19 Practical Tips to Downsize & Simplify Your Life
You must be the change you wish to see in the world. Mahatma Gandhi
So you are ready to downsize and transition to a new chapter in your life. At times, the changes we resent and avoid can be positive and beneficial to us and our families. It gives us the opportunity to learn about ourselves, our strength and the ability to create a life we love and value. When we postpone making decisions and wait for somebody else to decide where and how we are going to live, we miss the opportunity to create the life we want and deserve.
Some of us are addicted to complaining about how unfair life is, instead of doing something to improve it. Improving the quality of our lives begins and ends with us. When our family and friends help us along, we can be grateful for their gifts, whether material or emotional. Material possessions are often equated with happiness, to the point where clutter is creating chaos in many homes and lives.
If you are ready to start living your best life in a downsized and organized home environment read the following 20 tips. You’ll be amazed at how much calmer you’ll feel in an organized space and how much easier it becomes to do things such as cooking dinner, getting dressed and perhaps moving to another residence. Don’t let your things take over your life.
1. Find Your Authentic Life In order to have a more rewarding and authentic life, get to know the real you and what’s important to you. When you choose to live a life that reflects your values, you will have more joy, less stress and a sense of personal accomplishment. When you choose your own way, your confidence will soar, and your motivation will improve tremendously.
2. Choose Your Beliefs Become aware of the beliefs you learned as a child. Are they working for you, or do you feel stifled by them? Positive beliefs contribute to positive behaviours; negative beliefs bring negative behaviours. Choose your friends well; the saying that misery likes company is dated and not a good choice. Surround yourself with creative and result- oriented people, the movers and shakers of our society. Get advice from a professional who is successful in the area where you seek improvement. If you need financial advice, a person who struggles financially will likely be unable to help you.
3. Plan Your Life The fastest and easiest way to see the results of changes you have made is to set goals. Goals are guidelines to your life destination. An example of a generalized, unproductive goal is “I want to downsize.” A more specific goal would be “every day, from 4:00 – 4:30 p.m, de-clutter & organize your garage.” If you enjoy what you set out to do, then it will be easier to achieve that goal. Create a timeline for a particular project, and create a sense of urgency to complete it; setting a deadline as “someday” doesn’t work, and it leaves room for procrastination.
4. When Do You Feel Energized? Some people feel energetic in the early morning; some people are night owls, and others peak in the afternoon. Think about when you have that extra boost of energy, and use that time to do the things you don’t particularly like to do. Take five minutes to organize one of your kitchen drawers, write a to-do list, wipe your table or weed out a few files in your filing cabinet. The visible results will give you a boost to continue in other areas of your life.
5. Figure Out What You Have in Your Home The easiest way to de-clutter and downsize your home is to find out what you have in your home. Take a bag or a box and visit each room in your house; if you have papers or clothes going back to the Trudeau era, it’s time to let them go. Shred the important papers; recycle the rest. Call your favourite charity and donate your clothes. Treat yourself to a few new outfits; I guarantee it will put a sparkle in your eye.
6. Tackle One Area at a Time Pick one area of your home to work on. Avoid zig-zag organizing, starting in one area, getting bored or frustrated, and leaving to start somewhere else. Write a list and prioritize your projects. The quickest way to see the results of your hard labour is to attack visible clutter first. Clear your desktop of old papers, decide what to do with the stuff on your dresser, or sort the piles on your coffee table.
7. Organize Your Medication Gather and keep all your medications together to see what you have, and what needs to be discarded. Make a daily chart to note when you have to take your medications. Buy a pill organizer; they are widely available. The heat of bathrooms and kitchens can alter the effectiveness of some medications, so opt for a cool, dry place, such as a linen closet (out of the reach of children).
8. Keep Your Documents Safe Keep track of your documents, and file them in a safe place. Get a portable filing container with hanging files in legal or letter size, available at office supply stores. Portable filing containers are convenient, in that they can be taken from room to room. Choose up to ten categories, such as health, finances, travel, taxes, etc. Colour-code your categories to make them easily distinguishable: for example, financial papers may go in a green folder, travel documents in yellow, and health records in blue.
9. Learn to Downsize For many people, downsizing is challenging. Even if they are ready to move to a smaller space or retirement facility, it can be difficult to part with their possessions. In many instances, people pay for public storage to store things they will never use again. Many adult children are storing, though not using, their parents’ belongings. Take an inventory of your stuff and decide what you want to sell or donate. Temporary storage should be just that: temporary.
10. Selling Your House Before you call your favourite realtor and put your house up for sale, there are a few steps to take in order to sell faster and get a better price. De-clutter your house, including your garage and shed. Store all but a minimal amount of furniture and other belongings in temporary storage. Remember, potential clients are buying the space, not your things. Clean your house from top to bottom, and keep it clean during the time your house is on the market.
11. Learn to Say NO Many of us are overcommitted with family, friends, volunteer activities, etc. The tendency to always say yes is not in our best interest or the interest to others. Committing to too many projects and people could be overwhelming and stressful.
12. Organize Your Closets When you start organizing your closet, keep in mind that we only wear 20 percent of our clothes. Sometimes we keep clothes that don’t fit, planning to fit into them someday. Sometimes we feel guilty about throwing them away, or we keep them because they represent a special time in our life. Take everything out of your closet and lay it all on your bed or dresser. Try everything on and put back only the things that fit, and that you like.
13. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Getting organized doesn’t have to be expensive. Use chequebook boxes, baby food jars, pill bottles and reusable plastic containers to store your batteries, push pins, elastics, bread ties, paperclips, pens, birthday candles and more. Visit your local thrift stores for beautiful baskets, containers and trays; the selection is great, and the prices are right.
14. Why Do We Procrastinate? “Procrastination is the grave in which opportunity is buried.” We should all frame this quotation and keep it in a space where everybody can see it. What is the real reason we avoid and postpone making decisions? Are we afraid of making a poor decision? Do we feel ill-equipped to make decisions? Do we feel like we do not have enough time? Or are we apathetic?
Whatever the reason, avoiding decision-making catches up with us. When somebody makes a decision for us, he or she also takes away our responsibility for the decision; less responsibility may seem appealing, but ultimately, responsibility brings confidence and growth. Moreover, if we do not like the result of the decision, we may feel inclined to blame the person who made the decision. Take a few recipe cards and write down steps needed to complete the projects you want to finish. Don’t forget to reward yourself.
15. Prioritize Your Projects Before you begin your day, write down your top three-to-five priorities. Try to accomplish these, regardless of distractions. Know your next three priorities and tackle them only after completing the first ones.
16. Use One Calendar You have one life, so use one calendar to organize and keep track of your professional and personal appointments. At the beginning of the new year, write down your doctor’s appointments, business meetings, birthdays, anniversaries or any other important dates.
17. Confirm Your Appointments Before you drive across the city to your scheduled appointment, call the person you are meeting to confirm your visit. You might have everything together, but the person you are meeting might not. I myself drove almost an hour to Vancouver a few times before I learned this very expensive lesson. This approach is a great way to start and build lasting relationships.
18. Organize Things to Share Gather together all your favourite recipes, articles, jokes, poems and inspirational quotes and pictures. Sort them by category and store them in photo albums, attractive boxes or scan them on CD`s. At special gatherings, share them with your family and friends. Ask your family and friends to contribute their recipes, jokes, poems or inspirational quotes.
19. Rotate Your Collectables If you want to keep all your collectables, but don’t have enough space to display them, try rotating them. Choose a few attractive pieces, as less is more, and pack the rest in a plastic container or cardboard box. Label the contents and set a time to switch the collectables. Twice a year, swap the display with the items that are put away. Your family and friends will admire your ability to decorate, and your home will be less cluttered.
By Ranka Burzan