04 2019

Downsizing: Why is decluttering a difficult task?

Jess Eddey

Downsizing: Why is decluttering a difficult task? - blog post image

There comes a time in almost everyone’s life when their home no longer suits their needs. When it comes to getting older, the decision to move is often driven by specific needs – such as health issues or a desire to be closer to loved ones. Downsizing to smaller living, opens up an array of new opportunities to create a better lifestyle by simplifying your life and making managing your house easier.

However downsizing from a large family home to a smaller property can be a daunting prospect, as there is a lot to organise and consider. Many elderly people stay in their family home longer than they want to, because they are overwhelmed by the thought of having to sort through a lifetimes worth of possessions and decide what to do with them. This can be a particularly distressing experience as we are often emotionally attached to our possessions.

We collect things for a number of reasons- maybe you believe you’ll need to use it later, the object may have sentimental value, or that the item is worth monetary value. As much as you would like to keep every item in your home, it unfortunately cannot all come with you when downsizing to a new smaller home. It will be hard to get comfortable and settled into your new home if it is too cluttered.

Why do people find decluttering for downsizing so difficult?

The reason decluttering is so difficult for many people is that it literally feels painful to part with things.

Research at Yale University found there are two main areas in the brain associated with pain, and these areas light up in response to letting go of items. It is psychologically painful for us to let go of possessions.

Interestingly whilst the start of the decluttering process can be painful, once the process begins and you get into a rhythm this causes anxiety levels to drop. As items are being removed this and also causes a rise in Dopamine levels (a reward chemical that makes us feel good). Why? It’s the sense of accomplishment that makes us feel good. When we succeed at a task (in this case, clearing a room or a storage space), the brain releases dopamine, causing us the desire to want to repeat the experience again. When clear a room or even a cupboard, we get into the habit of wanting to do this again therefore find the process becomes easier and the pain caused by parting with possessions drops.

Our clients often say its the start of the process is the hardest and they “just don’t know where to begin”. Again the research shows that this is because it is a painful experience, so it is often helpful to hire a professional decluttering expert to help you start this process and to help you keep on track.

Helpful strategies to declutter for downsizing:

A useful way of working through the need for the object is to ask the following questions if you are struggling with an item:

1. Is this item sentimental? If no, ask the next question. If yes, consider keeping it.

2. Is this item useful? If yes, ask the next question. If no, consider selling or donating the item if it is in good condition

3. This item could be useful in the future, however have I used it in the last 12 months and do I see an urgent need to use it in the next six months? If no, ask the next question. If yes, consider keeping it.

4. Is this item hard to or costly to replace if repurpose it? If no, move to the next question. If yes, consider keeping it.

5. So whilst this item could be useful for a situation in the future, I have not used this item recently and I’m not sure I really need to use it in the future. It will take up my limited space at my new home that could be better used, and it is adding to the clutter of my property and may be adding to negative wellbeing and  I have no sentimental attachment to it. This helps you really work through all the reasons you may be keeping the item (sentimentality, usefulness, cost) and puts it into prospective if you REALLY need to keep an item. The first few goes might be difficult, but as professional decluttering and downsizing experts, we have found clients start to get into a rhythm and feel a sense of relief when they are repurposing items.

If you are finding the process of decluttering to downsize all too difficult and just don't know where to begin it may be time to enlist the help of a professional.

As professionals decluttering and downsizing experts for over 6 years, our team at Home Moving Planners come up with helpful solutions and strategies to effectively and efficiently to help our clients downsizing to retirement, aged care or smaller living.