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Therapeutic and liberating – that’s how you could feel if you follow our Professional Organizer’s downscaling advice!


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“Remember, today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday ”
Dale Carnegie


Moving to a smaller home is overwhelming, but if you take one step at a time, downscaling can be therapeutic and liberating.

During lockdown I had an enquiry from Paul in NZ. “Hi Heidi, We would love you to assist us. Dad passed away last year and my brother and I have been trying to help Mom pack up the family home of 50 years. Unfortunately, we both live overseas and with travel restrictions have been unable to get home…”

Many of us have had to deal with situations like this at one time or another, or will possibly still have to deal with it. We don’t know when it will happen, but it is in the back of our minds.  Then the day comes where we have to face the music, whether you need to downscale yourself or need to assist parents or friends.


Downscaling is one of the most difficult processes in life.  And so much more so, if you can’t be there to assist your loved ones.  If you have to depend on someone you don’t even know, to sort through years of possessions and clutter? So, where would you even start? Petra is overwhelmed, anxious and uncertain about the move to the retirement village. Over 50 years of possessions have accumulated.  It will take time to reduce them. Her life has changed and evolved, but most of her possessions have been kept over this time.

Start small –  there are many years of possessions to sort through and emotions to address.


I get to know Petra over a cup of coffee. She will be moving to a one bedroom apartment in a retirement village. The total size of the new apartment is equal to that of her former lounge-living area. To downscale, she needs to decide what is important in the new chapter of her life and what lifestyle she desires.

We establish when she is the most productive and create a time line that will suit her best. I see the clients I assist with downscaling at least once a week. We diarise a weekly joint decluttering session. She agrees to homework, for her to sort through paperwork, memorabilia, greeting cards and photos.

Petra decides what should happen to the items she no longer needs or wants. The good furniture, porcelain collection, ornaments and household items can be auctioned. Other things can be sold to a second hand dealer, the rest can be donated to welfare and of course anything that is broken or obsolete will be recycled or trashed.


On the first day, we start by tagging the furniture and larger items to sell, donate or keep with different colour stickers. In other words, Petra decides what furniture, ornaments and décor items she would love to keep, to use in her new home.  Then we decide what to do with the rest.


Work on one room and declutter one shelf at a time and get it done. We get rid of anything Petra no longer needs or wants. I try to keep her on track and don’t allow her to get distracted by reading every letter and reminisce about every photograph. A decision has to be reached in advance – a decision on how to deal with the items she is attached to. I do not let Petra start everywhere – that will just lead to bigger overwhelm.

We start in rooms where there isn’t too much emotional clutter.  These are relatively easy to clear and eases her into the decluttering mode.   Petra learns to let go of stuff without it affecting her too much. She needs to learn to let go of anything that will not fit into the new home or anything that makes her sad.  Stuff she knows she will never use again.  Clothes she no longer fits into or wears anymore.  Projects she knows she will never finish. Keep only the best and get rid of the rest!


As a result of working through the cupboards, the pile of donations is growing.  But all of a sudden, the work comes to a halt! “Heidi, what must I do with this?” She looks fondly at the item, while I feel absolutely unattached.  It appears to me that it will not fit into the new home. I start asking questions to get a better understanding of her take on the item:  

Why is it important to you?

Will you ever use it in the future?

Do you love it or need it?

Is there someone else that could use it?

After the discussion, we agree on a good reason why and where it can find a new home. It is important that Petra is happy about the decision that she has made.  We may even agree that it can have a place in the new home.


Papers are dealt with swiftly.  We decide whether they should be kept or whether they can be recycled. We collate her Life File with all the important documents for the executor and get the rest of her paperwork in order. The electrician and gas installer are called to do the Certificates of compliance.  We then start a file for the new owner with important information and plans for the house.


As we reach Petra’s adult children’s bedrooms, we end up in a quagmire of sentimentality and emotions.  Why?  Because the rooms have only been cleaned since the kids left home. Many WhatsApp messages with photos of stuff and documents are sent to them, so they can make decisions on whether to keep the item or turf it. Time is ticking by.  The boxes for shipping are visibly increasing. Try and avoid this situation.  Make a decision at the beginning of the process that whatever the kids have left behind is no longer of any importance to them and will be either donated or sold.

Dealing with the belongings of the husband that has passed, proves a little easier. Petra donates most of the clothes and some items are sent to her children.


We pack the final stuff a couple of days before the movers arrive.  I wrap fragile items securely and pack them with care. I load curtains, bedding, clothes and personal items into the car on the day of the move, in order to have them at hand when we arrive at the new destination, so that we can get the place hospitable.

The packers from the auctioneer come.  They pack up and remove the items for auction. The second hand dealer arrives and fetches more. The charity van stops and loads the last boxes and furniture.  Petra’s home is now a shadow of its former glory and becomes emptier by the hour.

The moving day arrives.  The packing and moving of the last few items goes quickly. Hopefully, Petra is heading for a new, happier, less cluttered life with new friends, less stress and more time to do the things she loves.



Article by Heidi Meyer
Professional Organiser, Speaker, Trainer



  • Cloud 9 Organised offers you compassion and advice, while assisting you to downscale, with an easy transition
  • Cloud 9 Organised assists you with the following:
    what items should be kept, donated, recycled or sold
    packing your possessions
    supervising your move
    assists with furniture layout to ensure your new home is functional and aesthetically pleasing
    unpacking and ensuring that everything you own is easily accessible
    hanging curtains, unpacking and making the new place a home.
    overwhelm at bay!
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