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The Empty Nester’s Guide to Downsizing Your Stuff

3 minute read, by Closet America, on Jul 2, 2015

It seems like just yesterday there were nine-year-olds and golden retrievers creating a tornado of activity in your living room, but “oh my” how time flies. Finger-painted portraits on the wall make way for prom photos and college diplomas, and tricycles and skateboards are replaced by driver’s licenses and your kid’s first car. As you transition from a full-time parent to an empty nester, you might feel, well, empty.

What won’t be empty, though, is your storage space. You and your family have spent years in your home, and it’s tough to figure out what to do with all the stuff you’ve collected along the way. Do you really need every model airplane that your son built over the years? What about all those magazines stacked up in your daughter’s closet? Whether you’re looking to downsize to a smaller home, or de-clutter your current home, one thing’s for sure: you’re going to need to get rid of some stuff.

That’s where we come in. At Closet America, we’re organizing experts, and we want to help. Check out our de-cluttering tips for empty nesters. We’d love to help you create a downsizing plan that tidies up your living space, gets rid of unnecessary junk, and reclaims your home.

1. Don’t wait until it’s too late

People usually associate empty nesters and downsizing with moving to a new home, as that’s often the end goal. However, it can be just as beneficial to de-clutter the home that you hope to remain in for years to come.

Regardless of what you plan to do, it’s imperative to start the process before it becomes absolutely necessary. Unexpected illnesses, career changes, and family milestones can lead to physical downsizing, and you should always be one step ahead. Carve out a few weekends or evenings to start sorting through your stuff. It’ll all be worth it.

2. Take it one room at a time

On the surface, going through your entire home and the entirety of your family’s lifetime of possessions seems like an incredibly daunting task. But when you take it one room at a time, it seems much more manageable. Start small, and work your way up to the whole home.

Another option is to start by cleaning out the peripheral spaces in your home – the attics, cellars, garages, or sheds. The stuff in these places has been out of your mind for a long time, and probably won’t hold as much sentimental value. Cleaning out these spaces will make it much easier when tackling the rooms you actually live in.

3. Start with documents and photographs

Sorting through personal papers and photographs will be the most time-consuming part of the process. At one point or another, these documents were worth saving, so it’s important to read through them and make sure you recognize their importance before deciding to keep them, save them for your children, or shred them.

Likewise, the pictures you’ve saved over the years were, or still are, important to you, but stacks and stacks of pictures in a cabinet somewhere don’t do you any good. Sort through your pictures and keep 15% to 20% of them to display or keep in albums.

4. Categorize your stuff

When you start de-cluttering any room, organize your stuff into three categories: save, dump, or donate/sell. It’ll be tricky at times to decide what to save and what to dump, but if your save pile is much larger than the other two, it may be worth it to reassess what you’re saving.

Donating or selling some of your things can be a worthwhile experience. The toys that your kids used to love can bring joy to a new generation, and used clothes are always accepted at nearby shelters or thrift stores. You may even uncover a hidden treasure among your things. Take that ancient lamp that hasn’t been used in years to a local antique store. You might be surprised by what people are willing to pay for your old things!

5. Have fun

Though it can be an emotional experience, no one ever said downsizing your stuff couldn’t be fun. Invite the kids over, or maybe a few friends and neighbors, and have an organizing party. Sad emotions will make way for laughs and smiles as you uncover long-lost memories and forgotten relics of your past. Did you really dress like that in the 80s?

Downsizing and de-cluttering are important aspects of your life. We hope that our tips will help make it a fun, low-stress, and worthwhile experience.

To learn more about Closet America’s amazing closet organization systems and see some of our beautiful designs, check out our closet ideas and design guide here. To meet one of our professional closet designers call 800-747-3217 to schedule your FREE design consultation.

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