Rightsize your downsizing…

Decluttering and Downsizing The Right Way For Your Retirement Living Lifestyle

Most people are familiar with the terms decluttering and downsizing, but ‘right sizing’ is really what we enjoy most about working with our clients. Rightsizing is about your space and your belongings matching your lifestyle. It’s not about giving away everything or throwing out memories. It’s about prioritising the things you love, the things that you use, and how best to set up a new space that fulfils your specific needs.

The fact is, moving into retirement living can be a wonderful positive lifestyle change. In our experience, most clients say they wished they had done it sooner! But it is a lifestyle change that requires an adjustment in how we think about our living spaces and our belongings.

For some, downsizing and decluttering is prompted by something negative. Health issues, the death of a partner or financial concerns. While others are moving in response to something positive, such as wanting to have more free time without the burden of maintaining a large family home, a desire to live closer to children and grandchildren, or to take advantage of the social aspect of retirement living.

Whatever the reasons, in our experience, everyone who wants to downsize feels inundated with the task of sifting through an entire household’s worth of belongings. This is a completely typical and expected emotion. 

Our co-founder and managing director, Cameron Early, has over 10 years experience in assisting downsizers to rightsize. With his expert guidance we have put together a few methods to get you started on your journey to declutter and downsize the right way. 

Once you’ve made that initial decision to move, the next step is to get into the nitty gritty of actually deciding what to bring along with you into your new space, and what no longer fits into your new lifestyle.

There is an enormous variety of methods you can use to declutter and we are going to run through a few of our favourites. The methods you use really depend on the scale of decluttering needed, how much help you have, and how much time you have available.


So where to start?

One of the most popular methods at the moment comes from the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, a bestseller by Marie Kondo that encourages readers to tackle their clutter all at once. The author advises setting aside full days or large sets of time to declutter. The core of the method is to only keep items that “spark joy” when you hold them and to part with the rest, as well as to declutter by category – clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous and mementos – rather than by room.

The Oprah Challenge is a decluttering method that’s perfect to work on your wardrobe if you have a period of time before you move. Hang all your items in the opposite direction to normal – then as you wear and wash an item return it to the wardrobe on the hanger in the normal direction. It will be quite clear after a time what items you wear and what you don’t!

There are several methods that involve little rules to follow and what almost seem like games. The 90/90 rule is an easy to follow process when considering what objects to keep or throw away. Simply ask yourself two questions with every item you are considering: First, have you used this item in the past 90 days? And if not, will you use it in the next 90 days?

No matter how much you have, there is always something that needs to go. You’ll love how easy the 20/20 rule is when you are struggling with the I-might-need-it-someday item. The 20/20 rule for downsizing and decluttering challenges you with these questions: Can you replace the item in 20 minutes and can you replace the item for less than $20? If you answer yes, then you can let that item go.  

The Mins Game, short for the Minimalist Game, is a game developed to make decluttering a little more fun and to ease you into the downsizing process. The idea of the Mins Game is to reduce your items over a period of 30 days, starting with one item on the first day, two items on the second day and so on until you dispose of 30 items on the 30th day. Over the space of 30 days you will have decluttered a total of 465 items. 

Now, all of these methods are well and good for decluttering the linen closet and the kitchen cupboards, but for many their concern is around the sentimental items, the momentos, the books.

Our advice is generally to preserve the story behind the stuff, in whichever way possible. This may mean taking photographs of bulky souvenirs and making a photo book. It may mean literally writing the memory down, and then deciding whether the item needs to be kept or not. It may mean making digital copies of important papers or letters. And it may mean keeping just one part of a collection and gifting the rest.

It is often the stories and memories behind an object that make us want to keep it. Once that story is shared or recorded or preserved somehow, you might be surprised at how easy it is to let it go. It can be a time consuming process, but very worthwhile.

Some decluttering and downsizing tasks are bigger and more complex than others, and when you’re dealing with a very cluttered environment, there might need to be a range of help provided over a significant amount of time. As you age, clutter can become even more of a problem, causing tripping hazards, stress, and exacerbating memory loss issues. Severe clutter, unlike hoarding, is more apt to be responsive to some support strategies that you can implement and the other decluttering methods mentioned above. Hoarding, a more serious problem, usually requires the help of trained professionals who are experienced in the root of the behaviour.

We understand that decluttering and downsizing can be a difficult process. Whether you are a senior or not, it can be a tremendously emotional process. It is important to have someone who is non judgmental, supportive and kind – and also impartial. Friends and family can be an enormous help but having professionals involved can avoid some of the pitfalls, especially with expensive or sentimental items. We found that the best long term results come from understanding our clients over a cup of tea in your home and a good ol’ chat to really sort out what your needs are. Everyone is different, and everyone’s first step towards rightsizing is going to look different.

You may have just started your decluttering and downsizing journey or are well on your way of letting go. We hope these methods have helped you at whichever stage you are at. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or with little time to complete the task of decluttering your own home or your parents’ home give us a call and we will take the load off you to rightsize.

Golden Years Senior Home Transitions