Tips for Downsizing and Organizing

Making the Most of Your Time at Home

Over the years, most of us seem to accumulate an enormous amount of stuff. We realize that, at some point, we’ll need to curate it and let go of what we’re not using. Oftentimes, that’s easier said than done. We hope these tips for downsizing and organizing help jumpstart the process.

For starters, it’s a big job. Second, many of our belongings evoke a fair amount of emotion. And third, we feel guilty for having spent money on something we’re about to throw away or give away.

As you’re staying home to stay safe, this is a good time to roll up your sleeves and tackle the process of organizing and downsizing. Of course, doing so means also reconciling the reasons you’ve been putting off the task in the first place.

Big Job: Break it Down Into Smaller Tasks

  • Start small and take your time. Try sorting through a few things every day or every other day.
  • Enlist help from others. Ask a friend or family member to join you as you sift through your belongings. They can help you stay on task, share stories and reminisce with you, and offer objective feedback on what should stay and what should go.
  • Eliminate duplicates and one-use items. As you move through your day, eliminate duplicate and seldom-used items that you see along the way. From extra stockpots and roasting pans to tents and tools, there are some things that aren’t worth storing every year all year long just on the off chance you might need it. If you ever do, you can borrow, rent or find an alternative.
  • Leave photos, special collections and memorabilia for last. These items take the most time to downsize and organize because it’s fun to reminisce about them. Save these for last so you don’t get stuck before you’ve barely started.
  • Know your needs. If you’ll eventually be moving into a two-bedroom apartment that includes housekeeping services, do you really need five sets of sheets, five blankets and five duvets? If you’re moving into a senior living community with a fantastic fitness center, do you need bulky exercise equipment? If you’ve been retired for 10 years, do you really need to keep the manuals and files from your previous work life? If your new community decorates common spaces lavishly for the holidays, can you pare back your holiday decorations and enjoy the festive spirit? Think through what you really need and why.

Too Emotional: Focus on the Meaning

  • Let your emotions flow. For those items that have sentimental value, give yourself time to think about each one, and to laugh and cry and talk about its history and special meaning with a friend or family member.
  • If you can’t keep it, make a photo keepsake. It can be difficult to let go of a beloved collection, but they tend to take up a lot of space or end up in boxes where you never see them. Instead of keeping everything, save a couple of your favorites for prominent display. Then take photos of the others and create a photo album so you can still enjoy them later. Use this strategy for other things with sentimental value.
  • Gift heirlooms now. We all love our own stuff. However, it’s rare that anyone has the physical space, emotional capacity and similar tastes to take on another person’s belongings. Still, your children and grandchildren, extended family and good friends care about you and likely adore something in your home that reminds them of you.

If you’re downsizing, don’t push others to take items they don’t care about or don’t want. Instead, ask them what is meaningful to them. You just might be surprised. A grandchild might like an inexpensive cookie jar because it brings up good memories of baking cookies with you in the kitchen. For your son, a cuckoo clock might be a unique reminder of gathering around the dinner table. Your daughter might love an antique vase.

Write a little note telling the story behind the item and why it’s special to you. Then give the item and the note to your loved one. You’ll be clearing the clutter at home while giving a meaningful gift. You can feel good knowing a couple of treasures from you will be far more valuable to your friends and family than receiving boxes of random stuff.

Feeling Guilty: Give Your Things a New Life

  • Accept the facts. Yes, you spent money on the item. Maybe you used it and enjoyed it for many years. Maybe it sat in the attic from day one. Either way, it doesn’t matter. You can’t change that now. Holding onto it doesn’t make it more useful or more valuable to you.
  • Transform your guilt into kindness and generosity. It’s a good thing that your items can be helpful to or enjoyed by someone else. Isn’t that what you ultimately want? Reframe your guilt into generosity. Think about the needs of young families, college students, displaced women, children and veterans, immigrants, refugees and folks recovering from natural disasters. They’re all starting over and need a helping hand. Reach out to organizations to see if they will accept household goods, from towels and bedding to hampers, dishes, tables and chairs. You can feel good knowing you’ve helped so many others.

One last suggestion for when you’re ready to move.

Consider recreating some of your favorite spaces at your new home, including areas for your hobbies and interests. Familiar furniture layouts and decorations create a sense of comfort and continuity.

Now that you know how to get started, it’s time to go boldly into your linen closet and begin your downsizing journey.

Additional Senior Living Resources

Moving into a Life Plan Community like Luther Manor is a very big decision. There are lots of things to know and understand so you feel comfortable making that decision.

We know that without the right information, this transition can be challenging. But that’s where our senior and caregiver resources come in. Whether it’s you or your loved one thinking about making the move, Luther Manor is here to support you. Contact us today.

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