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How to downsize your home

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From house to condo

Even the mere thought of moving is stressful for most, and the situation further complicates itself if downsizing is the plan. Usually the stress isn’t caused by the thought of new surroundings or a smaller place, but instead the question of what to do with all your stuff.

Debby Lea is a professional organizer and owner of Streamlined Solutions, a BC based company that helps people get rid of clutter. Here is her best advice about what to keep, what to throw out and everything in between.

Move in mentally

She says the first step to leaving your home is to visualize your new place and to be blunt with yourself about how much space there really is.  It is also important to think about what other public spaces will be at your disposal so you won’t bring things you don’t need.

It is also important to understand just what you’ll be doing in your new place. Will your lifestyle change when you downsize? Think about not only what you’ll start doing, like travelling for example, but also what you will stop doing. If you’re downsizing and don’t plan on hosting big dinners, there is no need to hold onto plates for 20 people and a turkey roaster.

On top of that, think about different hobbies you plan to continue or stop. We’ve all gone through phases of scrapbooking, tennis or woodworking, but don’t hold onto old stuff with vague or no intentions of ever using it again.

Starting to think about your future lifestyle in realistic terms will help you let go mentally of any attachments you have to your possessions.

Stuff, stuff and more stuff

When it comes down to the hard decisions, the first thing is to look for the things that are non-negotiable. Debby points to the character of Martin Crane, the father from Fraser as a good example of this. He needed one thing to make him feel comfortable and at home - his chair. So, think about your equivalents - what do you absolutely need to ensure your new place doesn’t feel like a hotel room?

The next step is to prioritize. Don’t start this two weeks before you’re leaving your house, this will take most people a long time. Start ranking all the stuff, at least the big stuff on a scale of one to ten. Afterwards, pick a number that makes sense and get rid of everything below it.

Cost is a four letter word

A lot of hesitation around throwing out items centres on money. Maybe you invested in something that you never really used or liked, but you just don’t want to get rid of it because of the price. If you think its valuable try to sell it, but if it isn’t there is nothing you can do. Guilt isn’t the point here - you spent the money and it’s not going to come back. Breathe, accept it, and throw it out.

Sentimental value

Never buy goofy ears at Disneyland, says Debby, because items like this that take up space and are hard to get rid of. A really good idea if you need to get rid of items with sentimental value or collections of things is make a book out of them. If you take nice pictures of these things and write a little description of them, you make very beautiful photo albums that evoke the same feelings, but in a little space.

Also, if you are holding onto items to pass down to family members, consider giving them away while you’re still alive. If you think they will really enjoy the items, isn’t it more satisfying to watch those you love take pleasure in them than cramming them away somewhere yourself?

"One man’s trash…"

If you are throwing out things that are still good quality, the best thing you can do is find them good homes. Think about an organization that you really believe in like Big Brothers, the Mental Health Association, Diabetes etc. and give them your old stuff. They will appreciate it more than you and will be able to help people because of your donation.

Avoid storage

Storage facilities should be used on more of a temporary basis, otherwise they end up turning into black holes for stuff. If you have nowhere to store seasonal things like Christmas decorations or suitcases, really weigh out the cost to see if you aren’t spending more on storage than the items in it are worth. Adding to that, Debby says going through old storage facilities is not a fun job - so think about friends and family who would be doing that for you if you passed away.

Getting rid of things can be a huge weight off of your shoulders and the shoulders of others. Even though the process of downsizing may be emotionally hard, the end will definitely be satisfying.

By Alyssa McMurtry 

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