How to Declutter Your Home and Downsize

How do I get rid of clutter in my home?

Congratulations on taking the first step toward a cleaner, healthier, and happier you (and home). Clutter is a sneaky thing that seems to magically appear without notice. Of course, this isn’t reality, but it is true that most Americans experience an abundance of “stuff” accumulated over the years. Oftentimes this “stuff” gets stowed away in closets, attics, garages, sheds, etc., sometimes not to be seen again until it comes time for the next home cleanout.

There are various reasons why a homeowner would want to clean house. Maybe it’s because the house has become overrun with clutter, like in hoarding situations. Maybe the homeowners are simply looking to declutter and minimize the unnecessary mess. Still, others may clean out the house to live a more minimalist lifestyle. No matter the reason, decluttering offers several key benefits:

  • A clean home supports positive mental health and clarity
  • Less clutter means less risk of trips and falls in the home—a major cause of injury, especially in the elderly.
  • Increased value of the home and perceived size of interior spaces—critical when selling your home
  • Reduced risk of mold, pests, and other potential health hazards

RELATED: Dangers and Health Effects of a Cluttered Home

Below, we’ll discuss a simple, proven strategy to declutter a home in a strategic manner. Then, we’ll go over why downsizing is a viable option once the decluttering process is complete.

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3 Step Home Decluttering Plan

Step 1 – Mental Prep

It can be a stressful time for some people to part ways with items, even if these are things that are not used or even needed for anything in particular. It can be immensely helpful in these types of situations to get together a small team of supporters and motivators to help complete the job.

While it may not always be a fun or enjoyable endeavor, decluttering your home will yield hugely beneficial results in the end. It can be helpful to think of the end result and work your way back from there in planning your attack on the clutter.

Step 2 – Plan of Attack

Get out a pencil and paper. To lay the groundwork on your decluttering project, spend just 20 or 30 minutes sketching out a basic layout of your home and labeling each room with a value between 1 and 5. A value of 1 signifies a room that is only mildly cluttered, while a room given a value of 5 is one that has become overrun with junk and clutter. You can then jot down the order in which you want to attack the clutter.

There are several ways of doing this...

Start with one of the “easier” rooms and get it cleaned up quickly. Then, you can gain momentum by starting with the less-cluttered rooms and making some progress—sort of like a snowball effect in completing the job.

An alternative method is hitting the project head-on by starting with the 4’s and 5’s. If you’re highly motivated in getting the home clean and pristine, this may be your best route. Getting the hardest hit rooms cleaned up first makes the job easier as you move from room to room.

At this point, a disposal plan needs to be determined. You have a few options here:

  • how to stop hoarding and declutterHaul junk, waste, and debris yourself to your nearest landfill.
  • Hire a junk removal company to pick up the junk. They can handle much of the heavy lifting for you.
  • Rent a roll-off dumpster or trailer dumpster to use as needed. A whole-home cleanout will generally need a 20 - 40 yard dumpster. A good dumpster rental company will help you choose the right dumpster size. Find a reputable dumpster rental company near you.
  • Donate usable appliances, furniture, and household goods to local charitable organizations, such as Salvation Army, local churches, Goodwill, and Habitat for Humanity.
  • Post an ad on Craigslist. The “Free” section is great for getting rid of things, like furniture or appliances, quickly and easily.

It’s up to you which plan of attack will work best. The most important thing to consider is choosing a plan that will work to get the project done!

Step 3 – Execution

Declutter your home

With plan in hand, it’s time to get your hands dirty. But before getting started, there are a few quick tips you should know:

  1. Use proper protective gear. This includes gloves, protective footwear, and masks/eye protection for any cleanups involving potentially hazardous or unhealthy cleanups (e.g., removing construction/demolition debris).
  2. Recruit a small group of close friends or family. The extra hands will greatly speed up the project and provide the helpful support you may need in parting ways with some items.
  3. Clear your schedule and get the job done efficiently. While decluttering an hour a day after work can be effective for small jobs, bigger decluttering projects should be given a full weekend (or even a week) to complete it promptly and efficiently. Dragging the project on for weeks can be draining and demotivating.

A key point to keep in mind—especially for decluttering projects that take days or weeks to complete—is to avoid bringing more new stuff into the house. This is contrary to what you’re trying to accomplish.

Leo Babauta of Zen Habits suggests creating a 30-day list. Anytime you wish to purchase something new and/or bring something into the house, write it down on the list along with the date. Wait 30 days before deciding to purchase or bring the item in, and oftentimes you’ll find the desire to have the item fades away.

Execute the project with purpose and determination. With the right plan in place, you can achieve anything.

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Declutter and Downsize

Declutter your house and downsize

The ultimate home transformation takes it a step further than simply decluttering. Once you complete the decluttering process, you may find that downsizing is an option. Why have more house than you need?

And by the way, decluttering offers a higher return-on-investment when selling a home compared to improving the landscaping, lighting, staging, fixing plumbing, and more.

Moving into a smaller home is a trend that has many benefits:

  • Lower costs for utilities, like electricity, heating, and cooling
  • Easier to clean and maintain
  • Lower overall cost to purchase and keep up
  • It’s a simpler lifestyle
  • Fewer areas to stash future clutter!

If deciding to downsize, you can save time and money by decluttering first. A garage or yard sale is very effective at getting rid of bulk amounts of accumulated stuff in a weekend’s time.

Higher ticket items can be sold on eBay or Craigslist. Other usable goods, appliances, and furniture can be donated to local charitable organizations. When it’s all said and done, decluttering can really pay off.

The process of decluttering and downsizing is a reality faced by many seniors in retirement and also empty nesters. Accumulations of stuff throughout the decades seems to sneak its way into every nook and cranny of a home. Add to this the fact that some elderly may not physically be able to move heavy items or perform the frequent lifting necessary to complete a major house cleanout, and the job can become overwhelming.

Help is out there. We mentioned most of these ideas before, but here are some options to declutter without having to do any of the heavy lifting yourself:

  • Professional organizers
  • Junk removal companies near you
  • Family and friends
  • Some charities (e.g. Habitat for Humanity) will come pick up usable goods for free, such as furniture

Downsizing can simplify your life and almost always reduces the cost of living. Decluttering has an abundance of benefits too, as described above. Get started by taking action right away. It all starts with paper and pen; start planning your home declutter and downsizing project today.

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A decluttered house