Decluttering 101 

Sunday Signal

By Michele E. Buttelman 

Signal Staff Writer 

It is said we spend the first half of our lives acquiring “things” and the second half of our life getting rid of our “things.” It is a topic that every senior has to face at one point in their life, do I want to leave my lifetime of “things” for my children to deal with, or should I start the process of downsizing and simplifying my life now? 

The Santa Clarita Valley landscape is dotted with numerous storage facilities where it is easy to stash your “stuff.” However, that is not a permanent solution to downsizing and decluttering your life. 

The thought of downsizing can be overwhelming. We often have an emotional or sentimental attachment to the “things” in our lives. 

For most people there are two important questions: 

  • Where do you start? 
  • How do you start? 

Mind Set 

The first step is making the decision to downsize. It is a hard process and will be more difficult unless you are truly committed. Don’t worry if you start the process then stop, then start and stop several times before you finish. Downsizing is difficult and sometimes hard choices need to be made. You are dealing with many memories and it can be a very emotional endeavor. 

Advantages of Downsizing 

Among the many advantages of downsizing is the ability to save money by moving to a smaller home that requires less upkeep, less water, less energy and a smaller tax and insurance bills. Having less to move reduces the cost of moving and the cost of storage.  

Downsizing allows you to change your lifestyle. You have more money for travel, increased time for fun activities and the opportunity to relocate to be closer to family.  

Get Your Partner on Board 

If you and your partner have different ideas of what should stay and what should go, you are setting the stage for conflict and hurt feelings. Start the downsizing process by agreeing to the ground rules. See if you can find a third party, an adult child or friend you trust, to be an arbitrator when you are deadlocked over an item, such as “should the extra refrigerator in the garage be decommissioned and sold?” 

Start Small 

Sometimes the hardest step is the first step. Start small. Every home has a “junk” drawer. The junk drawer, with its odd assortment of rubber bands, bread tags, screws, washers, bamboo skewers, assorted tools and wine corks should be the first project to tackle. Once you have cleaned out the junk drawer the sense of accomplishment should propel you forward to tackle the hall closet.  

One Room, One Project 

Limit yourself to one room, or one project at a time. Don’t flit from closet to closet or room to room. It is easy to lose focus and get discouraged when you can’t see any tangible progress when you have too many projects going at once.  


Some of the hardest things to part with are sentimental items you’ve collected throughout the years, ticket stubs, Christmas and birthday cards, show programs, children’s report cards and photos. The best way to preserve these memories without keeping the items in boxes and scrapbooks is to digitize all paper memorabilia. There are exceptions, of course, but if you look at many of the items you have stashed away you will discover you can discard many.  

Buy a high-quality scanner and electronically “save” these items in digital format. If you aren’t comfortable with technology hire a grandchild to do the scanning for you. It’s a great way to bond and share your life with your grandchildren. 

Digitizing tax forms, property tax bills, check stubs and other business and personal financial information is a great space saver. If you ever need a paper document you can print it from your digital archive.  

Donate to Charity 

Once you’ve asked your children what they may want from your home gather the items that still have “life” in them and sell them on local “Buy, Sell, Trade” pages (another project for your grandchildren) or donate to charity. Keep track of the value of the items you donate for end-of-the-year tax deductions.  

A Few ‘Rules’ to Follow 

Decluttering experts offer rules that help in the decluttering and downsizing process.  

The No-More-Stuff Rule This rule is not as easy as it sounds. After a lifetime of acquiring, it is hard to simply stop the habit. If you do need to buy something new follow the One In, Two Out Rule for nonessentials. Eliminate two items for every new item you buy such as clothing, appliances and other “nonessentials.”  

Appointment Decluttering Rule: Make decluttering appointments with yourself every week. Appointments can last from 15 minutes to two hours. Keep to your schedule. Don’t “call in sick.” If you have to cancel an “appointment” unexpectedly schedule a “make good” time to replace the canceled appointment.  

The Clothing Rule If you haven’t worn an item in the past year, think long and hard about why you want to keep it. Donate it. There are many great places in the SCV that accept gently used clothing. The One Year and It’s Gone Rule also can apply to small appliances and anything else in your home that you rarely, if ever use. If it is not needed, donate or resell.  

Entertain Yourself 

Play music that you love or invite friends and family to help. Music is a great way to make the time fly as you sort and discard. Friends and family might spot something you are ready to part with and take it with them, they are also great assets in helping to keep you “honest” in your decluttering efforts.

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