4 ways to think about decluttering your home

Whether you're doing a bit of early spring cleaning or preparing to move from a longtime home to an independent living community, you're probably wondering how you'll get through all the clutter. It's likely that you've collected a vast array of belongings over the years, meaning you may need to downsize before you can transition to a new home.

Even if you aren't moving in the immediate future, decluttering today can make it much less stressful and difficult if you someday join a senior living community. Taking small steps over a long period of time can make your downsizing efforts feel more like a developing habit or activity, rather than a lengthy chore. Not to mention that clearing out belongings you don't need anymore will make your house safer and more convenient. You're able to move everything you use often to easily accessible shelves and remove tripping hazards from the floor.

Here are four ways to think about decluttering your home.

"Taking small steps over a long period of time can make your downsizing efforts feel more like a developing habit or activity, rather than a lengthy chore."

1. The timer method
One way to ease into the downsizing process is by committing to blocks of time that are dedicated to sorting through belongings. If you find yourself becoming fatigued or emotional during organizational stints, it might be best to clear clutter for 15 minutes each day. Alternatively, give yourself two chunks of time each week, ranging from two to four hours. It's a good idea to set a timer so you don't bury yourself too deep and end up abandoning that portion in more disarray than you found it.

For any of these methods, you may want to use a system for dividing the belongings. For example, one box for donations, one for storage and another for garbage.

2. Zone-by-zone
You could also work through your home, one piece of furniture at a time. Start by combing through everything on top of the desk today, followed by the contents of the drawers tomorrow. This way, you only have to focus on one specific area at a time so the big picture isn't overwhelming. It'll also allow you to create empty surfaces to serve as motivation to clear the next table or shelf. You might want to invite a friend or family member over to keep you company while you sort. Aside from the chatter that will occupy your mind, you're able to share the memories you're unearthing with loved ones.

3. Set a sorting quota
Instead of calculating your progress based on how long you spend surrounded by the clutter or how many surfaces you unearth, consider adhering to a set of numbers. If you're sorting objects into piles for saving, selling or donating and discarding, try to move a certain number of each every week. As an example, we'll say you're classifying 30 items at a time. To start, walk around your house and look for 10 things that can be thrown away and put them directly in the trash. Next, seek out 10 belongings that you're willing to part with but still have value. Put these in your donate or sell box and head back into the fray to select your 10 items to save. Simply repeat this process on a regular basis and you'll have made visible headway in no time.

Although organization can be time-consuming, a decluttered house feels great.Although organization can be time-consuming, a decluttered house feels great.

4. Hire a professional
If it's within your budget, you can make the process much easier on yourself by hiring someone who helps people downsize and move professionally. Erickson Living, a national leader in retirement living with 18 communities nationwide, has its own service called Erickson Realty and Moving Services, which was highlighted by the New York Times last summer. These services are available to anyone making a move to an Erickson Living campus. With this option, someone will meet with you regularly and guide you through the decluttering process. You can also be placed in contact with real estate agents if you want to sell your home, repair people if you need to fix up a house you're renting and movers to get you from point A to point B. With their help, you can focus on your feelings about moving rather than the belongings you've acquired over the years.