It seems everywhere you turn, there’s a new message on the many benefits of decluttering. One of the trend’s best-known spokespersons is Marie Kondo, whose first book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, extolls the virtues of having fewer belongings and more space to showcase the things that spark joy.
A more sobering aspect of this movement has been revealed more recently in the form of “Swedish Death Cleaning,” which involves getting rid of anything you don’t need any more so as to relieve others of the task of discarding it after you’ve passed on. Margareta Magnusson, author of The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Make Your Loved Ones’ Lives More Pleasant, says the practice offers a soft underlying message of care for one’s heirs.
Tips to Declutter
Share the following six tips from professional organizers Rhea Becker of The Clutter Queen in Boston and Barry Izsak of PackingMoving Unpacking.com in Austin to help keep your clients from feeling overwhelmed. Whichever tactics they choose, remind them that playing upbeat music can also help get the job done.
Start small. Izsak suggests starting with a single room, closet, or drawer that will offer immediate gratification once cleaned. “For most, that means not starting in a garage or attic since there’s usually so much stuff there, but in a smaller space that’s used daily. Working this way will give them joy right away,” he says. Becker loves starting with “that little kitchen drawer” where homeowners have crammed takeout menus, rubber bands, twist ties, plastic cutlery, and sugar packets. “Only put back what you really will use,” she says.
Tackle a whole room in a methodical way. Head to a corner, work on that area, and move clockwise until the room is completed. This might take several hours or days. “Keep at it,” Becker advises, noting that the feeling of elation upon completing an entire room will offer the adrenalin necessary to move onto tougher spots.
Think in terms of categories. If clients are overwhelmed by tackling an entire closet, tell them to start with one category. Pair up all your shoes, then purge the ones that need repair, are worn out, aren’t in style, or that you are simply tired of, Becker says. Then, move on to a new category such as belts, scarves, socks, or ties.
Love your thrift shop.Becker recommends keeping a box or large sturdy bag in a convenient place and adding items to it that you’re ready to part with. As soon as the box or bag is filled, take it to a local shop. You might also consider a second receptacle in a linen closet for your local animal shelter, since they often need used towels and bedding.
Wear it or ditch it. If you haven’t worn something in a year or two, give it away, Becker says. If it’s vintage and valuable, it can instead become a candidate for an estate sale or auction.
Forget repairing broken stuff. If you have stuff around the house that’s broken, torn, or missing a part, get rid of it, Becker urges. Most people never get around to fixing things they think they will unless it’s very valuable or of great sentimental value.
Truly effective—and lasting—decluttering is a multistep process. The elements will vary depending on each client’s situation, but here are tips on how you as a real estate pro can help them reduce the stress of the task. You may even find them helpful for your own space.
1. Consider the downsizers. Whether you’re helping them buy or sell, clients who are hoping to reduce the amount of living space they require may look to you as a cheerleader and adviser. They may find it tempting to put off those difficult decisions about what to keep and what to ditch until after the move, but if you can help them focus on what realistically can fit in their new home, that could save them significant money in moving costs, according to Barry Izsak, an organizer and moving expert based in Austin, Texas. This is an especially important factor for those moving long distances. Such clients may also need to be reminded to think about the climate they’re relocating to. Snowbirds are not likely to need an extensive winter wardrobe and should retain only a few items for visits back North or travel to cold-weather locations.