It’s easy to accumulate a lot of things throughout your life. From clothes and household goods to antiques and treasured keepsakes, decades of living often means decades of stuff. When you get to a certain age, it can be smart to start downsizing your belongings.
Sometimes downsizing is inspired by a move and other times it’s simply a proactive effort to keep a home clutter-free and make things easier for the next chapter of life. Although it can feel overwhelming, with a few smart steps, the process can be easy and even enjoyable. Use these eight tips to get started:
Sort it out: Creating a system before organizing and downsizing can help the process go smoother. This can be as simple as getting large boxes and labeling them with Keep, Donate, Gift or Throw Away.
Enlist some help: Ask your spouse or kids to help you go through your items and decide what to keep and what to get rid of. Some items that you find difficult to part with may not be things that your children want: books, figurines, antique furniture and silver servingware. Keep a few meaningful mementos, but consider parting with the items your kids aren’t interested in inheriting.
Think about safety: Whether you’re moving into a new home or preparing to age in place, it’s important to consider safety factors as you age. Clutter is a trip hazard for seniors, so keep this in mind as you go through items. It might be time to get rid of throw rugs, exposed cords and cut down on end table clutter to make room for a lamp that provides extra light.
Consider your new space: If you’re moving, evaluate how much space you will have in your new home to help decide what to keep. That massive claw-foot couch might not be suitable for a modest living room. Smaller storage space might mean getting rid of clothing you haven’t worn for over a year or consolidating printed photographs by transferring them into digital files and storing online for easy access by family.
Memory care concerns: Juliet Holt Klinger, senior director of Alzheimer’s and dementia care at Brookdale Senior Living, says if a loved one is moving into a memory care community you want the new space to be as comfortable and familiar as possible. “Set up the new apartment as close to the layout at home as possible. For example, put the nightstand on the same side of the bed and decorate the room with familiar items,” she suggests.
Peruse paperwork: Take this opportunity to get paperwork in order. Invest in a file cabinet and organize important documents, such as your will and advanced care directives. It’s also smart to have electronic records of these types of documents and have a conversation with loved ones who need to be aware of their existence.
Make some money: After you have sorted through all the rooms in your home, consider having a garage or estate sale. This is a great way to make extra money off of things you otherwise no longer use. Alternatively, take items to a consignment store or sell your goods online using a site like eBay, Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.
Support a good cause: Take your unwanted items to a family in need or a local nonprofit. These can benefit a number of good causes you can feel good about. List items and get a donation slip so you can consider it as a deduction come tax time.
No matter the specific reason, it can feel great to downsize and organize your belongings.