Guest Contributors

Downsizing 101: It’s All About Baby Steps (And a Softball)

A clever Facebook post recently caught my attention. The caption went something like, “25 Things You Can Do to De-clutter in 10 minutes or Less!” “Well isn’t that nifty?” I thought, scanning the list. I agreed, there were a bunch of good de-cluttering ideas; knives, coupons, your car, cleaning supplies. Exciting! But then wait, how come my heart is racing? Why do I suddenly feel irritated and annoyed?

Here’s why: the well-meaning post has everything to do with what not to do when you’re finally ready to start downsizing. In short, it’s so overwhelming! When we think about our homes as one big downsizing conundrum, it miraculously creates a fog and inertia that can feel impenetrable. What I often hear is, “It’s just too much” and you know what? You’re right, it is too much!

How, then, do we get downsizing to be not too much and more manageable. How do we actually do it?

There’s a pretty simple way to get going, something so obvious and easy to put into action, you might not think it works–but it does!

I’ll explain this step as an exercise that you can do right from where you’re at.

Start by closing your eyes. Take a few deep breaths. Imagine your home, room by room and as you do, assign each room a number on a scale of 1-10. A one means the room feels pretty bad and likely stresses you out. A ten is pure love and adoration, as in, this is your happy place. Be honest with yourself as you roam and move throughout your space, numbering as you go along.

Next, pick one of the 4-5-6-7 rooms. We’re not going to choose an 8-9-10 because those rooms already feel good to you and we’re not going to pick a 1, 2 or 3 because these rooms likely feel too stressful, maybe even anxiety inducing.

Beginning downsizing means starting with a softball.

Next, go to one of the 4-5-6-7 rooms you picked. Stand in the doorway and glance around the room. Take it all in and then notice, if you were to focus even more, like zooming in your camera lens, what’s an area within this room you could focus in on?

Say you picked your spare bedroom then, when you zoomed in even more, one of the two nightstands caught your attention. Perrrrrfect. Go with that. Ta-da! What just happened here is, you just selected your first DOWNSIZING gig! Congrats! Your assignment is to only focus on this one area, the one nightstand.

Wait, just the one nightstand? That’s it? Yep, that’s it. Already, I can hear what you’re thinking, “Phfff, I can do that and more in no-time-flat, easy peasy!”

No. You. Can’t. (With all due respect). One nightstand doesn’t seem like that much but here’s what happens. You open up the nightstand drawer and you find something Aunt Jo forgot when she visited that she was asking about! “Oh, she’ll be so excited, I need to return this to her right away!” (There’s one to-do). Then, a picture of your youngest kid catches your attention. “Oh! How precious!” You remember that day like it was yesterday. You spend several moments lost in that memory, remembering that time. Also, you note, this picture doesn’t really belong here (another to-do). Next, “Hey, what’s this stack of papers? Ohhhh, that’s my old manuscript for the recipe book I was working on!” Boom—decisions and more to-do’s. All good and all doable in small chunks but bite off more than the wee nightstand and you’ll be headed right into overwhelm (and Netflix).

That’s why we just do one thing. Rate your home room by room, pick a 4-5-6-7, zoom in and then ONLY work on that. It’ll all add up to a lot of to-do’s but you have to start small. Softball, my friends. You got this.

Nicole Kincaid loves organizing, tidying and “putting things right.” She thrives on connecting with humans and their spaces. Her spin on traditional organizing is called“Stuffology.” You can find out more at

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