Keep, Toss or Donate? 5 Ways to Start Decluttering Before You Move

Even the best senior living communities offer smaller apartments than the homes or apartments most seniors are used to living in. This often means people must downsize and declutter before they move in. Certainly not a chore that anyone really relishes, but the end result can be life enriching.  Most of us accumulate a lot of “stuff” during our lives, and for an elderly person, the process of deciding what should go and what should stay can be daunting.

However, if we approach the process with a positive attitude, the act of sorting through our things and giving away possessions can also bring a sense of calm and freedom from the things that bind us to our current situation.  In fact, Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizing consultant wrote a book about it called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Kondo’s book takes a straight approach to tidying…put your hands on everything you own, ask yourself if it sparks joy, and if it doesn’t, thank it for its service and get rid of it.

Sounds simple, but it takes time and having a family member or close friend help with the sorting process may make the process easier or at least more enjoyable. If you don’t have someone close by to help out, you may want to consider hiring a senior moving expert, relocation specialist or organizer to help with the process. Fees vary across the country and a real estate agent may be a good referral source or ask for recommendations from friends, seniors’ residences or senior centers.

The moving expert can help with:

  • sorting and decision-making
  • packing
  • arranging the move
  • arranging for charity pick up, garage sale, estate sale or working with consignment shops
  • unpacking boxes and arranging your new home

If there is time, and your move is down the road, think about starting the decluttering process six months or more ahead of time.  Here are 5  ways to get started today:

  1. Get rid of the junk – Shred old documents, toss, or give away clothes or household items that are no longer being used or needed. In other words, start with the easy stuff first.  Leave the mementos and prized possessions for later.
  2. Make three piles – One for garbage/recycling, one for donating and one for keeping.  Start writing a list of mementos that you want to give to specific people. Create a file for important documents (tax information, social security documents, titles, wills, etc.) so everything is gathered in one place and easily accessible.
  3. Get a floor plan for your new place – Decide where the major furniture will be placed such as your bed, dresser, couch, TV, bookshelf, table and chairs, etc. This will help whittle down the larger items you can take with you. If a piece serves multiple purposes, even better!
  4. Identify the special items – Select and set aside those personal items that will make your new home feel like home.  Family photos, artwork, select knickknacks – limit the amount you choose and make sure you keep the items you treasure most.  Space is at a premium, so choose the things that are most meaningful to you.
  5. Reduce, reduce, reduce! You will only need a small amount of dishes (not serving pieces and a set of 12 plates or wine glasses) and a few pots and pans in your new home. Kitchen items should be kept to a minimum.  One of the best parts of living in a senior community is being able to enjoy delicious meals that you don’t cook yourself!  Go through room-by-room and spend an hour or so per room.  Be quick with your decisions – remember, if you don’t love it or need it – get rid of it!

In the end, having a positive attitude and approaching this life change as a new adventure will make the all the difference.  Having someone help with the process can keep you on track and make the decisions about what to keep easier.  You will be amazed by the sense of freedom and lightness you feel once the process is complete and you settle into your new home!

For information on senior living visit The Selfhelp Home online www.selfhelphome.org