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16 Best De-cluttering Tips

Decluttering and downsizing is a big job so we’ve compiled some of our favourite tips from the experts: Susan Borax of Good Riddance. Pat Irwin of ElderCareCanada, Margo Salnek of Move Seniors Lovingly, and Vicky Keyes of Red Coats Moving Solutions.

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Maintain a positive outlook

  1. Focus on your new life and on what you’re taking with you. Decisions can’t be made until you’ve focused on your new lifestyle —on what you’ll be doing there and on what you need and don’t need.
  2. Think of your things this way: you have enjoyed and appreciated them, now it’s time for another family to enjoy and appreciate them. All you did was look after these things for a period of time.
  3. Think of downsizing your things as a process. Enlist enthusiasm and support from family and friends.
  4. If you have something sitting in the back of a closet or shelf that’s been unused and unloved for a long time remember that lots of people could make us of it, particularly someone in a hospice or shelter. Let it go so that it can do some good!
  5. Go back into the area you were working in and see what has been accomplished. Feel good about it.
  6. Reliving the memories associated with your treasures is an important part of the downsizing process. Sit down with loved ones and share the stories behind your objects.

Planning your new space

  1. Get the dimensions of the space you’re moving into and develop a floor plan. A floor plan on a magnetic board with small furniture pieces cut to-scale is a great way to move items around and see how they will fit. That way you can create a vision for your space and decide what furniture to bring and what pieces to eliminate.
  2. If you can, go to your new residence and plot out where things will go so that you can visualize how it’s all going to come together.
  3. If you want to visualize how much closet space you’ll have in your new place, take the measurements of the closet at your new place and then using tape, section off that same area in an existing closet in your house so that you can get used to the space and see what items will fit inside.

Market value of your possessions

  1. Recognize that you’re not going to get very much for many of your possessions. Many items are not rare, not valuable in a market sense. They are valuable to family and friends so give things to them and take some favourite things with you like your china cabinet. One thing you can’t do is separate a man from his desk so take it too!
  2. People often overvalue what they have. You may have paid $600 for an item but if you can get $150. or even $75. then you are fortunate. Set realistic expectations.
  3. For the most part things like furniture, household articles and clothing depreciate over time because styles change and tastes change. People often think that their dining room suite is going to be a big seller but most of the time younger people don’t want that style of furniture. Sofas are hard to sell because people often have health concerns about them and chips or cracks in china will devalue those items.
  4. Sometimes it is the unusual and unique items that will sell, not the bigger ticket items.

Appraisals and Pricing

  1. Before you get rid of your items get advice and take your time. Get an appraiser.
  2. A great estate selling company in Toronto is The Great Estate Sale.
  3. Understand how to price: Look online to find something similar, see what others are selling these things for and price accordingly.
  4. Create a resource list of consignment stores, auctioneers, buyers, relatives and friends who are taking items.
  5. Take photos of things you want to sell and email them to prospective buyers.

Labels and note taking

  1. Try to label things for their destination (new house, family/friends, sale, donation or recycle/dispose).
  2. Ask family and friends if they can take notes on where things have been sent (auction, Goodwill, a friend etc.). That way, if you are wondering where an item went later on, you will be able to check.

Make sure items are in good working order

  • Make sure your things are clean and in good working order. Before you sell or give them away plug them in and make sure they’re completely operational.


If you have a collection, don’t take every piece with you; take a subset—a few pieces that are representative of the set.

Magazines and newspapers

It’s best to recycle magazines and newspapers as soon as you don’t need them. Libraries will often take magazines if they are recent and in good condition.

Camera equipment

Old camera equipment may be welcome at local schools that have photography programs.

Great places to donate

  1. You will not get a tax receipt for donating items in Canada but there are lots of great places for your things. You can Google “furniture donation” and the name of your province for a list of options. For example, The Furniture Bank in Toronto gives to immigrants. We were all immigrants once so this is a great solution! In British Columbia try Homestart which gives furniture to homeless families. You can also donate household articles to local women’s shelters.
  2. When people call from a charity saying they’ll be in your neighborhood next week always say, “Yes!” It will give you the inspiration to go through your closets and find something you can donate.

Stick to deadlines

  1. It’s very tiring emotionally and physically to go through your things so limit each session to no more than three hours.
  2. Once you make a decision about something stick to it. Don’t let items pile up in the garage, the back of the car or the front hallway.
  3. If a friend or family member wants an item and is coming to pick it up, give them a deadline. Say that it will go onto the charity truck if they don’t come at the specified time. Make decisions and move the process along; you don’t want items piling up.

Moving? Hire the right senior moving company

If you are moving, note that senior Move Management is a relatively new industry. Be sure you are hiring a qualified company to move your things. Services they may be able to provide may include everything from preparing the home for the real estate market, to finding the right real estate professional, to unpacking and setting up the new home (to everything in between).

  • Make sure they are a member in good standing of the Better Business Bureau
  • Ask for a free consultation, then review their estimate carefully.
  • Don't sign anything until you have done a thorough check on the company and on their itemized estimate.

Read Margo Salnek's fuller look at the dos and don'ts of hiring a seniors' moving service

How long will it take to downsize?

There are a number of factors to consider: how long have you been in the house? How many rooms do you have? Is your home sparsely finished or do you have a lot of stuff? Do you regularly declutter or is this the first time in a long time? It’s unrealistic to expect that in three days or a week you’ll clear everything out.

Get a second opinion

Get someone else to help you make decisions so that you have another pair of eyes. Downsizing can be an emotional minefield because you have too many memories attached to your things; you need someone who has no association with them.

Declutter regularly

Set aside 15 minutes once a week (schedule it on your calendar) to do some de-cluttering—a drawer, a shoe closet—and make it a general part of your routine. Then if you do decide to move in two years, you’ll be much better prepared physically and mentally.

Downsize while in good health

Start downsizing while you are still in good health, one room or area at a time. That way it won’t become an overwhelming emotional issue when you are less able to deal with it.

Storage lockers

If your house is being staged, make use of storage lockers for your things but don’t make it a permanent solution. Storage lockers can become expensive and having things there only delays the work you’ll have to do later on.


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