Written by Lisa Proffitt | 6th November 2020


How to declutter before downsizing: Top ten tips for a lockdown clear out

According to the Halifax house price index, house prices rose at their fastest annual rate in more than four years last month. That coupled with the demand for large country houses has persuaded many homeowners to bring forward their downsizing plans and sell up now.

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Large family houses are filled with a lifetime’s worth of possessions, and having a good clear out is a fantastic way to stay positive and take control in the face of gloomy news and long dark evenings.

Decluttering has been a booming business in the past few years, spurred on by the popularity of Marie Kondo, the Japanese organising consultant whose mantra about keeping items that “spark joy” has become a household phrase. The thought of decluttering an entire house can be overwhelming but help is at hand. Read our top tips below for the secrets to decluttering success:

  1. Start with small, easily achievable goals: Tackling the garage or loft in a day will put you off for life. Start with the pantry, boot room or bathroom cupboard. You’ll soon get into your stride and feel exhilarated.
  2. Sentimental items: Things that remind you of the past are the hardest to part with but if you’re moving to a smaller home you’ll have fewer rooms and there’s no escaping the fact that some things will have to go. Ask family and friends first if they would like the item and if not make an active decision to donate. If you catch yourself thinking “I’ll just keep this for now” or “just in case”, be ruthless and discard.
  3. Charity shops are closed during lockdown but don’t let this stall your decluttering plans. Bag or box up unwanted items destined for the tip or charity shop and store them in the garage, shed or even the car boot until lockdown ends.
  4. Books: Many people have carefully curated their bookshelves to create attractive back drops for their working from home Zoom calls. If you’re downsizing you may not have room for all the books you’ve collected over the years. They’re also bulky to move around and having a proper sort out now will make the removal process that little bit easier. Often people have books they feel they should read, but if you haven’t read them in the last 10 years or even thought about reading them in lockdown, box them up for Oxfam and let someone else enjoy them.
  5. Clothes: Start with socks. If they have holes, and you won’t darn them, bin them. Gather coats and look through them all. Boot rooms or hall cupboards often hold children’s coats long outgrown and forgotten about. Bag them up for a charity shop or homeless shelter.
  6. Kitchenware: Under cover of darkness in a kitchen cupboard, crockery multiplies. Fact. Unless you’re a professional caterer and genuinely cook in huge quantities, be ruthless with multiple roasting tins, cake tins and casserole dishes. Weed out mugs you don’t like using that much, life’s too short.
  7. Furniture: Downsizing means less space for furniture. Some councils will collect good-quality furniture to give to refugees or the disadvantaged. The British Heart Foundation and some hospice shops also collect furniture. If you feel guilty parting with a side table inherited from a much-loved relative, consider how much joy someone else might get from it and allow it to have a new lease of life in a new home. Take a picture of it before it goes and you’ll always have a reminder.
  8. Jewellery and knick-knacks: If you intend gifting jewellery and family heirlooms to offspring, do it now. Far nicer to see them enjoying things in your lifetime when you can tell them the history of the piece too. Keeping jewellery in a drawer or a safe and never letting it see the light of day is such a waste. Another alternative is to have it valued and sell it for your retirement fund. For costume jewellery, antiques and knick-knacks, send a box to Vintage Cash Cow and they’ll pay you cash for your cast-offs. If they don’t want your items or you’re not happy with the valuation, they’ll send back the box free of charge.
  9. Paperwork: Sort paper into categories on the floor: personal finances, bills, letters, work. Shred old documents or block out personal details with a marker pen. Only keep the latest utility bill or MOT certificate. If you have tax records, follow HMRC guidelines and your accountant’s advice and keep paperwork for the correct period. Get rid of old warranties and manuals for toasters and kettles and the boiler you no longer have.
  10. Professional help: For most of us, paying for a service focuses the mind. There are 379 professional organisers registered in Britain and in normal times they make home visits to help with the decluttering process. During lockdown professional organisers have been busy coaching clients by way of Zoom, Skype or even talking them through decisions on the telephone.

If you’re thinking of downsizing, why not contact your local Michael Graham office now to book a free valuation? We are open for business as usual and would love to help get you moving safely in these challenging times.

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