Declutter as if you are moving

Declutter every day as if you are downsizing. Helpful ideas to prepare for the inevitable, at a pace that is comfortable for you.

My friends smile indulgently as I mention yet again that we have let go of several items in our home. “You won’t have anything left!” I do not mind the teasing as I know that my actions provide inspiration to get organized, or at least make for interesting conversation. (Readers share their stories in “What Our Stuff Means to Us“)

The interactions that give me pause however are with those who have to deal with the sudden ejection of household items, perhaps due to a change in circumstances that requires a downsize, or a parent’s home needs to be put on the market after they have passed on. Objects stir up emotions, hence why we ‘store and ignore’ (see my LinkedIn article last year called “Steps for Un-storing Your Possessions“).

Rather than being forced to make desperate decisions to sell, toss or store, my husband and I are slowly decluttering over time to reduce the number of our possessions. Every month, I make a small project out of emptying boxes, reducing piles of paper or letting go of house items that we do not need. When paired with the rule ‘if something comes in, something must go’, there is little risk of continued accumulation.

closet tweak
Split screen shot of my closet. Until I was able to replace a broken support bracket, I lightened the load by emptying heavy storage boxes previously kept on the shelves.
Read here about tips on curating your clothes closet)

I have been paying attention to what we own for many years so when it comes to decluttering, the piles are getting smaller and easier to manage. There is very little in our home that we do not use or love. Most things follow my three point rule:

  • Items must be efficient (they work well)
  • They are used often (not keeping around that perfectly good roasting pan that never gets used)
  • There is an aesthetic quality that is pleasing. (if not to look at, then at least to enjoy using because it functions so nicely)

As well, when mail comes in the door (we get very little now as we receive bills electronically and we do not subscribe to magazines) we immediately open it and recycle what paper we do not need. The remaining contents go onto a specific shelf for processing.

pile at the door
Functional pretty boxes, now empty, are ready to be donated

As life evolves, having some available space makes room for a sudden influx of things. My husband sold a home containing many possessions that had to be dealt with. He acquired a storage unit to hold large objects and over time he has reduced the unit sizes, with a final purge coming this Fall. Smaller items filled our apartment for quite a while but, being able to take his time, he did a wonderful job of reducing piles of books, papers and other paraphernalia. (He therefore really enjoyed deciding what to keep.) The trick is to not hide things away. We pulled everything out from under the bed and put it in the middle of another room. Having stuff in view means you have to deal with it, and he reported that looking at it everyday reduced any attached emotional mystery so he could let it go.

books at the door
A few books wait by the door to be donated at the library
waiting to scan
A small pile of photos and notebooks remind me to deal with them

Sometimes decluttering happens in stages. We leave many items by the door, sometimes for quite a while, before they are removed. If you can wait for a day when you are planning to be nearby a donation or recycling depot, then no special trip is required.

I let go of most of the contents in the closet boxes, however I found several photos that were not yet digitized and several note books that I wanted to read through at a later time. Again, every week,  I take a few minutes to do a few things, and I feel satisfied to see piles shrink rapidly.


How easy would it be for you to move with a couple of months notice (or less?)

If you love all of your stuff and it works well for you, that is great! Just spend a moment contemplating future possibilities. How would you cope with an urgent need to downsize, or accommodate an excellent opportunity, such as a great house becoming available or a job in a different city? And what potential burden might you be placing on others when you pass away? Not everything in life can be controlled. But at least we can prepare, at a comfortable pace, which allows for some peace of mind when the unexpected happens.

Need some help? Send me a note (jo @ and we can work over the phone to put some strategies in place for you to declutter and minimize. If you find yourself having to pack up and move, get excellent support from the Professional Organizers of Canada by finding a member in your area.