Whatever your reason for downsizing right now (the economy, a senior moving to a smaller home, or just too much clutter, etc.), the benefits may surprise you–saved money in storage fees, more room in your house due to less "stuff," or even more room in your life due to the extra space you have created! Whether you believe in Feng Shui or not, I do believe that when you create open areas in your living space, you invite a new energy and vitality to come and reside with you, too!
Here's a positive spin I call the "S-P-O-R-T" technique! (Think about if you want this to be an individual or "team" sport. Having a friend to be accountable to while doing this makes it easier and can make the time fly!)
R–Relax and Reward
Sort your stuff so you know what you have! You can approach this in a number of ways, whether you are looking at a storage unit or an entire house. Start slow, one step at a time, so it doesn't overwhelm you.
Sorting can mean putting like things with like. For example, gather all your bathroom items in one pile, pull all your towels out of the linen closet, or look at all your mixing bowls and baking items at once. Often, my clients will see just how many items they have of one thing, and the next step (purging) becomes so much easier. "Wow, I didn't realize I owned 15 flashlights!" (Or 42 bath towels or 21 bottles of shampoo–you get the idea!)
Another way to sort is room by room, cabinet by cabinet or even drawer by drawer, making an assumption that you have already "sorted" the things in your house to a degree. This is a good technique if you are easily overwhelmed by the idea of sorting everything you own. Just think of it in 15-30 minute segments–one drawer, one cabinet. See what's in there and "define the space." "This is my baking cabinet." "This drawer is for large utensils." Again, you'll see the wisdom here in the next step.
It isn't the prettiest word in our language, but at least it rhymes with "urge." I like to repeat to myself in an upbeat manner "I've got the urge to purge, I've got the urge to purge." Remember Flip Wilson's "Here come da judge, here come da judge"? Kind of like that! In fact, you are the judge! (See a Laugh-in clip with Sammy Davis, Jr. as the judge here.) So repeat after me, "Here come da judge and I got the urge to purge! Here come da judge and I got the urge to purge!"
So now the pile of bath towels is in front of you. How many do you really need? Too many means more work and less space–more laundry, more folding, more putting away, less room in the linen closet to store other things. How many people live with you? Figure on at least 2 towels per person, then just keep a few extra for guests. Purge out the old, ratty stained and torn ones. The same rule of thumb can be applied to sheets (and nearly everything else) as well. Two sets for each bed in your house. (Maybe a few extra if you have a child in the midst of potty training!)
Do you really need 21 bottles of shampoo? Throw out the old stuff, keep a few good ones and remember not to buy shampoo for awhile. Staring at your makeup drawer? Good chance you can just throw it all out. Most makeup should be replaced every few months to reduce the chance of it spoiling and causing you eye or skin problems. Another great reason to only buy the bare minimum, date it when you open it and throw it out when time is up.
Eighteen mixing bowls you say? Hmmm–reconsider how much baking you really do. Again, bring it down to your minimums. Keep 2-3 bowls of different sizes, especially ones that do double duty. A nice mixing bowl can also be a salad bowl. A mixing bowl with a lid can be a storage container.
If you are using the "cabinet by cabinet" technique and you have defined the cabinet ("Baking items"), and you come across odd things that don't belong (a tennis ball, a toy, etc.)–just pull them out and put them in a box marked "Belongs elsewhere." If you can't make a purge right then, leave it in the box for when you do come across where it really belongs and then make the decision once you see its "cabinet-mates."
And of course, keep a few bins or bags handy for trash, recycling and give-away.
This is the fun part! You've already done the hard stuff. And if you've done it well, you have less stuff to organize. That's the real trick here. For most of my clients who think they have trouble organizing, it's really that they just had too much stuff. Of course it was impossible to organize! But once they see what's left–the good stuff they really love–it's no longer overwhelming, and they seem to click right into organizing mode!
You have already sorted, so like is with like. (Yes, that is actually organizing right there!)
Now think about how and when you are going to use it. Box it and store it? (Yes? Then think again about keeping it unless you know you will be using it in the future.) Keep it handy in a "prime real estate" spot? Use it once or twice a month and shove it back into a corner? Something to look at and admire daily in a special place of honor?
R–Relax and Reward
Take a break and do something nice for yourself. Every time you complete the "completion chemistry" cycle, bask in the accomplishment, even if you've just done a little drawer or one square foot of space. You signal your brain that this is a good thing. And your brain will get used to it, like it and want to do it again!
Thinking ahead about your reward is also wonderful motivation. Hmmm, a long soak in the tub? A cup of coffee? A walk around the block? Watching one favorite TV show? A piece of chocolate? Ten minutes reading that new novel? A phone call to a friend? Internet surfing? You get the idea.
Set yourself up. Reward yourself. Reap what you sow.
Treasure yourself. Treasure the moment, treasure your accomplishment, treasure your treasures that you've chosen to keep.
Treasure the fact that this process helps you realize what is truly important to you and what is just stuff.