moving to a smaller property will mean saying goodbye to a few things.

Throwing out or donating an object that you have owned for twenty or thirty years can be tough, even if you dislike it. After all, it is the familiarity of our everyday belongings that can make a home feel like home. Studies have shown that donating, selling or throwing things away is actually more satisfying than buying new items. So if you need a pick-me-up that will be good for downsizing and your wallet, get decluttering! Downsizing and decluttering is also thought to help people better live in the moment, shedding the past and letting you mentally prepare for what’s to come.

In summary, you need to get ruthless with your decluttering to really reap the benefits. If you are packing up and making the move to a smaller abode, here are a few tips to help with the difficult decision: should it stay or should it go?

  • If you had forgotten you owned it, it has to go.
  • If you haven’t used it or worn it in over a year, it has to go.
  • If a storage unit will cost more than the item is worth, it has to go.
  • Have you got two? There’s no reason to double up. One has to go.
  • Is it functional? Broken or semi-functioning items such as
    temperamental blenders and socks with holes should not be making their way into your packing boxes. They have to go!
  • Would you buy it again? If you pick up an item and don’t answer yes to this question, it has to go.

The most important thing to remember is that nothing is off limits. Even if your grandma inherited it from her grandma, maybe it is time you handed it down too? It doesn’t have to be thrown away, it just has to not live at your house. Another way to save a huge amount of space is going digital. Do you have CDs, DVDs, and documents taking up a lot of space? Perhaps it is time to ditch the physical items and get yourself a Netflix subscription and an external hard-drive to back up important photos and files. Going paperless could save you both time and packing boxes. If you are finding it hard to part with certain items try packing them up in a box for a week or two. If you don’t miss them, this might make the decision much easier. You can go even further with this method and actually store everything from one room in a box for a month and put things back in drawers as you use them — anything left in the box has to go.

When it comes to decluttering it is never too early to start, especially if you want to list your items on Gumtree rather than donating them, as they can take a while to sell. Even if you aren’t thinking about downsizing until the end of the year, get started on the decluttering and move through each room gradually so it is not such an overwhelming task when the time comes.

If you are moving soon and still have a lot to do, don’t panic! There are plenty of solutions such as asking friends and family to help or enlisting a decluttering, packing, and removal service. If you are struggling to get started: try blocking out a specific time in your diary, starting a timer, and working until it goes off. If you are more of a visual person: aim to fill one box a week until the job is done, and if you are the sort of person that works best on a deadline: book a collection from your local op-shop to spur you on.

Want to make sure now’s the right time for you to downsize? Check out our handy guide to downsizing.

Written: 15 January 2019, Updated: 22 January 2020

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