5 W’s of Downsizing

Scaling down

Great ideas for downsizing, moving or moving a family member

Whether you are moving from a house to an apartment, retirement home or you have already done this but still have abundance in your home and want to scale down even more understanding the where, why, who how and what can make the decisions easier.

Where does all the stuff come from?

It may not even be your stuff.  Some of you have things from your parents downsizing that ended up at your house because your Mom and Dad didn’t want to give it away but didn’t have room, so out of respect to your parents you stored it at your house. Perhaps your children have moved out but their stuff hasn’t.

Why do we keep so much?

During the Depression, we learned to keep an iron grip on anything that might still have some good in it. Then we were encouraged to buy, buy, and buy and to acquire every luxury we could afford.  Next, items began to be manufactured so cheaply that when you couldn’t find it you bought another. The Reagan years were about visible consumption.  We had TV shows like The Lifestyles Of The Rich and Famous.  We started competing with millionaires. Perhaps you have spent 40 years accumulating and now you are spending time getting rid of excess.

Who is downsizing?

The first thing is for YOU to make the decision that it is necessary to do it.  Not because your spouse or your sister or friend says you should.  Just like losing weight or quitting smoking, it has to be your decision otherwise you won’t be successful.  It is a hard process not only because it can be very physical but there are a lot of emotions that go with it and it can be a long process.  Our culture seems to think that building up is inherently better than scaling down. Fewer luxuries make you appear to be a less successful person.  The idea that some people judge your worth by the things you own, rather than by your personality and achievements can stop you from downsizing. It can be life changing to let go of your things.  When the process is over, you may feel

  • less stressed,
  • sleep better,
  • have more time to be with family, grandchildren or even travel.

Scaling down does not mean renouncing your own style. It means stripping away things that no longer fit or do not contribute to making your lifestyle easier.  You want to be able to find the things you need and love.

How? Make a Plan

Once you have made your decision to downsize or streamline before you begin the process it is important to know what you want as the outcome and set a goal of what you ultimately want it to look like. If you’re moving – you need to know room sizes and what are the absolute must have large items like a bed, couches, dressers, antiques etc.  Write it all down.  Once you know what you want, and what it should look like and visualize the end product then you start to go through your things.  It will help make the decisions easier because you can see if it will fit your plan.

What is stopping you?

If you are the type of person that has a hard time getting rid of things, try to understand why it is difficult for you.

  • Are you sentimental?
  • Do you like to be in control?
  • Is it about pride?
  • Do you hate making decisions?
  • Is it too painful to revisit certain parts of your life?

Being honest with yourself makes the process easier.


Schedule time to do it when you are not rushed and do one room, box or corner. Give yourself a set amount of time, if you feel you want to continue then great, but don’t become overwhelmed.

Here are some steps you can take to tackle the job

  • Set up a few boxes or bins and label them.  Charity, family, garbage, recycle, keep.
  • While sorting, group like with like.  Put all your books together, electronics, collections, paper etc.

At the end of the session

  • take the donated items to the front door or even better right out to your car so that you will drop them off
  • put the recycling out
  • put the garbage out
  • move items that you are returning to other people close to the door

When deciding whether you should give it away, go back to your plan and see if it,

  •  will fit into your space
  • will go with your new design or décor.
  • If not donate.

After grouping all the items you can then see how much you really have and you may need to donate some more items.

Collections and Antiques

The hardest thing for people to let go of are their collections and antiques especially, if they belonged to a parent or a loved one that has passed. Ask yourself:

  • Do you have room for them?
  • If they end up in storage or in a box how treasured are they?
  • Could you just keep one or two and give away the rest?
  • Can you take pictures of them?
  • Do some research to see if they are valuable and have someone sell them on eBay for you or contact an antique dealer.

If you don’t have room for it give it to a family member that has the same passion for collecting so they can enjoy it and you can visit.  Invite people over for brunch.  After the meal show them the items you are giving away and let them select things that have meaning for them.

Staying surrounded by things that remind you of the past or which you respond to predictably may prevent you from moving ahead with your life.   Remember they are just things you will still have the memories.  After you have completed downsizing you will end up with a beautiful home, filled only with what you need and love, that uses every inch of space the way you want. You will have control over your environment and freedom from chaos.

Need help with downsizing, contact Mind over Clutter for a complimentary 30-minute chat on Zoom.

Julie Stobbe is a Trained Professional Organizer and Lifestyle Organizing Coach who brings happiness to homes and organization to offices, virtually using Zoom. She has been working with clients since 2006 to provide customized organizing solutions to suit their individual needs and situation. She uses her love of teaching to reduce clutter, in your home, office, mind and time. She guides and supports you to be accountable for your time, to complete projects and reach your goals. If you’re in a difficult transition Julie can coach you to break-free of emotional clutter constraining you from living life on your terms. Online courses are available to help instruct, coach and support your organizing projects. Get started by downloading Tips for Reorganizing 9 Rooms.

Contact her at julie@mindoverclutter.ca

Click here to learn more about her online course Create an Organized Home.

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  1. Janet Barclay ( on May 9, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    I love this suggestion: “Invite people over for brunch. After the meal show them the items you are giving away and let them select things that have meaning for them.” This makes it almost like a celebration instead of a chore, and is way better than just handing over a box of stuff for them to sort through.

  2. theorderexpert on May 14, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    I like your emphasis on the WHO in downsizing. When all is said and done, it is you that has to live with your belongings. If you truly downsize for yourself and for your future well-being, you can’t go wrong.

  3. Moreen Torpy on May 18, 2013 at 10:39 pm

    The point I liked best is the “When”. In my practice I’ve often heard that because a client isn’t planning on moving, she doesn’t see the need to downsize yet. You’re absolutely right about starting when there’s no pressure to get it done quickly. This allows plenty of time to reminisce and share stories about the items you’re passing along.

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