We have a great topic today, and it’s most likely a topic that interests everyone at midlife. Or at least it should! I am going to teach you how to downsize and declutter, so you can downright enjoy your second half of life.
And why am I the one to teach you how to downsize and declutter? Because I’ve done it! I moved into a 150 square foot RV a couple of years ago, so I quite obviously had to declutter A LOT! I also moved to Madeira, Portugal a few months ago, and when I’m not here on this gorgeous island, I am RV-ing back in the United States.
By downsizing and decluttering, I was easily able to make the transition into a little box on wheels and to also move to another country. The condo that I rent here in Madeira is fully furnished, so all I had to bring were my clothes, and believe it or not, my clothes fit into 2 suitcases. And if you could’ve seen my closet before I decluttered, you would think I was Houdini!
From living in a 5,000 square foot house to living in a 150 square foot RV, I know exactly how you can free yourself of all the stuff and the extra space that you do not need. The key word there is FREE. Freeing yourself of the big houses, big cars, and big piles of clothes will literally FREE your time, money, and energy so you can enjoy more of your life without the need to maintain, upgrade, or dust all that stuff.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again, you came into this world with nothing and you will leave with nothing, so stop dragging it around like your stuff is more important than you, because It’s not.
Before we do a little spring cleaning, I have a spring special to share with you and a new feature for The Midlife Makeover Show! We now have our very own Midlife Hotline! How cool is that? If you have a question you would like for me to answer or you have an idea for a podcast episode, I’d love to know! Annnnd the cool thing is that your question or suggestion will be featured on the show! All you have to do is call 888-238-2998 and leave your question or suggestion on the voicemail. You can leave your name or be anonymous. Totally up to you! That toll free number is 888-238-2998 and it’s also in the show notes if you can’t remember me saying 888-238-2998. 😆
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And who is this course for? Well, I think it’s for everyone at midlife, because the course teaches you the next step to take in your life, and we all need to take that next step towards our future, right?
This course is especially for the peeps out there that may be experiencing a divorce hangover, a job burnout, the midlife blues, or maybe you’re feeling trapped in a vicious cycle of rinse and repeat days. No problem! I got you!
I certainly know what it’s like to be paralyzed with the overwhelm of change and to be stuck in the same dull chapter.
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Now that I think about it, the Midlife Makeover Method coincides with our topic today, because it will help you take that next step towards decluttering and downsizing your life. Spring cleaning for your entire life!
Let’s get started! Following are the 6 steps to downsize and declutter at midlife:
1. Take a look at your future
I’m all about living in the present, but you also have to imagine how you will live your life in the future, so you can prepare for it. Otherwise, years will go by, and you will still be in that big house with that big fancy dining room table that only gets used once a year for one hour, but you spend hours over the years dusting the darn thing and vacuuming oh-so carefully around it.
Take the time to imagine how you want to live in your second half of life. Look ahead 5-10 years and ponder the following:
How many people will live in your home? Will you live alone? Will it just be yourself and your partner? Will you care for an elderly parent?
By the time we get to our fifties, the birdies are usually leaving the nest and the rooms in the house are becoming quiet and empty. Again, you are left with dusting that furniture, scrubbing those extra bathrooms, washing the sheets, and spending money to cool and heat those extra rooms. And I know what you’re thinking, “But the kids will come back for the holidays, and I want them to always feel welcome here.”
I have an opinion about that. In between owning and managing a medical practice and starting The Midlife Makeover Show, I took a job in Chicago selling houses to people in a 55 and older community, or as I used to say, 55 and better. The houses were smaller in that community, around 1000 square feet. A lot of my customers were coming from 4000+ square foot houses with basements, with tons of empty rooms, and a shit ton of furniture.
The customers loved walking into the model home, seeing the simple spaces with simple furniture and imagining living a simple life. But the moment they tried to envision what to do with all their heavy furniture, kitchen gadgets, Christmas decorations, boxes of stuff in the attic they haven’t looked at in decades, a look of complete terror would come over their face.
Furthermore, they would say to me, “This house only has 2 bedrooms.”
I would reply, “Exactly. Isn’t that the point in downsizing?”
They would come back with, “But what about when the grandkids visit at Thanksgiving?”
And I would say, “For the one or two times your kids and grandkids visit, it would be less expensive for you to set them up in a dang hotel or an Airbnb down the street. Why pay the extra money towards your mortgage, taxes, and maintaining that extra square footage for other people? The birdies left the nest and now you need to use your time, money, and energy on enjoying your second half of life.”
Again, think about how many people will be living in your home fulltime and how much space you reeeeally need. Some of us are unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at, are divorcing, which sometimes that means furniture and belongings are being split between 2 houses. It’s common that one partner will hang onto that house you built together over the years and raised your children. Again, you’re hanging onto that big house for the kids that are now adults.
Divorce is a great time for a fresh start and a great opportunity to start off with a smaller place with less stuff.
Something else to think about your is your work. When do you plan to retire? Will you work from home? Do you need a home office? How about a job transfer?
Take me for example. I had been an entrepreneur for 25 years and for a brief time in my life, I took that corporate job selling houses in Chicago. Although, I was good at my job, I was extremely successful, and thankfully that job allowed me to pay off all the debt from my divorce, get back on my feet, and regain my independence, working the 9-5 corporate job wasn’t for Wendy. Blah! Wendy needed to be free to explore the world and to fulfill her purpose, which is what I am currently doing.
The point is that I had to think about my future career and how that tied into my living environment. My goal was to be completely mobile, so I could work from anywhere in the world, whether that was sitting in an RV or sitting on the beach in Portugal. All I need is my microphone and WIFI and I’m good to go.
Maybe working remotely is something you desire to do. There are so many ways in which you can do that these days to allow you that freedom to combine your business with leisure. There is actually a new term now called “bleisure” combing work and play. How cool is that? I could’ve invented that term!
This reminds me of when I interviewed Bradley Rice, the founder of Talent Stacker, and you can make over 100k a year working remotely with Sales Force. And if you downsize and declutter, a 100k can go a long way! If that is something that interests you, check out episode #12 with Bradley Rice. It’s really good!
The main thing is that you need to consider if you will continue to work at the office or if you work remotely, this will open up a lot of possibilities for you.
Speaking of playing, what about traveling? Do you desire to travel and see the world? Do you want to be crazy like Wendy and take an RV trip across the country? You need to think about the amount of time you will be in your house. If you’re gone traveling the world, then why pay for that big house in the burbs? If it’s to keep up with the Joneses, the Joneses don’t give a crap. You need to do what’s best for you. Period.
And hey – if you like maintaining that big house in the burbs with a bunch of empty rooms and a ton of furniture, then cool. Keep doing that. But for those that are feeling weighed down and want to spend their time, money and energy on living life instead of dusting their stuff, let’s lighten your load by decluttering and downsizing. Believe me you, it is sooooo worth it!
Again, step #1 is take a look at your future and imagine your lifestyle, your work, and your play.
2. Take your time
In other words, start early. Don’t think this is a process that can be done within two weeks. For me, I went from 5,000 square feet down to 2,500 down to 1,000 and finally down to 150 square feet. I went through a gradual decluttering and downsizing process, and many of you may as well.
Even when I went from only 1,000 square feet down to 150 square feet though, that still took me months to complete that process. If anything, it’s because I was down to those final few items that held a stronger emotional connection, which were harder to let go. We will get to the emotional piece of this process later.
Just know that you need to start now, because it takes time to do it properly and without feeling rushed. You will be glad that you did, too. Besides, even though you’ve thought about your future, it may take some time for your future plans to come together. By the time those future plans are realized though, you will be ready.
In the next step, you will see that you are going from macro to micro. Large to small. You can focus on the big stuff while your future plans are unfolding. That way, the only thing that remains is the small stuff.
Speaking of, I want to talk about overwhelm, because it’s very common to feel so overwhelmed throughout this decluttering and downsizing journey.
When you think about everything you have to downsize and declutter, it may seem like a gigantic elephant in front of you. Just like the riddle, how do you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time.
Just take one room at a time, one box at a time, and before you know it, you will have lightened your load and freed yourself of all that extra stuff.
Grab your forks and let’s take a bite!
3. Take inventory
Now that you have thought about your future and how you desire to live, you need to take a look at your present living environment and all your stuff. With this step in the process, you’re not decluttering or downsizing yet. Your simply taking note of the larger material possessions, your living space, and how it all fits in with your future plans. We will address the little things like knick knacks, pictures, kitchen utensils, clothes, etc., later on in the decluttering process. For now, you are concentrating on the spaces and the big stuff.
Grab a notepad –– a large one –– and write down on the top of each paper the name of each space in your living environment. Kitchen, living room, garage, master bedroom, master bathroom, Lil’ Johnny’s old bedroom, attic, basement, and even driveway and yard. Those areas are still part of your living environment.
You will then make 5 columns on each paper and write from left to right: Save, Sell, Share, Store, Scrap. Save, Sell, Share, Store, Scrap. Save it as in keep it because it fits in with your future plans, sell it as in sell it on Facebook Marketplace, a consignment store, friends, etc., Share it as in donate to Goodwill, a homeless shelter, friends, family, Store it as in put it in storage if a storage is something you will need for your future plans, and Scrap it as in put it in ye’ ol’ garbage.
Now, when you start to declutter, you may change your mind on some things and that’s okay. Maybe you thought you’d sell that cute, little table in your foyer and you decide to keep it for your new condo. Try not to overthink it.
You’ve got your notepad in one hand and your pen in the other, now it’s time to go for a walk. Walk through your house, room by room, and take note of all the spaces. As you walk through the rooms, think about how many times you go in those rooms and if those spaces are absolutely necessary for your future.
Do you really need a half bath? Could you live without it? Maybe you think to yourself, “That bathroom is for guests only and I never have guests over anyway. Besides, I’ll be busy traveling the world in my second half of life!” If that’s the case, you’ll want to write on the “Half Bath” page “room not needed.”
As you continue to walk through your home, think about how many bedrooms are being used? Could you live without that bedroom being used as a home office and work at the kitchen table instead? Heck, that’s what I’m doing right now as I speak! I’ve got my laptop, microphone, and coffee sitting on the kitchen table. It’s all I need.
And ya’ know what? I used to have a fancy $10,000 cherry wood Ethan Allen desk with matching filing cabinets and bookshelves that filled an entire room. And of course, it wouldn’t have been complete without a $1000 custom-made swivel chair covered with a gorgeous paisley fabric. All of that is so smothering to me now. Who wants to drag all that heavy furniture around?
Anywho, you’ll find that as you go through this process there are things you thought you needed but are really just unnecessary extra things. Trust me, when you reduce your belongings and your spaces, you will adjust, and you won’t miss the extra crap.
As you go room by room, not only do I want you to take note of the need for each room, but also the stuff within those rooms. Start placing the big stuff in one of those 5 columns: Save, Sell, Share, Store, Scrap. Write out all your beds, nightstands, dressers, lamps, large artwork, paintings, lawn equipment, bikes, tools, TVs, computers, dining tables, couches, chairs, large appliances, grills, and even your cars. Again, you’re focusing on the big stuff. Don’t worry about the stuff in boxes and drawers, and the stuff sitting on shelves. That’ll come later.
4. Take on the big stuff
It’s time to get busy folks! Pick a room, any room and get started! Don’t get overwhelmed and think about the entire house, just worry about eating that elephant one bite at a time and declutter one room at a time.
Grab your handy dandy notebook with your 5 columns of Save, Sell, Share, Store, Scrap, and start saving, selling, sharing, storing, and scrapping.
If you want to be an organized Martha Stewart freak like me, you can take color-coded sticky notes and label everything in the room as Save, Sell, Share, Store, Scrap. That’s especially helpful if you are doing the decluttering process with your partner or children. That cuts down on, “What did you want to do with this again?” or “I thought you wanted to Scrap the couch. Oops.”
As you get to each large item in the room, stop and really imagine this item in your future plans. Ask if it’s worth dragging it around. Take my large home office furniture as an example. Just to move that heavy furniture was extremely costly. I was able to sell that furniture on Facebook Market place for over $2000 and save the $1000 it would’ve cost just to move it. It’s a no-brainer. And if you really need to replace it, then you can buy something when you get to your next place.
Here’s something else to think about, and I know this is a morbid thought, but someday someone else will have to go through your stuff and Save it, Sell it, Share it, Store it, or Scrap it. Save your friends and family the trouble of having to go through all of that.
My in-laws died within 90 days of one another, and I had to go through their home and all their stuff. When all was said and done of selling, sharing, and scrapping their belongings, all that was saved was two boxes of pictures, which is now sitting in a storage. Do the work now so your family doesn’t have to do it later.
In regard to selling or sharing your large items, I think it’s always worth trying to sell your stuff first. You could make a little extra cash, and if you have a hard time selling it, then you can just give it away. I used Facebook Marketplace and consignment shops for my stuff and had great success. You’d be surprised how much extra moolah you can make!
Let’s talk about the emotional connection to our stuff. I can remember watching the man that bought my Ethan Allen desk load it into the back of his pickup truck as I stood there and cried. I sat hours upon hours at that desk. It’s where I journaled and wrote Christmas cards to my kids and looked out the window as I watched my dog play in the backyard. I literally stood in the driveway and bawled about a pricey chunk of furniture.
The man looked at me and said, “My wife will be so excited! She has been wanting a desk to start her own scrapbooking company. Thank you so much for this gift.”
And then it hit me. My stuff isn’t just stuff. It contains energy of beautiful memories that will never go away. Those memories stay in your heart. No matter if your stuff is sold, shared, or scrapped, the essence is passed on. And like the man said, it’s a gift.
And again, you came into this world with nothing, and you will leave with nothing. You can’t take that Pottery Barn couch when you leave this world. Besides, I’ve heard that Heaven is fully furnished anyway, so just let all that stuff go now.
But seriously, decluttering and downsizing can be very emotional. All the more reason you want to take your time. Allow yourself to cry if you want to cry and laugh if you want to laugh. Laugh about the good times you spent watching movies with your kids on that Pottery Barn couch, and then when you’re done laughing, take a deep breath, thank your couch for the good times, and post that sucker on Facebook. Buh-bye couch!
The more that starts to leave your house, the easier the process becomes. Especially when you start with the big stuff! You’ll really see how much extra space you have in your home! Every time something left my house, I felt like I could breathe easier. It was just so liberating. Ahhhh. You may even decide to sell, share or scrap even more as you go along.
5. Take on the little stuff
Once you clear out majority of the big stuff, it’s time to work on the little stuff. The little stuff is the big stuff in my opinion, because it can take the longest amount of time and thought. There’s so much little stuff inside drawers and boxes and nightstands, and little stuff sitting on shelves and tables and countertops.
So. Much. Stuff.
Again, pick a room, any room, and start saving, selling, sharing, storing, and scrapping. For the little things, it’s good to have garbage bags, boxes, and storage containers right in front of you ready to go, so you can just start sorting them right away.
For me, this was really challenging because I was moving into such a tiny space. You can only fit so much in a 26-foot RV! As a matter of fact, when I bought my RV, I had already gone through the entire decluttering and downsizing process. I had moved out of my place, moved in with a friend, and was storing my perfectly labeled storage containers until the RV was ready for pickup.
When I began putting everything away in its perfect place, I discovered that it didn’t fit as perfectly as I had imagined. I had to scrap and share the rest of what didn’t fit! There is no way to do this process perfectly but try your best and you’ll figure out the rest!
When going through little things, look for duplicates. For example, how many spatulas do you really need? How may scrunchies, vases, platters, towels, etc., do you really need? When you dive into the small stuff, you really start to see how much stuff you’ve got. It’s crazyyyy!
The room that might be the most difficult, especially for the ladies, is the closet. I posted a video on my Instagram of my closet before I decluttered, so you’ll have to check it out! I had A LOT of clothes and shoes and purses. Way too much! I went from a closet that was the size of a bedroom to a closet the size of a little refrigerator. No shit. But ya’ know what? I don’t miss any of it nor do I barely remember most of it.
The same piles of save, sell, share, store and scrap apply to items in your closet as well. You can try selling your clothes and shoes, but I gave mine away to homeless shelters or organizations for women needing clothes for work. It usually isn’t worth the trouble to try and sell your clothing, but that’s totally up to you.
Ask yourself what you really need and what you really enjoy wearing. If you have a blah feeling about that shirt or skirt, toss that sucker. Don’t even give it another thought. And if you get rid of too much, then it’s a good excuse to go shopping for new clothes.
One rule with living in an RV is that if something comes IN the RV, then something must go OUT of the RV. There is only so much space, so you have to be really conscious of what you’re buying. It was actually really good for me because I was the queen of buying stupid shit. Knick knacks and what not. With living in an RV and even more so with traveling the world, I only buy what’s necessary. I also know that whatever I buy, I have to carry it around with me, so it needs to be small and packable.
No matter what your future plans are, I think you’ll find that you’ll be a smarter consumer and only buy what you need. Because once you buy something, you’ll someday need to declutter that, too. The way I look at it though, it leaves more money in your pocket to have more cool and exciting experiences. Those are the memories that last a lifetime.
Not only will you not take the Pottery Barn couch with you when you die, but you also won’t think about that Pottery Barn couch on your deathbed. What you WILL think about is that time you took a cruise to Europe and ate pasta and drank wine in Italy.
When you let the material stuff go, you invite more time, money energy for the good stuff, the finer things in life.
6. Take it to the scanner
I am proud to say that I completely paperless. The only paper I own is my passport, birth certificate and my business planner to help me track all the things I need to do for this podcast! Other than that, I don’t have any paper. Not even mail you guys.
When I moved into the RV, I got a digital mailbox. All my mail goes to a company called Escapees. They scan my envelopes and email them to me. I let them know if they should scrap it or scan it. Oh! There’s another word starting with S that we can add to our decluttering list! So now you can Save, Sell, Share, Store, Scrap, or Scan! Anyway, if I want them to scan it, I just download the mail onto my computer. Simple as that! If it’s a check or something really important that I need, Escapees will mail it to me wherever I am in the world. Pretty cool, huh?
Before I moved into the RV, I went through all my important documents and scanned them at a FedEx store. I loooove not having a bunch of paper all over the place.
Other items that you may want to consider scanning are pictures and mementos like your kid’s artwork back in elementary school. Don’t feel guilty if little Judy’s watercolor painting on construction paper covered in glitter accidentally falls in the garbage. You can’t keep the keepsakes forever. Again, take a moment to remember and appreciate each item and let it go.
Since we are at midlife then most likely, you have a lot of pictures pre-digital days. Not to mention, those photographs probably have duplicates! Remember those days when Walgreens would throw in duplicates for free? Oh thanks a lot for the extra clutter! That stuff has gotta go!
I recommend using a company like Legacy Box where they scan all your pictures for you. It’s nice because then you can share those pictures with family or friends via email or a USB stick.
Although going through pictures and memorabilia can be tedious, it’s a bit easier on you emotionally since you are scanning them instead of tossing them. They aren’t completely gone.
Okay folks! Those are the 6 steps to downsize and declutter at your midlife. That wasn’t so bad, was it? Easier said than done right?
Little by little, step by step, you will get there, and trust me, you will feel like a brand-new person when it’s all done.
Let’s review the steps:
1. Take a look at your future
2. Take your time
3. Take inventory
4. Take on the big stuff
5. Take on the little stuff
6. Take it to the scanner
And the buckets to help you sort your stuff is:
Suzy sells seashells on the seashore! I hope the episode was helpful for you and I hope you are inspired to start your spring cleaning! Make sure you check out midlifemakeovermethod.com and use code SPRING to get my online course at a killer price of only $19!
Also, call my new Midlife Hotline at 888-238-2998 and leave me a question or idea for the show! Calllll me! In the meantime, be bold, be free, be you!
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