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  • Writer's pictureCathy Borg

Efficient Home Decluttering: Expert Tips for Speedy Downsizing

Older Happy Couple packing moving boxes
Preparing to Move

Efficient Home Decluttering: Mastering the Art of Downsizing

Are you gearing up for a move to a smaller abode, moving a relative into a residence, or something in between? It's natural to feel a bit overwhelmed at the prospect. Take a deep breath, my friend, because I'm here to guide you through the process and help you make it a breeze.

In this blog, we'll share valuable tips, personal stories, and expert insights to help efficiently declutter your home and downsize like a pro. Whether you're downsizing for yourself or helping a loved one, we aim to provide you with actionable steps and a supportive guide to create a space that brings you peace and contentment.

Let's get started and discover the fastest route to decluttering success!

The good news is: all the stuff you own will fit into one of three categories:

  • Remembrance Items,

  • Just-in-case Items,

  • Trash/Recycling.

It's easy to determine which category each of your things falls into, and this will be your first task when you start doing hands-on downsizing work.

Once you recognize the category of each item, you can quickly determine whether you'll keep it or let it go.

Now to the first category.

1. Downsizing requires Uncovering Your Remembrance Items

A. Understanding the Significance of Remembrance Items.

Remembrance Items are the things that remind you of important people, achievements, or events from your past.

You have four kinds of Remembrance Items. You'll keep the first kind - the precious items. Precious Items are the cream of the crop when it comes to Sentimental or Remembrance Objects. They represent extraordinary moments and significant family memories. Their worth is not measured in money, but rather in the meaning and significance they hold for you or your family. A precious item is truly irreplaceable. You can't buy another in the store, and you probably wouldn't find this thing on eBay if you searched every day for a year.

For example, I remember finding a shoebox filled with handwritten letters from my late grandmother. Each letter was a precious memento of our correspondence over the years. While the letters held no monetary value, their sentimental worth was immeasurable.

B. Precious Items: The most meaningful Remembrance Items

Not all precious items are kept. Sometimes they are guided to a haven.

I recall a client, John, who cherished his grandfather's war medals. Exploring the stories behind each award and their deep significance to his family helped him make an informed decision about their preservation. Eventually, he found solace in passing them on to future generations.

Grandfather's War Medals
Precious Items

Another client inherited her beloved aunt's necklace, a delicate piece of jewelry symbolizing love and connection for her. Whenever she wears it, she feels a deep connection to her aunt which serves as a reminder of her roots and the strength of family bonds. The necklace was precious and a keeper.

The fear of losing a treasure may add to your nagging sense of uncertainty about downsizing. But any fear you feel is going to slow down the process, and you don't have time to waste. Remember: precious items are few, important, and deeply meaningful.

Once you identify your treasures and know they'll be safely coming along with you, you'll be able to apply your full attention to managing the next task.

In my experience, truly precious items are a tiny percentage of what you own. So definitely, keep these items as long as you verify that they are the most important and special things you own.

Once you've selected your precious items, I want you to have the confidence to let these go from your mind. Since you're sure you won't be leaving behind what's most important, there's no reason that any worry about this group of items should be bogging down your decision-making process.

You also have three other kinds of Remembrance Items. These you don't take with you. These go somewhere else, whether you give them to friends, sell them in a garage sale, or have a cleansing ritual where you burn them in a bonfire.

C. Three kinds of Remembrance Items to Declutter: Odds and Ends, Obscure Artifacts, and Toxic Items

i. Odds and Ends: These are items that you've collected from family holidays or celebrations or they are attached to activities that you no longer do. Examples: the Niagara Falls shot glass from your vacation. Or the broken pocketknife that Grandpa owned that no one remembers him carrying. Or the woodworking tools that have been sitting unused in the back of the garage for 15 years.

I worked with a client named Sarah who had boxes of trinkets from past vacations. By discussing the memories associated with each item, she was able to let go of those that no longer held a deep emotional connection.

As you downsize and enter a new phase of your life, it's time to let go of odds and ends.

front of a Paris Souvenir Shop
Souvenirs become Odds and Ends

ii. Obscure Artifacts: These are the items that usually make you laugh and shrug your shoulders when someone asks where they came from "I have no idea!" you'd say. These items may have some sentimental value but lack a strong connection to your personal stories.

Old fashioned sepia toned photos
Old Photos of Unidentified People

During a downsizing session, my client Mark discovered old college memorabilia that he had kept for years. As he explored these items' emotional weight, he realized their significance had faded, so he was ready to pass them along to someone else who might appreciate them.

iii. Toxic Items: These are objects associated with negative memories or relationships, that can be emotionally draining.

A client named Lisa kept several items as reminders of a toxic relationship she once had. They only served to reopen wounds and hinder her healing process. Letting go of those items was a significant step toward her emotional recovery.

Now that you've made your precious item selections and know where your other three kinds of Remembrance Items are going, you can easily and efficiently deal with the bulk of your items the Just-in-case Items!

2. You will Need to Declutter many Just-in-case Items!

The Just-in-case Items make up the bulk of your possessions and include everything from furniture to clothing to kitchen gadgets. Unlike the Remembrance Items, where the decision is often emotional, the decisions on these Just-in-case Items can be made quickly and efficiently using a practical approach.

To start, you need to set boundaries. You must decide how much you can comfortably take with you whether you are clearing an estate or moving to a smaller home. You're not going to take all of your possessions, so decide on a reasonable amount of stuff. This amount can be determined by how much room you'll have, or by how many boxes or square feet of storage you can reasonably afford to store. Think of your home as if it were a container of a certain size, and you'll only take what fits in the container.

Assortment of small and large appliances
Too Many Appliances!

Now it's time to sort your Just-in-case items into three categories: keep, sell/donate/give away, and toss. For each item ask yourself three questions: Do I love it? Do I use/need it? Will it fit (decor-wise and size-wise)?

Be ruthless with your decisions. Remember you're downsizing, and that means making some tough choices. If an item holds sentimental value but doesn't meet the criteria of a precious item, consider taking a photo of it before letting it go. This way, you can preserve the memory without cluttering your new home.

A. Defining Just-in-case Items

Some Just-in-case Items find a home in our living spaces due to our desire to be prepared for any situation. However, they can accumulate quickly, adding to the clutter.

Let me tell you about Dave, who had an extensive collection of tools he hesitated to part with. By evaluating his actual needs and exploring tool-sharing programs in his new community, he gained confidence in downsizing his collection and creating a more streamlined space.

B. Determining Worth with the Just-in-case Category

When evaluating Just-in-case items, it's essential to consider their current and future usefulness in your new home. Space constraints should also be taken into account. If an item doesn't fit your new living space or isn't relevant to your life anymore, it may be time to let it go.

One client, Lily, was moving to a smaller apartment and had a passion for crafting. We explored how she could prioritize the tools and materials she genuinely loved and used regularly. This allowed her to let go of those that no longer motivated her or suited her creative vision.

3. Trash/Recycling: Letting Go of Unnecessary Items

A. Identifying Trash/Recycling Items

Some items in our homes are unnecessary or unwanted. Broken appliances expired medications, or worn-out clothing all fall into this category. Identifying these items is the first step toward decluttering.

pile of clothes with donation sign
Donate Unwanted Clothing

During a recent decluttering session, I came across a drawer filled with expired medications and empty pill bottles. It was time to let go of these items that were not only taking up valuable space but also posed a potential health risk. I took the medication to be disposed of by my local pharmacy and recycled the empty containers.

B. Proper disposal methods

Differentiate between regular trash, toxic trash, and items for recycling.

When I upgraded my phone, I had an old smartphone that was no longer functional, I recycled it at my local transfer station where they could safely dispose of the device and recycle its components. As to toxic items like paint, varnish, cleaning products, etc. Find a facility where they can be handled safely. In Toronto where I live, we have a service called "toxic taxi" that will do free pick up or you can deliver it yourself to your local transfer station.

Partially empty paint can
Dispose of Toxic Trash Responsibly

C. Reducing waste and adopting sustainable practices

Promoting sustainability goes hand in hand with decluttering. I share practical tips with clients, such as repurposing or donating unwanted items, composting organic waste, and reducing reliance on single-use plastics. These small changes not only contribute to a more organized home but also foster a sense of community and responsibility to our world.


Downsizing: Categorizing and Decision-Making

  • The process of categorizing items into Remembrance Items, Just-in-case Items, and Trash/Recycling helps you visualize the scope of your belongings and simplifies decision-making.

  • Make decisions based on item categories.

  • Precious Items should be prioritized for preservation.

  • Just-in-case Items should be evaluated based on their usefulness and space constraints.

  • Let go of unnecessary items

  • Identify items to be trashed or recycled


Getting rid of unwanted items through downsizing can be an incredible experience. By recognizing the significance of Precious Items, evaluating the usefulness of Just-in-case items, and letting go of unnecessary items, you can enjoy a speedy and relatively painless downsizing journey.

Embrace the transformative power of decluttering and downsizing, and embark on your new chapter with confidence and ease. Let's create a space that reflects who you are and where you're headed. Wishing you a joyful and stress-free move!

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