Four Steps to Organizing and Downsizing

Whether you are sorting and organizing to move, or just doing some spring cleaning, these Four Steps to Organizing and Downsizing can help make the process much faster and easier (and, when it comes to moving, who doesn’t want that?).
Step 1: Start with the end in mind.
What is the goal? If you are downsizing to move, get a visual idea of how much space you will have to work with (Which furniture items will fit? How much storage space will you have?). If need a layout and design tool, try Google’s Sketchup. If you are decorating and de-cluttering to sell, perhaps there are items you wish to keep but need to store while your home is on the market. If you are spring cleaning, then maybe you just want to get rid of items you feel you no longer need or use. In any case, visualizing how you want the space to look and feel after organizing will help keep you focused and moving forward.
Step 2: Planning and Calendaring
Now that you have a goal, you need a plan. The amount of downsizing and organizing you have will dictate the amount of time you need. What you do not want to do is try to squeeze it all into the last of couple days or hours. Try choosing one room per day (or every few days) to work on, then schedule that room and time on your calendar (here is a calendar guide if you need one). Enlist family and friends to help you and make it fun!
Step 3:Four Sorting Stations
You have a goal and a plan, so now it is time to start sorting. The simplest way to sort items is to designate four stations:
1) KEEP: As you decide to keep an item, try to visualize where you will be putting it. If you can’t “see it” anywhere, reconsider your decision to keep it.  Tip: if you have children’s art or other sentimental memorabilia that is taking too much space, designate someone to take a digital photo and upload it into a memory book. That way everyone can share those memories for years to come and the physical items can be discarded!
2) DONATE: Decide the charities you intend to donate to in advance to help keep you stay focused on the act of giving (instead of losing). A quick call will tell you if the organization you choose can save you a trip and pick up the items at your doorstep.
3) TRASH: Use a trash receptacle and bag for this station so that as the bags are filled you can remove them easily and quickly.
4)UNDECIDED: This option is for those who have a harder time deciding what to keep and what to discard. Limit this station to “UNDECIDED” items (no more than one box) and then seal and date the box. If, after six to twelve months the box has not been opened (or the items left in the box have not been used), they should either be donated or discarded.
Step 4: Color Coding
This step can be as simple or as detailed as you want to make it. For the items in the KEEP station, you will use a system of color coding to pack like items together. (You can also do this while sorting, but it may require more hands and space). For example, if all the kitchen items are coded red then red duct tape can be used to label all of the kitchen boxes. This will help those moving to find things more easily and will expedite unpacking as boxes are opened in their respective spaces.  For those who want more detailed color coding, colored dividers in a 3 ring binder can help you inventory items in each box (just be sure to correspond an additional number- i.e. Red#1, Red#2 if you have multiple boxes).
Now you should be well equipped to tackle your organizing and downsizing challenges.  You can modify these tips as needed (and be sure to tell us your great tips in the comments below!). If, however, you are still feeling too overwhelmed to take this on, just know that there are professional downsizing, organizing, and moving professionals that can be hired (National Association of Move Masters is a great resource for seniors, or ask me for a referral).