Peter Walsh is an internationally renowned organisational expert. The New York Times called him ‘a genius’ and Oprah Winfrey dubbed him the “get your whole life organised guy”. He talks across the country and internationally about the importance of decluttering and organisation as key to living a simpler, happier and less-stressed life.
Peter is the author of seven books on decluttering your home, head, heart and hips including two New York Times best sellers. His most recent title, Let It Go: Downsizing Your Way to a Richer, Happier Life, is the definitive guide to downsizing your own home or that of a family member.
Downsizing can be a daunting and overwhelming task. Let It Go helps you reframe downsizing from an overwhelming chore to a rejuvenating life change.
Peter’s useful tips and practical takeaways include:
Start early and work consistently.
It’s taken years for a home to become cluttered so it’s not realistic to try to declutter or downsize everything in a weekend. Don’t wait until ill health hits or you put your home on the market to begin downsizing. Instead, start small – one room or section of a room at a time. Make a commitment every day to de-clutter another part of your home until it’s done. Focus on a specific room or space and complete that area first. Working systematically through a home will help make the task more manageable.
Enlist the help of family members.
Downsizing is a much bigger job than most people realise. Get family members on board to assist with the heavy lifting and to help in deciding what goes and what stays. Having family members close will also help in deciding who get (and wants) items that might be in the home.
Identify your treasures.
The key to successful downsizing is to first identify the true ‘treasures’ in your home. These are the best of the best items that hold the strongest, deepest, happiest and most important memories for you. Remember – only the best! Once these have been identified you can be confident that the most important items in your home are safe and will travel with you.
You only have the space you have.
When downsizing, work with a floor plan and storage details of the home you’re moving to. Pack based on the space you’re moving to, not based on what you’d like to hold onto. Overloading your new home with boxes of possessions that won’t fit is one of the most common mistakes when downsizing.
When everything is important, nothing is important – set a limit.
Whether it’s the ‘treasures’ you’re taking to your new home or items that you’ll need and use everyday, you can’t take everything. Setting a clear limit for what will fit into your new home is crucial. For treasures, the limit should be what till fit on your dining room table. For the rest, what will comfortably into the space your new home provides – without excess on the floor or stored in boxes in the garage!
Use creative ways to deal with sentimental items.
Pack representative items of a collection or of favourite items, don’t take it all. Similarly, where an item is important but not a ‘treasure’ consider taking photos, making digital photo books, framing one item of a set (for example, use a box frame to display some of grandma’s recipes and her rolling pin rather than everything from her kitchen), or choose one item to represent a collection (for example, one vase rather than a collection of fifty). Enjoy a single favourite item rather than be overwhelmed by many.
Explore alternatives for letting go of what’s not needed.
Consignment stores, auction houses, yard sales, online marketplaces and generously donating items to local schools, museums or charities are all effective ways for disposing of what you don’t need, perhaps making a little money, and doing something generous.
Charities are not your dumping ground.
If an item is broken, chipped, stained or generally unusable or, if you wouldn’t consider giving an item to a friend or family member, then it’s not suitable to donate to a charity. Charities don’t need your junk – toss or recycle where appropriate.
Give it now, not later.
If you plan to pass an item to a family member or friend, consider gifting that item now, rather than making it part of your legacy. Not only will this help with the downsizing, you will also share the joy of the person receiving the gifted item.
Colour-code when packing.
As you begin to box items for the move to your new home, keep items that belong in each room together. Use a different colour or mark on the boxes that go into each room to make your job – and the job of the people moving you – much easier.
Understand that it’s not always about ‘the stuff’.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Recognise that the items you’re struggling to let go of are often a reflection of something deeper that might be troubling you. Downsizing the items in our homes can open up not only the physical space in your life, but also your emotional, psychological and spiritual space as well!
ALSO: Check out Peter’s YouTube channel and his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/peterwalsh