Once you’ve made the decision to downsize, you’ll either assume (or be told) that you need to “declutter”. In fact, it seems the the words “declutter” and “downsize” are paired together just about everywhere you look! Before tossing any items, it’s really important to understand the practical considerations and the emotional journey that comes with downsizing. Read on to find out why we recommend you don’t declutter (yet).
Don't Declutter (Yet)
When I jumped into the world of downsizing and home transitions with both feet back in 2019, I thought decluttering should happen right away – like as soon as the decision to downsize is made. Long-time readers of this blog will notice that much of my early advice centers around decluttering – if not first, then steadily along the way. While I still give this advice to those who are early in their downsizing process, for those who actually have a move date, the advice has changed to “Don’t Declutter.”
If you 1) know where you are going and 2) have a move scheduled, you may want to put decluttering on the back burner. While it does seem logical to declutter first, there may be other pressing priorities to consider. Plus, as moving day gets closer, delegating the decluttering task to others can be more efficient and less emotionally stressful.
Decluttering Can Be A Distraction
Here’s the thing – clutter is basically the not-so-important stuff. You know, the things you don’t really use, don’t love, or don’t need anymore. I’ve noticed that many people get distracted by decluttering, or even use decluttering activities as a procrastination technique.
How is that? Well, throwing away things you know you don’t want can be a lot easier than making the tough decisions about what means the most to you. Eventually, you do have to make decisions about what stays and what goes, but there are a few things that should take priority over decluttering. The main ones being:
- Decide exactly where you’re going so you know your space and square footage
- Anticipate every single thing you will need to be comfortable there
- Gather irreplaceable items like photos, videos, documents, etc. (link to other site blog here)
As you work through those three critical first steps and start looking around your home you may feel the urge to make a big pile for trash or donation. It’s fine to go ahead and get that started, but I’ve seen some situations in which ambitious “purging” has backfired and actually ended up costing my clients time and money.
Don’t declutter if you think any of these scenarios apply to you: three main reasons not to declutter, yet!
Don’t Declutter: You Might Need That
Knowing where you are going is the best place to start before you declutter. Naturally, the goal is to make your downsized space your new ‘home sweet home’. You’ll need to make careful decisions about what cherished items you will want to bring with you. There is one caveat, though: your treasures must seamlessly fit into your space (this is where exact measurements of your new space come into play).
Too much enthusiasm for decluttering can sometimes lead to regrets when items are tossed or given away too quickly. When you’re living in a big home with overfilled closets, boxes in the attic, floor-to-ceiling storage containers in the basement and items tucked away in corners and bins, you can easily overlook some items that could come in very handy in your new space. Be sure to take a second look at items like these:
- Smaller, multi-purpose furniture with functional storage
- Decorative art that fits well in smaller spaces
- Organizational items for closets
- Vertical shelving that can maximize your new space
- Under cabinet / under-bed storage containers
When you are trying to maximize space, you may find that you need to be strategic about the items you bring with you, and you don’t want to find that you donated or tossed items that would have fit your needs perfectly. Don’t declutter until you are sure you have everything identified to take to your new space.
Don’t Declutter: It Will Exhaust You
Trust me, decluttering is exhausting. Especially if you’ve accumulated a lot of this and that over the years. If your drawers will barely shut, your closets are overstuffed, or your cabinets are overflowing with avocado green Tupperware and smurf glasses from Hardees, then decluttering may not be your strong suit.
Just the details of finding your new place and deciding what to take with you is more than enough mental exercise for you right now. We advise saving your energy for the more pressing decisions about:
- Securing your vital documents
- Preserving your sentimental and valuable belongings
- Determining the essential items you’ll need to be healthy and comfortable
You’ll find that making these important decisions is a much better use of your time than digging in the back of your cupboards for unwanted belongings. When you deliberately choose your most important belongings, the clutter gets left behind instead of the things you really need.
Don’t Declutter: Turn It Into Cash
The true gems in your home may not be the fine china or delicate crystal. Surprisingly, it could be your lawn mower, tools, that second floor vacuum cleaner, or even old computer keyboards. Let’s not overlook the value in your reading lamps, bulky entertainment centers, the sewing machine that hasn’t been used in years, and all those extra extension cords in the garage.
Online auctions or even estate sale companies in your area may be able to sell your ordinary household goods. If you choose to go this route, they more stuff you have to sell, the better! Typically, buyers will pick up the items they’ve purchased and save you the hassle of loading up bulky items or taking carload after carload to the donation site. Plus, you may make a little extra money on the “stuff” you didn’t donate or toss before the sale.
Obviously decluttering is an important step if you want to have a simpler, cleaner and more tidy lifestyle in your new space. But if you’re in the throws of a big downsizing move, we recommend prioritizing other decision-making first.
If you find that you need help with any stage of the downsizing and decluttering process, call us first! We can help you identify the tasks you can do yourself, and recommend local pros to help with everything else.