Let’s face it – our society values an accumulation of ‘stuff.' We’re taught from a young age that a house full of hard-earned items is equivalent with success. This can make it stressful to downsize, even when it’s desperately needed.

Downsizing and de-cluttering your space can feel refreshing and liberating! Whether you’re moving to a smaller home, or just simply looking to de-clutter, taking the plunge to throw away your earthly possessions is sometimes necessary. Sometimes there are clothes you’ve never worn or gifts that were never used, or simply something you just haven’t looked at in a few months! Whatever it may be – it has to go.

We caught up with Mary from Creating Mary’s Home, a professional organizer, and de-cluttering expert. She tells us her process for downsizing and de-cluttering so that you can follow suit. Avoid a stressful situation by following the below tips!

Compartmentalize. Mary says organization is key when beginning to de-clutter a space. “The best place to start is to create a list of the different places in your home, like kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, hall closet, craft room,” advises Mary. “Number the rooms from easiest to hardest, then start in your easiest space. The momentum will build as you get through the easiest spaces first, that by the time you get to the hard spots, you’ll be ready. As you declutter each space, use three boxes – one for Donate items, another for Trash, and the third for Relocate items (the items that go somewhere else in your home). Between decluttering each space, take the time to donate, trash, and relocate all the items.”

Ask yourself the right questions. “There is no trick for deciding what to keep vs. toss,” continues Mary. “What you’ll keep is personal to you, and there isn’t a right or wrong answer. There are some questions that can help guide you.”

- If you haven’t used an item within six months, is it worth the space it takes up?
- Is it seasonal? Did you use it during the last season it would have been useful?
- Do you have room to store it?
- Do you still like it? Would you buy it again if you didn’t own it?

“As you ask yourself these tough questions, remember to let yourself grow and change – don’t keep items because of guilt or feelings of ‘I should use this.’”

Make downsizing tax deductible! Another perk to downsizing? You can profit from what you let go! “I recommend donating and taking the tax deductions for most items,” says Mary. “If you have an easy way to sell items with a higher value, go for it. The thing is, I’ve seen too many people hold on to higher value items waiting for the motivation to sell it or the right buyer, and the items just become long-term clutter. Don’t let that happen to you. Give yourself a deadline for selling, and donate after that.”

Keep things tidy. Mary advises breaking the cleaning up into bite sized portions, “Tidy up after you declutter each section. Don’t just start decluttering the whole house, which will leave you clutter piles around your whole house and with an intimidating mess to clean. One area at a time!”

Distract and detract. “Keep your brain a little distracted with a book on tape, good music, or a good friend who will help,” adds Mary. “It will help you detach personally from each item as you decide to keep or toss.” Not only that, but it will make the time pass by much more quickly!

Although it can be stressful, I think the moral of the story when it comes to downsizing is ‘one step at a time.' Downsizing can take time, but once you’re finished you’ll feel so good! Especially if you’re going to be moving, planning ahead and organizing the process will alleviate much of the stress.