difference between decluttering and downsizing

When you’re downsizing you’ll undoubtedly hear that you need to “declutter”. I think what people mean is the obvious fact that you’ll end up separating out clutter from your good stuff in the process of downsizing. I agree! Downsizing is definitely a time when you’ll need to make decisions about what to keep and what to throw away.

But, at the risk of putting too fine a point on it, I want to clarify the difference between the activities of “decluttering” and “downsizing”, because in my world they are actually two dramatically different things.

Difference Between Decluttering and Downsizing

If you’re decluttering, you’re looking to reduce your belongings by 15% to 30%. You’ll select and remove things that are either no longer serving your needs or no longer good for anything to anyone. You’ll remove accumulated paper, household items you’re not using anymore, clothing you don’t wear, furnishings that take up too much space, or outdated decor that makes your home look tired. The goal of decluttering is to make more space in your home so that it will be more organized, easier to keep clean, and generally a nicer place to be.

If you’re selling your home, you’ll be advised to declutter so that your rooms will appear larger, more clean, and more stylish. Too many belongings in your home will make buyers think there isn’t enough storage available. In fact, when photographs are taken to market your property, you’ll be asked to remove just about everything off of counters, tables, and shelves in order to best showcase the features of your home. If you’ve ever visited a model home or a fully staged property for sale, you’ll notice that the ideal scenario includes almost no personal belongings at all.

If you’re downsizing, the ratio is basically flipped. When you are actively engaged in a move to a much smaller space, you’re looking for the 15% to 30% of your belongings that you want to KEEP. Yes, obviously everything will eventually be removed from the home, but your priority is selecting the things that will go with you. This includes irreplaceable sentimental and personal history items, vital documents, necessary household objects, and the most comfortable, useful clothing and personal items. You’ll want to carefully choose furnishings and art that reflects your personal style and fits your new, smaller space.

Most of my clients agree that it’s a lot easier to focus on cherry picking their favorite things instead of getting hung up on finding a home for everything that’s not going with them. When you limit decisions to what you’re taking, you eliminate hundreds of tiny decisions that can really wear you down and add stress.
At the end of the day, it’s actually more efficient and productive to leave your unneeded things behind to be handled by people who know what they’re doing and have the physical resources to move things safely.

Of course, decluttering and downsizing are both important activities for anyone who wants to improve their comfort at home and their overall lifestyle. But, if your goal is to downsize and move to a smaller space, you may actually be wasting valuable time and resources on decluttering.

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