Most people have a lifetime of possessions and have no idea how much they have gathered until they consider moving out of the family home and into a retirement living facility.

It may seem overwhelming but it isn’t.

Make a plan

Group your objects into categories and start culling less emotional items such as paperwork, kitchen utensils, stationery supplies, cleaning products, clothes, linen and plastic-ware. Then go through the photographs, books, knick-knacks and other sentimental memorabilia.

Act early

It is advisable to reduce the clutter substantially before an actual move date. This is important if a person has a high level of attachment to their belongings and allows them to stay in control of decision making. Quite often a person totally underestimates how much has been stored and how much should go.

Consider your new lifestyle

If a person has decided to move into a retirement village or land lease community, the operator should be able to provide a floor plan, which includes the room measurements and storage space available. Take measurements of all the spaces and storage areas and use this to help decide what to take.

There will be no need to bring the lawn mower or whipper snipper.

Be honest

Ask, “do I need it, use it or love it?” People have to be honest with themselves and remember objects don’t have feelings. Possibly create piles or areas to sort into, such as ‘keep’, ‘toss’ and ‘sell/giveaway/donate’. Don’t create a ‘maybe’ pile as it is something you’re just going to have to sort out again later.

Take photos

Consider taking photographs or video of things that can’t go to your new home. It will preserve the memory without taking up any space in the person’s new home.

When it comes to photographs, it is advisable to see if friends or family can help digitize them all and then frame the ones that are special to take pride of place in your new home.

Swap old for new

People considering a move into a retirement living facility can still buy new items but they should adopt the “one in / one out’ rule.

Look at moving as a positive, thereby giving a person the chance to buy some nice things they have had your eye on. It’s an opportunity to create a new home for the next exciting stage of life.

Gift or sell things

Ask the children if they want any of the items that a person is thinking of getting rid of. Be prepared for them to not want many of them, no matter how precious they are to their parent or parents. Hold a garage sale and if that fails, ask charities if they want your unwanted items. Auction houses can also be a destination for selling unwanted items but it is unlikely they will accept much.

Be kind to yourself

It is a tough ask to declutter a lifetime’s worth of possessions and memories. There is an emotional attachment to many of the belongings. By starting early, people give themselves time to reminisce over cherished memories and process the change that’s occurring.

A person should not be hard on themselves for being sentimental, but should remind themselves a new life awaits.

Ask for help

Decluttering is not something a person has to do on one’s own. There are professionals available to assist.