Back in the 1980s I used to teach time management, which I came to as a career counselor watching my job hunters spend a lot of time spinning their wheels. “I’m spending all my time job hunting,” they would say, when in reality they were thinking about it a lot but not doing all that much. Many of these principles can be applied to downsizing. Here are my favorites.
Clarify your overall purpose. Why are you downsizing? To move to a smaller place? To simplify your life? To keep others from having to do it for you later? To create memory pieces that you can enjoy when you are older and/or that you can pass onto your family? All of the above? Your purpose(s) will help you to prioritize your downsizing activities. For example, if you are moving to a smaller place, a priority might be to decide which furniture you will take and get rid of the rest. If you are seeking to simplify your life, you might want to eliminate all the duplicates and triplicates of things you have, reduce the size of your wardrobe, give everything a place. If you want to create memory pieces, you might want to spend time organizing photos and mementoes into scrapbooks or small boxes.
Make an overall list of the big tasks. Don’t try to keep it all in your head. Stake out the scope of your project, given your overall purposes.
Create SMART goals based on your big tasks. SMART stands for: Specific—measurable (how you know when you’ve accomplished it), achievable, results-focused, and time-bound (you put a date on it). Rather than donate books, try: Box up 30 books and take to More than Words by January 31. A corollary of this is what I call the “swiss cheese” method. Approach the possibly huge goal of downsizing your library by doing a series of much smaller SMART goals and thus poking holes in your big goal, like it was cheese. Soon, the cheese is all gone!
Find time to do what is important, not just what is urgent. If you have prioritized downsizing as an important activity but let other facets of life take over, include specific downsizing activities/SMART goals on your to-do list and do at least one of them as early in the day as you can so you can make progress. Or do what my husband does and allocate a certain amount of time weekly, keeping a record of how much time you spend.
Delegate! For example, rather than shred all your own documents, find a shredding company. Staples will shred documents you take to them. Some companies will come to you if you have enough. Check Angie’s List for periodic deals. If you have the resources, there are experts who can help you with your downsizing. They won’t make decisions for you but will work with you to manage the project. They have contacts and know where your stuff can go.
Reward yourself periodically. Downsizing is hard! Do something nice for yourself after completing one of your SMART goals. Rewards for downsizing should probably be an activity or consumable, not something that will add to your possessions or clutter!
Now to practice what I preach….