Decluttering is a worthwhile endeavor at any stage in life. Seniors and older adults, in particular, can benefit from getting rid of unnecessary belongings.
When the kids are grown-up and moved-out, you may want to move into a smaller space that lets you worry less about upkeep. Decluttering your home and saying goodbye to items you no longer need can also free up space for things you want to add.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Tips for Downsizing Your Closet and Wardrobe
- Tips for Downsizing Your Living Space
- Tips for Seniors Looking to Downsize
But decluttering the home is easier said than done. It can be difficult to get rid of items we’ve had for many years, even if we never actually use them. Luckily, there are some quick tips that will help you declutter your home and downsize your belongings.
Whether you’re moving into a smaller space, or you’ve set a New Year’s resolution to clean up your home, the steps below will help you get started.
Tips for Downsizing Your Closet and Wardrobe
Clothing is more than just fabric that keeps us covered up and cozy. For most of us, clothes also hold sentimental value.
Clothing is also a representation of your personal style, which changes and evolves over the years. You might have piles of clothing that you’re never going to wear again (or you never wore, to begin with). Those clothes could be taking up valuable space in your closet. And if you’re moving, you don’t want to carry all that extra baggage along with you.
Here are some tips for downsizing and decluttering your clothes stash.
1. Stock up on storage
The first step in decluttering your closet is picking up some high-quality storage containers.
These are where you’ll store items of clothing that hold sentimental value, as well as clothing that’s out of season. Choose storage boxes that seal tightly and can protect your clothing from moisture and moth damage.
2. Set aside meaningful items
As mentioned above, many of us hold onto items of clothing for more reasons than style. You probably only wore your wedding dress the one time, but it’s still worth holding onto for posterity.
Some items of clothing and jewelry can be passed down through generations, making them valuable and worthy of keeping.
When you’re going through your closets and wardrobes, put those special items in the storage containers you picked up. You can provide extra protection to valuable items by putting them in vacuum-sealed bags, first. Make sure to label your storage boxes, so you know exactly what’s in each one.
3. Don’t over-sentimentalize
Putting just a few things in your “sentimental clothing” storage boxes is easier said than done. It may be tempting to throw every pair of old jeans, stretched-out sweatshirt, and raggedy tee in there. After all, every piece of clothing has memories attached to it.
But when you’re setting aside meaningful clothing items that you’re never going to wear again, stick to those that are truly important. If it isn’t something you’ll want to look at again or something you want to pass down as an heirloom, it’s probably time to part ways.
4. Sort out the seasons
If you live in a region with drastic weather and temperature changes, it’s a good idea to sort your clothing by season. That will allow you to stow away out-of-season garments when you’re not using them.
As you go through your closet and wardrobe, think about the last time you wore each item. If it was in cold weather, place the garment in the “Fall and Winter” box. If it was in hot weather, place the garment in the “Spring and Summer” box.
5. Toss out damaged items
You might be planning to make a clothing donation to your local thrift store. However, those stores usually won’t accept damaged items of clothing. If you find items that are threadbare or stained, they might not be useful to anyone. In these cases, it’s likely time to throw those items away.
If you’re a seamstress or like to get crafty every now and then, you could also set those things aside to use in your next project. (Just try not to overestimate your ability to make use of all those scraps!)
6. Donate or sell clothing you haven’t worn recently
If you haven’t worn an item within the last year, chances are you won’t wear it anytime soon. These are the clothing pieces you should set aside in a box to donate or sell.
To sell your clothing online, you can create a Poshmark account. Be sure to take high-quality photos of your items and price them reasonably.
If items don’t sell within a couple of months, it may be time to consider donating them to a local charity.
7. Give items one last try
Sometimes you’ll find an item of clothing that you still love, but you very rarely wear it. When this is the case, you can put that clothing item on “probation.”
Give it a couple more months in your closet. If you still don’t wear the item in that time, give it away or sell it.
Tips for Downsizing Your Living Space
Downsizing your living space can be even more complicated than decluttering your closet. You could have many items that serve a practical purpose, in theory, but that you never actually use.
Some of those may be worth keeping, while others aren’t. Below are some quick tips to help you declutter and downsize your living space.
8. Visualize your new space
Whether you’re moving to a smaller space, or you just want to declutter your current living area, visualization is a powerful first step. Envision what your new space will look like, or what you want your present space to look like when you’re done.
Then, write down everything you currently have that fits into that space. Make a separate list of items that don’t appear in your ideal living area.
9. Start small
Most of the clutter in our homes is in the form of small items. Small things can fill up drawers, take up table space, and make everything look messier. Luckily, many of those small items, like old cellphones, laptops, or televisions, can be donated, recycled, or tossed out.
Grab a box of garbage bags and a couple of storage boxes, and start with your messiest drawer. Don’t think too long or hard about items that you haven’t used in months or years. If you don’t use it, it’s safe to get rid of it.
10. Downsize furniture
Once you’ve decluttered the small stuff, you can move onto items that will make an even greater difference. If there’s a chair you never sit in, or a couch that’s seen one too many spills, consider having them removed.
You can call your local Goodwill or thrift shop to see if they offer pickup service. If the items are too damaged, however, you may have to have a junk-hauler come to remove them. If you have access to a truck and can safely move the items, you can also transport them yourself.
11. Invest in storage
If you’re moving to a smaller home, or you just want to make your current space tidier, storage plays a major role. Look for stackable storage and storage options that double as furniture (an ottoman where you can store blankets, etc.)
Choosing storage options wisely will help you find a place for everything and put everything in its place.
Tips for Seniors Looking to Downsize
Seniors often need to downsize to make daily life more manageable. While you might have once been able to maintain a large home with a backyard and garden, you might not have the energy for it anymore. Additionally, you probably just don’t need as much space as you once did.
Downsizing can help seniors get more out of life by freeing them up for more enjoyable activities. If you’re a senior looking to downsize, or you’re helping a senior clean out their home, the tips below can help.
12. Get generous
If you’re a senior with adult children, you may be able to offload many of your items to them and their families. Think about furniture and items--large and small--that you no longer use, but that someone else might need.
Kitchen appliances, spare bedroom sets, and electronics are all good examples of things you might have laying around, taking up unnecessary space.
If you have items that mean a lot to you, but that you don’t ever use, it’s also a good time to pass them down to your younger relatives.
13. Get selling
If you want to get rid of the clutter in your home and make some extra cash at the same time, you can host a yard sale or sell items online. Seniors often make some extra spending money by downsizing and holding yard sales or garage sales.
Doing so can also give you some leeway for buying new furniture that offers better storage options and fits better in a smaller space.
14. Ask for help
Moving all that furniture and selling your items is daunting for anyone. For seniors, it’s even more difficult.
As a senior looking to downsize, you’ll likely need to recruit the help of family members and friends. If they aren’t available, you can also hire movers to take things in and out of your home.
15. Manage important documents
Seniors typically have important documents around the home. They might relate to financial accounts, healthcare, or end-of-life plans.
If you’re a senior or you’re helping a senior downsize, it’s important to store documents safely and correctly.
You can also include a note in your end-of-life planning documents about where you’ve put certain documents and how to access them.
Benefits of Decluttering and Downsizing
Decluttering your closets and living space and downsizing your furniture has many benefits. For seniors, one of the most important benefits is improved safety.
Junk lying around and excess furniture pose a health risk to seniors, who can be easily injured by falling. If you have a senior in your life, downsizing and decluttering can go a long way in making life easier and more enjoyable.
And, even if you’re not a senior, decluttering will make your home a healthier and cleaner place to live.