Resizing for Freedom and Livability: Downsizing and Decluttering Your Living Space


That’s the word that frequently comes to mind among retirement-aged adults who have taken on the task of downsizing or decluttering their living space. It might not be the most enjoyable task, but experts tell us that the rewards justify the investment of time and effort.

After the children are grown and starting families of their own, many of us tend to limit our interior living space to a few key rooms (e.g. the kitchen, family/great room and master bedroom). Many other rooms are rarely used and become magnets for storing and stockpiling items that are no longer part of our daily lives. According to experts, living in a cluttered environment can actually add to our stress and anxiety as well as provide safety hazards. 

“But where do I start?” is a question often asked or used as an excuse to not begin. Fortunately, there are many specialists in the area of downsizing and decluttering whose advice can simplify the process for you.

Wendy Priesnitz author of “Downsizing Your Home and Decluttering Your Life,” offers some useful guidance, “Begin to downsize now, even if you plan to move a year or ten from now. Tackle one room or closet at a time, sort through things and get rid of what isn’t necessary. Eventually, you will end up with just what you really need and value. Starting early will allow you the time to dispose of unwanted belongings by selling, giving away and recycling, rather than by throwing out. This will also result in less time spent taking care of things and cleaning your home, and you will feel so much lighter with a less cluttered life, even if you don’t move.”

Tips for Decluttering and Simplifying Your Life

For some, staying in their current, albeit oversized home, is the best solution for the short term.

The article, “How to Kick Your Clutter Habit and Live in a Clean House Once and for All” highlights, “the tools required to donate, gift, sell or toss out things that do nothing but take up space in your life.” Whether you've been forced to downsize or you're just looking to trim down the physical clutter in your life, these recommendations can, “help you make the tough calls so you can get back to enjoying the things you love.”

Suggestions include:

  • Start the Decluttering Process with an Inventory of Your Items – This helps you keep track of items that require upkeep or repair; and (as an added bonus) it can help you to make decisions on decluttering and maintaining an organized home.
  • Work in Reverse: What Would You Replace if You Lost Everything? Ask yourself: "If my home burned down and I lost everything, what would I replace as soon as my insurance check came in?" Your answers are the things most vital to you.
  • Declutter in Small, Focused Bursts: Make Each Session a Sprint, Not a Marathon – Set yourself up for success by making a plan and targeting specific areas you're going to declutter, clean up and organize over a defined period of time. Then stick to it so you don't tire yourself out. Try working in 30-minute bursts at a time.
  • Think of Your Things in Terms of Utility First and Sentimental Value Second – Use the “four-box” method of Keep, Sell/Donate, Store and Trash to organize your items:
    • Keep items you need or use regularly and have the space for.
    • Sell/Donate goes to Goodwill® or your favorite charity; selling some items might make you a little money on eBay.
    • Trash is for junk you no longer want or need.
    • Store things you can't part with but don't play an immediate role in your daily life. This is your box for sentimental items.
  • Find New Ways to Keep the Things You Love
    • Digitize photos and documents: Scan them, organize them and upload them to safe places so they're backed up.
    • Give items to family members or friends who'll value them. For example, if you have a sweater you love, or an old computer you used to use every day, clean it up and give it to someone who could use it.

In addition to decluttering your home, taking a minimalist approach to your current living space can also save you money on your heating, cooling and lighting bills by closing off areas of the house that are no longer used on a regular basis.

Thinking Small: Helpful Guidelines for Downsizing

Sometimes decluttering and minimizing the living area in your existing home is not the best solution. If you are in a larger home than needed and prefer moving to a smaller space, there are several additional steps you can take to optimize the transition.

15 Tips for Downsizing Your Living Space,” offers many useful ideas for making a successful move to a smaller space. Several of these ideas duplicate the tips for simplifying and decluttering, but some are distinctly focused on downsizing. For example:

  • Keep the Clutter from Ever Entering Your New Space – Don’t begin the clutter accumulation process all over again. It will just continue to grow, and you no longer have the space to accommodate it. Keep your living space open and “breathable.”
  • Pick Your Storage Containers Wisely – Square or rectangular pieces make better use of limited space than do round containers. Wicker baskets are also attractive storage containers that can be slipped under things and stacked on shelves.
  • You Might Not Have Room to Be a Costco Shopper – If you don’t have room to easily store large quantities of products, limit how much you buy at one time.
  • Consider Furniture That Is Multi-Functional – For example, you might want sofas and chairs that are convertible to sleeper beds for when family and friends come to visit.
  • Be “Merciless” with the Clothes You Keep – When your space is limited, be very selective with your wardrobe. Use part of your closet space for stackable organizer bins to store big, bulky pieces of clothing so there is more space to hang other clothes and less clutter.

Mary Spearman, Assistant Director of Marketing at Williamsburg Landing, says, “Although our primary goal is to help you turn your retirement living dreams into reality with an enriching lifestyle, we also enjoy assisting you with your long-term planning. Even if you’re not contemplating a move for another five to ten years, we are always happy to help you in any way we can – answering your questions, providing information, offering advice or sharing the benefit of our experience. We always look forward to making new friends!”

Welcome to Williamsburg Landing

Looking for a vibrant, engaging and fulfilling way of life? If so, you’ll find it at Williamsburg Landing.

Nestled on 137 wooded acres along the serene banks of College Creek in Williamsburg, VA, Williamsburg Landing is the premier, not-for-profit Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) serving Williamsburg and it’s surrounding areas since 1985. With one visit, you’ll understand what makes Williamsburg Landing so special.

Williamsburg Landing is an ideal blend of beautiful landscaping and elegant, Colonial architecture. It invites residents to become part of its vibrant, active lifestyle and rest assured in its award-winning medical care. It eases worries with maintenance-free homes and apartments with resort-style amenities and services. The community thrives with energetic, involved and friendly people who love to live here and the warmth of dedicated, committed professionals who love to work here.

With a past rich in tradition and a future filled with promise, Williamsburg Landing is the perfect place to call home – for today and tomorrow.

To learn more or to schedule a tour, please contact us today!