When you get to a certain age, you may feel like the time is right to move into a smaller and more manageable home. Or you’ve decided to devote more of your time and money to traveling, seeing family, or having new experiences.
When you set out to declutter an entire home, especially one in which you’ve accumulated possessions over decades, it can be so overwhelming and hard to decide what to focus on or where to start. We’ve asked the experts at Caring Transitions of South Florida for some handy suggestions on how to declutter effectively and easily.
Step 1: Start with Clothing, Shoes, and Accessories
The closet is often the first place people turn when you want to declutter your home. There’s just something satisfying about clearing out unworn clothes, shoes, and accessories. To seriously reduce the size of your wardrobe, assess every item—even the small things like T-shirts, socks, and jewelry—and get rid of anything that you wouldn’t wear right now (if the weather and occasion were appropriate). Get rid of anything that doesn’t fit, physically or otherwise.
Step 2: Furniture and Home Décor
Even if it’s easy for you to part with a stretched-out sweater or too-tight pair of shoes, it can feel wasteful to get rid of large household items like your couch, coffee table or dining room table. These items take up lots of space, can be costly to replace, and often have been in your home for many years.
But don’t let that stop you from honestly evaluating your furniture, along with decorative pieces like artwork, and asking yourself whether you still use or truly enjoy each item. Determine what fits with your current lifestyle and, if you’re moving, what you will need in your new home and new life. Keep in mind that transporting large, heavy items can sometimes cost as much as buying new ones and can be key to declutter your home.
Step 3: Clear the “Junk Drawer”
Even the neatest of households can unwittingly accumulate dry ballpoint pens, single socks, broken gadgets no one will ever repair, and assorted odds and ends. If you want to declutter your home and don’t know where to begin downsizing, this is a safe place to start. It is probably the quickest, easiest, and most immediately satisfying category to declutter, and cleaning out your junk—whether it’s literally in a designated junk drawer—is a relatively mindless project that lacks the emotional or logistical decisions that can slow you down in other areas.
Step 4: Clear the Kitchen and Dining Room
Cookware, gadgets, dishes, coffee mugs, and all things cooking- and dining-related are among the most fun items to buy and are some of the least enjoyable when it comes time to declutter your home. They’re fragile, heavy, and useful (unless they’re broken), so it can be hard to justify giving them away. Plus, like clothing and hobby equipment, they sometimes represent a phase of life that’s over (for example, wine glasses for those cocktail parties you used to throw), or an unrealized dream (such as specialized tools for those elaborate meals you once thought you’d enjoy making). But having more kitchen goods than you need leads to serious clutter and having to bring them all with you when you move is a bubble-wrapped nightmare. So, unless the unused item is a beloved heirloom, pass it on to someone who will use it.
Step 5: Memorabilia
Nearly everyone keeps some treasured memories of the past, like an album of family photographs or a collection of personal letters. Most people also have collected quite a bit of less meaningful memorabilia—items they never intended to save but don’t feel quite right about discarding. This could include birthday cards from relatives, souvenirs from long-ago vacations, and anything that blurs the line between keepsake and clutter.
To pare down these items, start with anything that doesn’t belong to you. Ask your kids if they want their old books, papers, or teddy bears. They may come and get them; they also may give you the green light to toss everything. Also, be honest about whether you’ll ever really go rummaging through those boxes for a memory. If the answers indicate that the stuff isn’t a meaningful part of your life anymore, it might be a good time to give it up.
Downsizing to declutter your home or decluttering a home to move can be both stressful and exciting. It’s also the perfect time to embrace one of the key lessons of decluttering: Many possessions come into your life for a specific period. When that season is over, and their usefulness and value to you are gone, you can feel free to let them go—to help make room for your adventures that are still to come.