Over the past couple of years, I heard many people confess that letting go of their things, their emotional items, is one of the biggest hurdles, if not the biggest issue to overcome when downsizing their homes. More and more clutter had built up in their houses until they couldn’t get their head around it anymore. The consequence was procrastination.

Unfortunately, many people have the propensity to claim it on everything and everyone else except themselves why they can’t start to sort out their stuff. They avoid making a decision, which would mean stepping out of their comfort zone and embracing the unknown. On top, dumping things unconsciously in your home will lead ineluctably to more clutter.

On the other hand, there are the group of downsizers, who made it happen. On my podcast, I recorded several interviews with empty nesters, who came out on the other side of the tunnel and are now enjoying their apartment lifestyle with less – less stuff, fewer chores, less to worry about. Unisonous, they told me that the first step was making a decision. But once the decision was made, everything else fell into place.

I am a very organised person and tidy up on a regular basis. In my view, the first step is making de-cluttering a regular habit and a priority. Changing habits needs to start with the mindset. There is the saying that thoughts become words, words become actions, and actions become habits. Letting go of old assumptions and beliefs about de-cluttering is the first step to success. Tidying up can be a liberating, and one empty nester even described it as a cathartic experience. Getting rid of physical clutter will free up the mind and create space for new ideas, projects, and thoughts. However, you need to make a decision and the first step on your journey to be able to experience the life-changing magic of tidying, as the Japanese organisation guru Marie Kondo has titled her bestselling book. De-cluttering by categories is the strategy to success according to Kondo.

Neuroscientists confirm this approach, as processing information in categories is an inherent capability of our brain. Think of the beach. When looking at the beach, we don’t usually see every single grain of sand. We recognise the beach as one entity. It is not that our brain is not capable of identifying each grain of sand, it instantly realises that all the grains of sand belong to one category and therefore processes the information as one image: the beach. It is an act of cognitive economy.

Why not using this inherent capability of our brain to organise our homes and start de-cluttering by categories? Establishing a de-cluttering routine is a powerful lever to achieve a tidy and organised home.

De-cluttering by categories is one of the topics my workshop Downsizing 101 covers. Downsizing 101 is based on my five-step process to downsizing with style and addresses the major challenges of empty nesters: getting rid of all the stuff they have accumulated over the years, prioritising what to keep, and finding creative ways of making most out of a smaller space. It is a three-hour interactive learning session with expert advice on de-cluttering, space planning, and storage optimisation.

Participants will have a chance to address their questions, share their experiences and connect with like-minded people.

Next workshop: Saturday, the 29th of October 2016

at the ArtHub Manly on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.

My attendance at one of Bettina’s workshops was an act of desperation. As a messy, disorganised person, I was already feeling overwhelmed with my house and its out-of-control clutter. Added to this, was the increasing need to prepare our home for sale, for when we eventually downsize. The need to organise and better utilise the space has become more urgent, as we are expecting a family of 4 to live with us for a few months. I enjoyed Bettina’s workshop greatly; particularly the way in which she encourages you to work with your own personality and think about creative, functional ways to utilise the things that you treasure, rather than just letting them sit on shelves to gather dust. Some friends of ours have started looking at apartments and been turned off, because they “are all too small” and I gave them a bit of a lecture, that they still have a “house” mentality, instead of an “apartment” mentality. I realised that I have adopted an “apartment” mentality, considering which furniture and other possessions will be versatile enough to use in a smaller home and which I can live without. Basically, I have been getting rid of anything, that is non-functional and/or doesn’t give me pleasure (my husband is quite relieved that I have let him stay!) The house is looking so much better, that I wish I had done this years ago and I highly recommend Bettina’s workshop to anyone who wants to create a peaceful, uncluttered home.

Lyn, Castle Hill

This is part one of a five-part series on clever downsizing strategies which I will publish on this blog in the next weeks.

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