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Secrets of a Professional Downsizer

Everyone expects that, as a professional Downsizer, my home must look like something out of a magazine shoot.
And the truth is – it’s OK. It is reasonably well organized. I can find things when I’m looking for them.

But while helping others downsize and organize is something I very much enjoy, I rarely have the time or energy to work on my own things. The truth is, I have more than my share of papers, files, books, pictures and electronics. And, I have avoided going through them for a long time.

With the Covid-19 lockdown, I had plenty of time — and no excuse — not to go through the stuff in my office. Here are the steps I took that you can take, too — even without a professional’s help!

I’ll let you know how I did on my project at the end.

Before starting

  • Have a clear, compelling reason for why you’re taking this on. Remembering why you’re doing what you’re doing will help you stick with it.
  • Designate staging areas for stuff you’re getting rid of. Charities and places to donate are closed now. Find a place you can store things so they don’t get in your way.
  • Print out the Organizing Cards.
  • Work on one area at a time to prevent overwhelm.

While sorting

  • Use the Organizing Cards to help remember what goes  where.
  • Post a copy of Questions to ask yourself when sorting where you can see it to keep yourself on track.
  • Don’t keep it if you don’t need it. Be honest with yourself.
  • Handle everything only once. Decide what to do with something while you’re holding it.
  • Remember why you started this project, and how good you’ll feel when you’ve made progress.

After you’re done

  • Put KEEP items away, neatly where they belong, boxed and labeled, if appropriate.
  • Put GIVE TO SOMEONE ELSE items out where you’ll remember to give them to someone else.
  • Put RECYCLE and TOSS items aside for pickup with your weekly trash.
  • Put DONATE, SHRED,  HAZ-MAT and E-WASTE items out of the way, for pickup or drop-off when it’s safe to do.
  • Decide on a time you’re going to continue working on your project.

How did I do?

Quite well! I let go of many old magazines, and tossed binders full of school projects I’d been holding on to for years. I cleared out files I never referenced and gave away books that someone else would enjoy.

While I was on a roll, I cleaned up the email and documents I didn’t need in my computer and on my phone, too. Now, I have the things I need, both physically and electronically, within reach. It’s much better this way!

I also achieved one of my significant goals: Gathering all important family documents (insurance, passports, birth certificates, etc.) in a single well-marked box – in case we have to evacuate for any reason.

My biggest challenge, which I have yet to tackle, are all the shoeboxes filled with years of family photos. My thought is that I’ll scan the ones I want to keep, and throw out the print versions. Or, maybe I’ll just keep the best of the best in one shoebox. I’m still trying to work it out.

And that’s the biggest secret every downsizer knows: Downsizing is a process. And it never ends.