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Are you considering a move to a new place? Do you feel overwhelmed by clutter? Are you ready to make 2024’s Spring Cleaning the deepest yet? We asked professional organizer Janelle Azar for some guidance on how you can right-size your home.

Janelle Azar photoWhen a client is interested in right-sizing, what’s the first thing that you advise them to do? Why is that?

We often start by identifying the goals and priorities of their project, which helps us establish a timeline and plan. I ask my clients to consider the following:

  1. Space Planning for Your New Home: The new floor plan dictates which furniture you can take, wall space (influencing decor/art), and storage spaces such as cabinets and closets that also need consideration.
  2. Give Yourself a Realistic Timeline: You didn't acquire these items overnight, and it will take time to make decisions.
  3. Understand the Math: If you’re transitioning from 3000 square feet to 1500 square feet, you will need to eliminate 50% or more.

When it comes to priorities, I ask clients about the aspects of their lifestyle that are important to them as they move forward. Real-life examples from some of my clients have included relief from stress, simplifying life, leaving less for their kids to deal with, and the chance to experience new freedoms. Keeping these priorities in mind helps them make decisions about what to keep and what to let go of as they begin to sort through their physical belongings.

What are some of the pitfalls that your clients sometimes experience, and how can they be avoided?

The 5 most common pitfalls when downsizing include:

  1. Lack of A Support System: Without a good support system, downsizing can feel overwhelming. To avoid this pitfall, enlist the support of friends, family members, or a professional organizer. Some important factors to consider when selecting your support system are their ability to be objective, if they can help you physically, if they can be good listeners, and if they aren’t easily overwhelmed. Patience and kindness are also important considerations.
  2. Sentimentality: Clients often have a hard time letting go of items even though they may no longer be useful or relevant to their lifestyle. Sentimental items should be prioritized according to their importance and how they contribute to the client’s goals and lifestyle. Some ways to help clients work through sentimental items include letting them tell the stories associated with the items and taking photos of items.
  3. Unrealistic Timelines: Many clients who are downsizing have lived in their homes for decades. This means that things have been accumulated over a long period of time, so don’t expect to downsize and make decisions within a weekend, a week, or even a month. Break the project down into smaller manageable phases, and don’t be surprised if it takes 2-3 passes through your home before you get to your ideal number of things.
  4. Procrastination: Clutter and the collection of physical things often result from delayed decisions over a long period of time. Procrastination can continue to be a significant obstacle during the downsizing process, which is why having a game plan and a support system can be extremely helpful in keeping clients on task and not feeling completely overwhelmed.
  5. Inability to Make Decisions: Some people may find it difficult to make decisions about what to keep, toss, and donate. I suggest using these categories (keep, toss, donate) and also some other optional categories (sell and give to others) to help establish guidelines for decision-making. Keep in mind your goals and the space you will have to accommodate your things. I also encourage clients to think about the following questions:
    • Will I use this item?
    • Do I love this item?
    • How many of these items do I need?
    • Have I used this in the last 6-12 months?
    • Will this item serve a purpose in my new space?

Do you have any favorite books or resources regarding organizing or right-sizing that you can share?

My favorite book resources include:

Additional resources that can be beneficial to downsizing are: