downsizingUse it or Lose it: The Fine Art of Downsizing Your Life

Right along with the gray hair, wrinkles and wisdom you accumulate as you age, you also accumulate stuff. It’s practically a law of nature. While you may not have reached the stage where anyone would put you on a TV show, chances are your drawers and closets, attic and basement are packed to overflowing, and if you decide—or need—to make a move, you’re going to have a daunting task ahead of you.

Don’t wait until you’re under pressure to weed out and whittle down your stuff. By doing it now, while you have plenty of time, you’ll make better decisions and get through this potentially emotional process a whole lot easier.

Don’t bite off more than can chew

Never is this old adage truer than when you’re clearing out the clutter. Tackle this monumental job in small chunks—five minutes here, 10 minutes there and one shelf at a time. Experts also recommend that you focus on categories of belongings rather than individual rooms. That way the books or framed pictures from the living room don’t just end up in your bedroom closet. Tip: Challenge a spouse or housemate to get rid of 12 items a week. Whoever gets to 12 first wins a bowl of their favorite ice cream, a back rub or whatever motivational tool you need (except of course more stuff)!

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When to keep and when to bid adieu

If you haven’t used or worn something in two months, you probably don’t need to keep it. Think bread maker or those five sequined evening gowns monopolizing your guestroom closet. Tip: Turn all your hangers in the reverse direction. When you wear something, rehang that item facing forward. In several months, it’ll be crystal clear what’s just taking up closet space. You can also use this strategy to thin out linens, toiletries, etc.

Would you really and truly miss it?

The “have you used it?” test doesn’t work for everything. For those things hanging on your walls and sitting on your tables, ask yourself instead: “Does it bring joy or add beauty to my life?” Be honest. While you might find a vase or painting to be beautiful, would your life be any less wonderful without it? Keep only those items that your eye immediately goes to when you enter a room and you’d definitely notice—and miss—if someone moved them. Tip: If it doesn’t pass the “bliss” test, but you can’t bear to toss it or give it to a stranger, pass it down to a family member or friend who you know will take the same good care of it that you would.

Trash, cash or add to someone else’s stash?

Once you decide to part with an item, decide whether it has value to anyone else. If it’s still functioning and not completely out of style or obsolete, next decision is: Do you want to make the effort to sell it—whether in a yard sale or on Craigslist or eBay—or donate it? Tip: Every time you sort through a closet or cabinet, have four boxes or bags labeled Keep, Trash, Sell, Donate ready to sort and fill.

One in, one out rule.

Once you have your belongings pared down, don’t ever let them get out of control again. If you buy a new electronic gadget, get rid of one, or better yet, two old ones. Word of caution: Once you start scaling back and paring down, you’ll never want to stop.


Share your de-cluttering and organizing tips.  How are you downsizing?