Downsizing in Your Golden Years? Decluttering Tips for Seniors

  • Make it a regular practice. Keep paring down; a drawer this month, a section of the garage next month, slipping projects into your routine.
  • Set aside one day a week. Reserve the time and plan nothing else that day.
  • Take it an hour at a time. Tackle just one a task, promising yourself that you can quit or keep going when the hour is up.
  • Take it 10 minutes at a time. See if smaller chunks of time work better for you.
  • Take it drawer by drawer. You’ll get a nice sense of accomplishment from removing just one drawer to a quiet place where you can work on it.

Get help

If you get stalled in your decluttering effort, you wouldn’t be the first. Maybe it’s time to bring in a professional.

Find an organizer who specializes in helping seniors downsize in the National Association of Professional Organizers’ member directory. Interview several, in person or on the phone, to find someone you feel comfortable working with.

Locate a certified relocation and transition specialist, including 1,000 real estate agents and brokers, movers and move coordinators, organizers, estate sale specialists and caregivers who have been tested and certified by the National Certification Board for Alzheimer Care.

The cost of help

Some organizers and senior move managers charge an hourly fee; others work on a project basis. When interviewing candidates, ask their rates and get a description of what they do and how they’d work with you. Before engaging someone on an hourly basis, get an estimate of the time involved. (NAPO has more hiring tips.)

According to The New York Times:

The price of such services can vary widely, from $60 an hour in major metropolitan areas except New York City, where the cost can run as high as $200 hourly. In other areas, downsizing help can run $40 an hour.

Now, declutter

“It takes 20 to 30 hours to organize a house,” New York-based organizer Barbara Reich tells AARP.

The essence of the job involves putting things into one of three piles:

  • To keep.
  • To toss.
  • To sell or give away.

Some advise a fourth pile, for “undecideds.” By all means, do that if you’d like. But you’ll have to decide the fate of those things eventually, so why not do it now?

Another suggestion: Decide what you absolutely must keep. Don’t roam around looking at your things. Just sit down with a pencil and paper and list the stuff you’d take to a desert island. Of course you’ll keep more, but set those crucial possessions aside so you can look really critically at everything else.

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