Downsizing? It can actually be fun

Sorting through years of accumulated clothes, tools and kitchenware can be draining. And then there are the boxes of photos and mementos from children’s school days. Suddenly, it all becomes real – and overwhelming. How do you decide what to keep and what to toss?

According to the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals, Americans don’t use 80 percent of the things they keep.

Here are some tips — compiled by ForRent, an online finder and advisor for rental housing – on downsizing to a smaller home:

  • Don’t do It alone. Get the kids involved. After all, half the junk is probably theirs. Downsizing is an emotional task, anyway, so why not have some fun? Share some memories and laughs. Keep a few things and then let (or make) them take the rest home.
  • Give stuff away. Not everything, but things you don’t use that might be meaningful, valuable or useful for someone else. Anything from the lawnmower to your mother’s diamond ring. Why wait when you could see someone using and enjoying it while you’re still here?
  • Tackle one space at a time. It’s easy to become distracted when sorting and tossing. However, staying in one room, one area, or even one closet or drawer will help you focus – and give you immense and immediate satisfaction when that task is done
  • Do some of) It Yourself
  • Set a timer. Whether it’s real or imaginary, a timer will get you going and give you a time to stop. Then you can choose to continue, take a short break, or quit for the day. Start with two-hour blocks of time.
  • Make three piles. Toss. Keep. Maybe. But beware if the “maybe” pile starts growing the fastest, as it often does. If that happens, it’s time to go cold-turkey and eliminate the maybe pile. Otherwise, you’re just delaying the inevitable.
  • Ask yourself how often you use this. And once a year doesn’t count unless it’s a family heirloom or part of a holiday tradition. Think about what items you would actually pay to replace if they were lost or destroyed.
  • Disperse and dispose. There’s a lot of satisfaction in donating. And you may be surprised at the money you can make selling your castoffs at a garage sale, consignment shop, or on eBay.
  • Throw a packing party. Once it’s all sorted, it’s time to take your friends up on their offers to help. Be sure to label the top of the boxes clearly so movers know where to put them in your new place.
  • Downsizing is a chore, but when the hard work is done, you have way fewer items and boxes to deal with. That leaves less to move, less time and money to spend, and fewer things to unpack.