Small steps: a whole house can be overwhelming but plan ahead and tackle one thing at a time
Perhaps the most daunting thing about leaving the family home and downsizing into a retirement property is the thought of having to deal with all the possessions you have somehow accumulated over the years
The good news is there are simple strategies to make the process less painful. Here’s how:
1 Call for help
Ask your children to take away all the possessions they have been quietly storing in your house ever since they left home. Old school books, discarded camping gear, broken bikes, all those cardboard boxes labelled “miscellaneous” – you will be amazed at how much space you can clear simply by getting everyone to reclaim what is theirs.
2 Do you really need that?
Keep the things you enjoy, and be ruthless with the things you don’t. Beverley Wade, owner of Cluttergone decluttering service, says: “If you are moving into a smaller place you are probably not going to need your 26-piece dinner service, and if someone else will be cutting the lawn, don’t keep your lawn mower. Live for the life you will have now. You will be doing more hobbies, for example, so those are the things to keep.”
3 Be decisive now
Consider giving away treasured heirlooms to family and friends now, rather than putting them into storage. Not only will you be able to explain their significance and history in a way that you would never have been able to in a letter after you have gone, you will also experience the pleasure of being able to give it to them in person. But do tread carefully – the last thing you want to do is cause friction by favouring one relative over another, or inadvertently excluding people.
4 Who can you help?
Think about giving household items such as furniture to a particular local charity where you know they will really make a difference. A women’s refuge, for example, or homeless person’s hostel, might be very glad of any spare beds and chairs you no longer need. Books and clothes are also likely to be warmly welcomed. You may also find that a local museum might be glad of any old photos you have of the area, or old schoolbooks if you went to school nearby.
5 Get organised
Buy cardboard boxes and bubble wrap from your local self-storage centre, and stock up with white sticky labels and thick black marker pens. Large plastic laundry bags are good for transporting clothes and bedding – buy them from your local discount shop. As you go through your possessions, immediately separate them into three piles – things to keep, things to throw out, and things to give to charity or sell.
6 Take small bites
Don’t try to do it all at once, as it’s easy to be overwhelmed by a whole house load. Instead, plan ahead, start several weeks before you move and tackle one room at a time. If possible get a family member or friend to do it with you – not only will this speed up the task, it will also make it a lot more fun and give you the chance to chat about the things you have unearthed.
7 Get professional help
If the thought of doing it all yourself is completely overwhelming, get the experts in. Several decluttering services have sprung up across the country in recent years so you are likely to find one in your local area. Even a couple of hours can make a difference. Ms Wade says: “People start with the third bedroom, for example, and they think it is going to take them for ever. Or they get to a certain point and find the last push difficult. A little bit of help from a professional declutterer, such as House to Home, goes a long way.”
8 Stay positive
Focus on how fantastic you are going to feel when you have got rid of your unwanted things. Keep in mind that the reason you are decluttering is because you are about to begin an exciting new chapter in your life, and that taking too much baggage will hold you back. “Most of our clients suddenly say, ‘I feel so much lighter now,’” says Ms Wade. The best thing you can do is get started.