Downsizing and Decluttering: Easy and Stress-Free Advice

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When Rob and I became empty nesters in our forties, we could not help but ask ourselves what’s next?  Then the idea of paying off our of our debt and retiring early set in.  Since our nest is now empty, we find ourselves with rooms that are not used.

With housing being our largest expense, downsizing and decluttering is part of our game plan to financial independence.

When planning for early retirement, boosting your savings is critical for success.  It is the simple concept of living more by living with less.

According to a study performed by Expedia and the Center for Generational Kinetics, 74 percent of American’s are prioritizing living life to the fullest versus over owning a bunch of stuff.

With such a drastic shift in American’s priorities, it is no wonder that the tiny home movement has so much traction and the stories of the adventurers trading their four walls for RV living are popping up all over the internet.

Baby Boomers (born 1946-64 are entering a stage where ‘less is more,’ while younger generations, particularly Millennials (defined as those born from 1977-95), are leading the charge in placing a newfound value on experiences, more than things, – Generations on the Move

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Downsizing and Decluttering Checklist:  A Step by Step Guide to Free Yourself

The desires for change is definitely in the air.

Change is never easy.  Even welcomed changes can bring on a sense of panic, regret, and unexpected uncertainty.  The best thing that you can do for yourself and for the ones you love the most is to make the process of downsizing and decluttering your own.

You are the one that decides what stays and what goes.  You decide what your priorities are.

Is it the stuff or the adventure that comes with starting anew?

Paring down belongings and living with less is not for everyone, just as working into your seventies is not for everyone.

Once you decide that this is a process that will be done on your terms and on your timetable, peace will set in.  The intent of retiring early is that you are in charge of your life.  Cleaning up your clutter is just the first step to finding that freedom you crave.

Ann Zanon, a certified professional organizer estimates that by simply getting rid of unused items the average American household could free up 20% of their living space By freeing up your living space you will be able to save money and reduce your stress levels.

Breaking away from all of the things that tie you down can sound a bit overwhelming, but we are here to show you how doable it is!

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Step 1:  Stop buying crap that you do not need

Before you start your declutter, you must promise yourself that you will not bring any clutter into the house.  Everything has to have a purpose; everything has to have a place must be your motto.  If you are hauling stuff into your home a the same pace you are hauling stuff out, this process will never worth.

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Step 2:  Start with the unused, worn, broken, or expired crap

For some reason, everyone seems to have useless stuff just hanging around.  Start there first!  It will be energizing and help you to immediately see the fruits of your labor.  Everything needs a purpose and a place.

Breakdown your cleaning excursion by room and make the process less overwhelming and increase your odds of success.  Identify each item as either trash, donation, or resale.

Then roll up your sleeves and get to work.

Declutter your kitchen

  • Gadgets and appliances that you do not use
  • Odds and ends (containers missing lids, excess lids, junk drawer purge)
  • Excess towels, dish rags, and potholders – get rid of them 😊
  • Expired pantry items and kitchen condiments
  • Cookbooks that you do not use
  • Extra cleaning supplies that you will never use
  • Utensils and dishware that you no longer use

Declutter your bathroom

  • Damaged towels and washcloths – throw them away or use them to clean up your mess then discard them
  • Outdated decorations and accessories
  • Products and cleaners that you do not use
  • Outdated personal care items
  • Excessive supplies of damn near anything (excessive is the keyword here)

Declutter your bedroom

  • Shoes and clothing that you have not worn for twelve months or more
  • Dust collectors lying around
  • Clothes that no longer fit
  • Excess linens – after all, how many sheet sets and pillowcases do you really need?

Step 3:  Clean out the storage

All those items that we will use later often end up in some sort of designated storage around the house.  These are often areas of easy wins as items can sit in this stage of storage for such an extensive period of time that it makes answering the question “do I really need this?” pretty easy.

  • Linen closets
  • Garages, barns, and sheds
  • Closets
  • Basement or attic
  • Under the beds

These areas of your home can also be the haven of memories.  Memories are sometimes as important as those items that you need.

The memories are the real soul searching items that no one can really tell you what you need to do with them.  Those decisions are completely up to you.

Just keep in mind:  If I have not used it for 12 months, the likelihood that it is a need is very small.

Step 4:  Get rid of paper

Paper is a clutter that can be overwhelming.  No matter how digital our lives become, somehow paper seeps in.  No matter how hard I try, it seems like my life will always include a bunch of paper.

There are a few things that can help though:

  • Enroll in paperless billing:  If available with your biller, take advantage of it.  Not only will you start reducing clutter, but you may receive a monetary incentive for enrolling with your biller.
  • Recycle right away:  I do not think junk mail will ever go away.  Before you set your mail down, toss out the junk mail.
  • Adopt a simple filing system:  Keep it simple.   The fancier you get, the more stuff you need.  (Check out this simple solution on Amazon)

Step 5: Explore smaller housing options

An article by Yes Magazine refers to a National Association of Home Builders statistic that states that the average size of a single-family home in the fifties was 983 square feet compared with the nearly 2,500 square feet today.

As time has passed, our demand for more space has increased drastically.  If your intent is to downsize your home, begin the research part of this process immediately.

When downsizing, you must think of the cost of selling your home and the cost associated with buying a new home will be.  Initially, this can be a back of the napkin calculation, but as time passes, you must put some hard numbers to this option.

Start reviewing the market, read downsizing blogs, and start crunching the numbers.  To make this one beneficial, you must investigate all of your options.

Step 6:  Go for the big stuff

To top your downsizing and decluttering project off, you must start answering the question: how to all these bulky items fit into this new life I am designing?

If currently have a four bedroom home and your goal is to move down to a three bedroom home, start by cleaning out the room of everything – including the bulky furniture!  Empty it out and commit not using it.

Downsizing your living space can be a very traumatizing process.  Make sure that you make every effort to do a trial run of this new lifestyle.



Final thoughts

Although minimalism is not for everyone, the goal of living a clutter-free, stress-free life is.  No matter what chapter of your life you are in, think simplicity. Noise and unnecessary distractions not only complicate our lives but also invite unforeseen problems.

Let us know how you like to keep your life decluttered in the comment section below!

Downsize and Declutter

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