Organizing tips for downsizing and decluttering

Tuesday Jan 14th, 2020


Our homes can become filled with clutter from time to time. Therefore, purging items becomes necessary to feel less closed-in. This is a great task to be done in the winter. Organizing your home can be mentally beneficial; it indicates a renewal. 

This also becomes essential as we get older when down-sizing homes. The more often you purge, the easier it becomes.

1. Organizational tools use space more effectively. Many of these tools can be fabricated or other items can be substituted to fit the bill. Here are examples of some useful ready-made organizing tools:

A closet organizer or add shelving in a closet uses the empty space

A vertical shoe rack takes less space and keeps your shoes organized

  • for the closet or behind a door

Underbed storage containers

  • Is hidden under your bed and can easily be moved for vacuuming.

Storage Containers

  • 30L   14L    5L
  • Choose styles that will nest inside each other when empty
  • Avoid buying different styles since they won't nest efficiently

  • Buy multiples of the same size
  • Stack vertically - use space more effectively
  • Clear totes work best to see the contents or label the exterior
  • Always label

Plastic storage towers

  • Take advantage of the bottom wheels for easy moving
  • Most storage towers can be stacked to create a tall vertical tower
  • Great for the office
  • I have combined 3 sets reaching the ceiling for office supplies; it only uses 11x13 inches of floor space.
  • Maximizes vertical space

Television wall kit

  • Tv takes no floor space
  • No need for tv table or wall unit

2. Make a plan

  • Set aside some time each day, don’t do it all at once (but stop at the end of a task, to avoid redoing work)
    ex: finish the closet
  • Deal with one room at a time

Set up 4 containers nearby by category:

Garbage Offer to friends or family Sell Donate

Email a list or photos of the items you would like to offer to your family members or friends and give them a timeline for a response.

If items do not sell, they will move from the sell area to the donate area  

Basic rules:

  • Avoid going over the same item multiple times
  • decide on the items by need and want (if you don't need or want it, place it in a pile)
  • ​Keep the memories not the items (if something is sentimental take a photograph of the item and give the item away)

3. In each room:       

  • Start with a visual inventory of the room
  • Some items, at first glance, can be classified quickly; start with those, it will make you feel good and willing to continue
  • Decide on a start point, you may want to start in a closet first, then work systematically around the room


  • Items you haven’t used in over 2 years
    (some events happen once a year so the items need to be kept for those occasions)
  • Books you don’t plan on re-reading (or get a digital copy instead)
  • Knick knacks (can be donated or sold if valuable)


  • When sorting your clothes, sort by category
    ex: pants, dresses, tops, outerwear etc.
    this will make the process faster
  • Only keep clothes you love and are comitted to wearing
  • Organize your clothes by season and colour
  • this makes finding clothes much easier and quicker in the morning


  • Clothing that doesn’t fit
    you can save some goal clothing (clothing you are using as a goal to lose weight)
  • Clothing you haven’t worn in over 2 years
  • Very worn clothing unless it is work clothing
  • Clothing that is out of style



  • A closet organizer or shelving to utilize your space more effectively
  • A vertical shoe rack; uses less space and keeps shoes organized

    for the closet or behind a door

    Note: a hanging shoe organizer can be used for more than shoes ex: t-shirts
  • Underbed storage containers; using the space under your bed


  • Declutter by clearing the counter of most items except soap dish
    this makes the bathroom more visually appealing and easier to clean
  • Many bathroom vanities are very messy having just one opening
  • If renovating, purchase a vanity with drawers for organizing
  • or install shelves (link to installing a vanity shelf yourself) or use examples below to organize the space

Use baskets or boxes to combine all morning supplies needed together or assign one basket per person

Plastic or metal shelving units can be placed in the vanity


By placing two shelving units at both ends of the vanity you can rest a melamine board on the top for a makeshift shelf

Stackable boxes

  • Fill boxes with similar items ex: just hair accessories or just shaving supplies
  • place the boxes on the shelf in the vanity
  • label and stack boxes if necessary

Use cabinet door organizer for daily supplies

A mirrored storage shelf (medicine cabinet) works very well to remove extra items from the counter.

A cabinet storage organizer can be added for more storage space

Drawer dividers work well to separate items

  • They aren't just for the kitchen
  • These can also be purchased at most dollar stores

Extendable Mirrors

  • Will remove the hand mirror from the counter and allow for 2 handed styling
  • Resist the urge to "stock up" on supplies beyond 1 or 2 spare items
  • Replace items as they are used to rotate supplies
  • Buying larger single items will save you money in the long run
    ex: one shampoo bottle containing 950ml @$10.47 instead of 3 bottles of 355ml @ $4.48=$13.44
    And you only need one spare item
  • Avoid placing items infront of boxes for a clear view of contents



  • Expired items
  • Staple items that haven't been used in the last year

Use adjustable dividers to separate utensils 

  • Can also be used for large utensils ex: knives, serving spoons etc.
  • These can also be purchased at most dollar stores

Purchase/use food containers that nest to save space (do not buy multiple styles)

  • Choose multi-purpose containers that can be used in the microwave, oven, and freezer
  • The lids can be stored together and containers nest inside each other
  • If glass chipping is an issue, place a napkin between containers


  • Duplicates of the same item
  • Expired items
  • Items you haven't used in over 2 years
    event specific items need to be kept for special occasions
  • Knick knacks 

Spices or medicine storage:

  • Can be installed just inside a pantry or cabinet door

  • Tiered for better viewing

  • My preferred storage for spices
  • Bottles are laid down making the labels visible
  • Spills are contained


  • Go through all paperwork and discard expired data
  • Sort papers and place in folders with labels
  • Store in a file box or filling cabinet (filling cabinets are more efficient since they use vertical space efficiently)
  • Always store vertically for easy retrieval
  • Do not mix items together ex: all paper work is together, electrical supplies together
  • Since most instruction manuals can be found online, most can be discarded
  • Otherwise, sort instruction manuals by location ex: kitchen appliances, tv/audio/video, basement appliances, toys for quicker retrieval


  • Books you don't plan on re-reading (or get a digital copy instead)
  • Knick knacks


  • Scan photos and save on a hard drive and/or online
  • copy CD and DVD content to a hard drive and/or online
  • Make 2 copies (keep one in the home and another in a safety deposit box or online)
  • Since photos take excessive space, once you have digital copies, they can be discarded or passed to a family member

What do you do with the items you don't want?

Offer items to family and firends

Donate to a re-use centre:

  • Value Village
  • Salvation Army
  • ReStore (will accept quality items or items in good repair, will also pick up)
  • Women’s shelter

Have a garage sale (best items, furniture, kid’s toys, clothing, power tools and lawn equipment)

Sell on:

  • Ebay
  • Craigslist
  • Kijiji
  • at the curb; place a price or free sign on the items

Note: always meet a potential buyer in a public place or have a friend with you when the buyer arrives to purchase the item

If you have additional suggestions please let me know.


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