September 24, 2018

Downsizing And Organizing

I have had a few requests for some information on how we prepared for our move last spring. The simple answer is...We Purged! Details on that later. First, though, although I have become a bit more relaxed through the years, I am still a fairly organized person. I must admit, though, the thought of transporting every item in our home to another house miles away was daunting. The keys to success: organization and patience. Here is how we went about sorting, organizing, purging and packing the contents of our lives.

Before You Begin: Gather Your Supplies

You will need large garbage bags, Rubbermaid or Sterlite storage tubs, Sharpie Markers, and boxes.

Step One: Start Early And Pace Yourself

Although it is tempting to grab some boxes and start throwing things inside, please don't do that. Just don't. You can start thinking about it as soon as you know you will be moving, or as soon as you decide to downsize the extra clutter in your life. But take it slowly. We started in our storage closet, and worked for a few hours a day. That's it.

Step Two: Take One Room/Area At A Time

Work on one area at a time. We started upstairs, and worked through one room until it was completely finished. First, we looked around the room and decided what we wanted to keep, and what we could live without. We used this opportunity to really downsize and remove the unnecessary clutter from our home, and therefore from our minds. It is amazing how much stuff one can accumulate through the years. Be tough. Be strong. Remember that although it may seem impossible to part with that special figurine your best friend gave you in high school, I promise you will survive without it.

Step Three: Keep~Donate~Pitch

This is what we said as we worked through each room. Items we wanted to keep stayed put. Things we thought we could donate, we put in boxes or tubs. And things we knew were old, broken, or just worthless went into the garbage bags. Once we were finished with that, we looked around the room, found the items we could live without for the next few months, and packed them in tubs. We packed books, pictures, pillows, and anything else not necessary for day to day life. We labeled each tub carefully. Don't bother with label makers or notecards. Just write on the tub! You can always cross it out later!

Step Four: Be Brutal

Depending on your stage in life, this could be a tough one. Ten years ago, I would not have had such an easy time letting things go. Now, as I and many of my family and friends have found, "things" are not so much important as they are clutter. As I age, I find my need for things diminishing. Clean, clear, cozy space is soothing for the soul. Therefore, I rid myself of knick knacks, decorations I have had since my wedding, blankets, pillows, CDs, books, dolls, sheet sets, pictures, picture frames, cookware, silverware, and DVDs. The kids cleared out toys, books, and those evil piles of stuffed animals!

I asked myself a few questions. Do I use this? Could someone else in a different stage of life benefit from this? Can I live without it? Why do I have this? Once I answered these questions, I felt a profound sense of freedom in donating and throwing items away that I did not need. Case in point...crystal vases and bowls. We were gifted beautiful crystal items when we married some twenty-seven years ago. As a young woman, I displayed them in a hutch in our formal dining room, and took them out once a year to clean them. When we began using our dining room as a schoolroom, I packed them carefully and stored them in a tub in our basement. I asked myself if I wanted to lug them to our new house and do the same? If I hadn't touched them in four years, did I really need them? Nope. Could someone else enjoy them? Yep. Done.

We did this for every single room in our house. We did this for every single tub in our basement. We went through my old high school yearbooks and Steve's hat collection. We went through drawers and closets and cupboards. We worked a few hours a day, and more on the weekend. Once you get in a rhythm, you find it actually feels good. And you never know what you may find that you don't need.

Example...When my older kids were little, we had paper plates called Zoo Pals that had different animals on them. Peyton LOVED them. I remember she tried to collect them all. Apparently, as a young mother of three kids eight and under, I misheard Peyton when she asked if she could keep the ones she collected. I agreed and thought nothing of it. Fast forward thirteen years, and as we are purging, we discovered Peyton's Zoo Pal plate collection. She agreed that it was time to pitch them, and when I went to throw them out...Brace yourself...I saw that she had saved USED ones!!!!!!!! I don't think I threw anything away as fast as those in my life! Then proceeded to scour my hands and her closet too! We laugh about it now. But...ugh!

Step Five: Donate And Pitch As You Go

Steve was awesome with this. Every day, he took garbage bags of trash to the dump and tubs and boxes of donations to specific people or to resale stores. Keeping up with this part ensures you aren't simply moving things from one place to the other. You aren't simply moving them from your house into your garage.

Step Six: Pack, Label, And Store The Things You Are Keeping

Once you have only the bare minimum...the items you are keeping and can live without until the move... pack them in tubs or boxes, write on them exactly what is inside, and store them neatly in a storage space, basement, or garage. Looking at the organized section of tubs and boxes will give you so much pride and encouragement to continue. I promise!!!

Step Seven: Move Only Things You Need

This sounds redundant but stay with me. When we finally were ready to move, we took stock of some of the things we had packed and realized that we had not missed some of them in three months. For example, did I really need four sets of sheets for each bed? No. We use one set, and we wash them and put them back on. A couple sets are all you need. Well...except for the holiday sheets, but that is another post. : ) I also found that if a food processor and blender had been packed away and I never missed them, I could live without them. Donate!

Step Eight: Keep Some Of What You Want

Lastly, I want to mention that I did keep some non-essentials. I bought small memory boxes and filled each one with very special mementos from each of our parents. I kept pictures, notes, and special memories inside each one. I did the same for each of the kids. One look into their memory boxes and I found that clearly, I had kept way too much! I found binkies, bottles, bibs with spit-up stains...all things as a young mother I thought I would need to remember those special days. Now, as an older mom, I realize those days are tucked safely inside my heart. And my children are right here in front of me every single day, all of us creating brand new memories together.

I hope this is helpful to some of you embarking on a move or a downsize. I am no expert, of course. This is simply what worked for me. : )

The Halloween Baking Championship begins tonight, Monday, September 24, at 9:00 P.M. EST on Food Network!!!!


  1. You are so wise. Thank you for giving us a guideline.

  2. This was a great read for me this morning as I've caught a bit of the "clear the clutter" bug. Loved the insights you shared plus you gave me a good laugh with the plate story as well as your reference to the evil piles of stuffed animals (thankfully, with two boys, that was never much of an issue although we won't discuss game cards...). Hope your Monday is off to a wonderful start!

  3. I think this is a great post for even just... it's almost Christmas and before we get new stuff can we get rid of some old stuff--mindset. These are wonderful tips though!

  4. We really did downsize from a large 4 bed to a small cosy cottage, it is hard to be brutal but so worth it in the end.

  5. Thanks for your tips! Trying to get a handle on the clutter and get rid of stuff myself, so this is super helpful!

  6. This is such a great way to move. It gets easier to let go as we age. Well except fat, fat stays as we age. How do I know? Well I just tried on a pair of jeans from last spring and yes there is was.

  7. Some good tips. I suddenly get hit by the need to purge.. and I love it! It's so satisfying to declutter.

  8. What a perfectly timed post. I'm realising how much clutter we have now my kids and hubby are home for a couple of weeks. We have a small home and are falling over each other and running into things. Thanks for the tips! xx Susan

  9. Great tips my friend. Having just cleaned out my in-laws estate, having aging/ailing parents of my own, and a house full...I am ready to downsize/purge and remain in the same house. LOL I love the idea of tackling one room before moving to the next. And, getting the donations and trash out right away. Thanks!!

  10. "Be brutal"! LOL. This is how my kids would define their mama when I "Patty-tize". LOL In the end, doesn't it feel so freeing to simplify?!

  11. Oh baby!!! We sure think alike. That is EXACTLY what I did this past few months. Every thing in our house is organized or GONE. lol However, we had a whole storage unit full and that is in our basement in one area and I will be going through that this winter. We are in a rental while we figure out what we want to do when we grow I want to be ready to be totally rid of "just things" in one year.

    You did good, Billie Jo! Very, very good! xo Diana

  12. Thank you for a super post! I needed to hear some of these points, for sure.

  13. Good advice!! And I would add that purging as you go is a good idea... we moved over a year ago and we still have things that should be tossed. Set some time every few months to clean something out and donate or toss!! (Easier said than done!)

  14. This post hit close to home for me because as you know, I moved shortly before you. I purged so many things. It was hard in the beginning but the more I went along the easier it became. Doing a little at a time is great advice because then it doesn't seem so daunting. Looking back I can't believe I survived it! But now I know if I ever move again it will be a much easier task. I'm so organized now! : ) This is a great post for anyone who is about to move or take the step of organizing their house. In the end it feels so good! And you did a GREAT job! xo

  15. Thank you so much for this post. Although I, too, am very organized and somewhat of a minimalist, there still remain many items I do not want to move to a smaller (I hope) house. Am I correct in assuming you used the same approach when dealing with seasonal and holiday items? Because you seem so organized, I knew you could probably write articles on downsizing and organizing worthy of magazine publishing. Thanks again for sharing.

    1. Hello!
      Yes...We did the same with all our holiday tubs and boxes.
      And let me just say...I LOVE holidays, so we had a-lot!!!
      Thank you for your kind words, and for reading! : )

  16. What wonderful words of wisdom. I sure hope we're in our forever home...but knowing I'll be helping other family members probably move through the years, this is so helpful. ;) What a job it must have been for you!!

  17. Like you, I'm finding the older I get the less 'stuff' I really need or use. With winter right around the corner and lots of time indoors, I'm going to try to implement some of these ideas!

  18. I did this a while back but something happened...
    and I think I have to purge again. lol.

  19. I LOVE this!! I am constantly purging items! I have a truckload ready to donate right now! I keep looking and re-looking getting rid of things. In my load I finally got rid of my china bowls!! LOVED the story of the zoo pals funny and I remember those plates! We did not, however, collect them! I did collect cute little kid plates though for Christmas, fish meals, Butterfly meals, some other animal plates....just got rid of those too! It does feel good! You are so inspiring!


Thanks so much for saying hello!

Billie Jo