After 30 years of emergency nursing, my client Shirley is finally retiring. She’s earned the right to kick up her feet, and she’s really looking forward to downsizing and starting this part of her journey in a simplified, minimalist kind of way.
Shirley decided to move into a smaller space, which made great sense considering how little space she’s actually been using — before I got to it, her current home was only fractionally used for real living, and the rest for storage.
So we had to get her house ready for sale, and downsize her contents, in just two days before an open house. She’d already attempted this feat countless times with family, but with very limited success and much back pain.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, here’s your plan of action:
- Always pre-arrange the specific services you’ll need for the days of the clear out. In Shirley’s case, we needed charity pickups (free); on-site shredding (nominal fee); rubbish removal (charge by volume); handyman (average of $30/hour, so have your to-do list ready); packing materials delivered (no charge for delivery); toxic taxi pick up (no charge); and resale vendor pickup (usually no charge).
- Restore the rooms to their original purpose. In Shirley’s three-bedroom house, one bedroom was acting as a paper-cluttered office and seating area, which meant the room looked very small. We scaled back most of the furniture, removed boxes of outdated papers and kept a simple cleared desk and a fresh flower.
- Always clear out storage spaces that have become dumping zones. Check underneath the stairs, and in the furnace room, garage and laundry area. You’ll be surprised how much junk there is. To maximize the floor space, organize vertically using sturdy shelving units.
- Hobbies, collections and personal family photos are best stored away for now. You can enjoy them on the other end once you have moved.
- De-clutter and organize all closets. “Closets sell the house,” as the saying goes. Start by removing all items on the top shelf and the closet floor. Have your clear bags handy for charity giveaways.
- Widen all pathways by removing obstructing furniture. Never let furniture impede a door from fully opening. Ensure all windows are clean and completely visible.
- Too much furniture can crowd a room, so create a large room by eliminating some extra pieces. You always have the option of off-site storage or selling the excess. Don’t let your home be storage unit.
We wish Shirley a fast sale and easy living from here on in. Her outlook on her new, downsized life is optimistic. She says, “Retirement is looking good, baby!” And I look forward to your organizing questions and stories. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brenda Borenstein is your professional organizing guru. Look for her column every second Thursday. For more tips and ideas, visit www.organizedzone.comor call 416-665-2165. Brenda has organized hundreds of homes and says, “There is nothing I haven’t seen and nothing that can’t be overcome.”