How to Downsize and Declutter
These past two years I've been wavering back and forth between continuing to rent versus buying a house. Since moving is something I dread, I started packing up my belongings months ago in anticipation of moving, and storing the boxes in one of my unused bedrooms. Many items have been packed away for over six months, leading me to think about downsizing and decluttering. For instance, do I really need that bread maker that's been packed for so long? When was the last time I used it? How many other items have I stored and haven't used in years?
I'm not only unsure of what I've packed, but I'm storing them in an unused bedroom! Does this mean I don't really need a 3-bedroom home? I know I'm not the only person to store items away for months or years; the Stor-It and Public Storage facilities a few blocks from my house confirm that others have this same problem.
My own packing behavior has lead me to think about downsizing and decluttering. So, I've devised a simple timeline for sorting and decluttering painlessly with a three-phase strategy: 3-month plan, 6-month plan, and the year-or-more plan. (See also: 25 Easy Organizing Changes You Can Make Today)
Items that have been packed for three months or less are items I will keep. Obviously, these items are the most recently packed and are freshly imprinted in my brain. Many of these items include paintings that I intend to hang in my new place, linens that I will continue to use, and knick-knacks and keepsakes that I will cherish forever.
- Keep It: Valuables and family heirlooms, pictures and paintings that are timeless, items that were used frequently and are intended to be used again in the same frequency.
This short-term plan is geared more towards individuals planning on moving within a few months, as in my case. However, if these items become stored for longer than planned, then it's time to reevaluate and move to the next phase.
Six months ago, I became serious about moving and started packing items I hadn't used in a while with the idea that I would eventually use them again. Now that these items have been out of sight for six months or longer, I'm beginning to think that I really don't need them.
- Reevaluate It: Knick-knacks that have little sentimental value, kitchen items and small appliances that haven't been used in a while or were used infrequently to begin with, extra linens and blankets that were rarely used.
I'm realizing that many of the items I first packed were items I could live without, such as that bread maker and blender that were only used a handful of times. These items need to be scrutinized; I can obviously live without them.
I have a few large Rubbermaid bins in the garage that have been sitting untouched for five years. What's in them? I'm not really sure anymore. Thankfully, I have the space to store these items, as I don't think I'd still have them if I had to pay for storage.
- Sell It / Chuck It: Many times, boxes that have been stored for a year or more are filled with unknown and forgotten items. I'm pretty sure that some of the items in my large bins include old lighting fixtures and dishes that haven't seen the light of day for half a decade. It's time to lighten the load by going through these bins and selling, recycling, or repurposing these old items.
Storage facilities have been known to sell occupied units that have fallen delinquent in payment. Think about how the owner could have benefited had they just sold the items they weren't using?
Obviously, not everyone can be so nonchalant about getting rid of items they've had for years. Yet, this simple timeline can help prioritize and reduce storage concerns and declutter a home. Thankfully, I don't consider myself a pack-rat and will be following my own guidelines this month.