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Let’s face it: We humans are really good at collecting things. From our favorite books and records to our children’s baby teeth to those jeans that we’re absolutely going to fit into again.

It’s these artifacts that, when looked at as a whole, help us see through the various chapters of our lives. So the thought of downsizing, of clearing out old things, can sometimes feel overwhelming. Where should we start? What’s worth hanging onto? How do we part with old treasures?

It might be useful, then, to think of this process from the perspective of right-sizing: For your next chapter, what is essential? What will enable you to freely explore your life in retirement? How can you lighten your load—in more ways than one?

Here are a few tips on how you can begin to right-size your belongings:

Envision Your Future

When you think about your next chapters, what will you be doing? What would you like to be doing? Are there new hobbies you want to try, old ones you want to recommit to, or some that you’ve outgrown? 

By envisioning what your ideal day-to-day looks like, you can begin to view your belongings through this lens. Consider each item in how it may fit into your next chapter—or the one after that. Does it help or hinder you in realizing those dreams?

Organize By Category

While some might suggest that you work room-by-room, this has the potential to slow down the process when you run into a particularly emotional or sentimental selection of belongings. Rather, begin clearing out your home by category—from the least sentimental to the most.

This process will be different for everyone, so start by making a list of things that you have the least attachment to those with the most. Then, go room by room and address each category from the list, one-by-one, day-by-day.

Pare Down Multiples

As you’re working through each category, consider which items you have duplicates or multiples of, and whether or not that makes sense for you. Again, this will be different for everyone. Think of your future lifestyle and how having more than one of an item will help facilitate that dream. 

Remember the Good Times

As you move down your list and get to items that have more sentimental value, think about whether or not you need to hang onto the physical item itself, or if you simply want to treasure its memory.

For those items that you’re okay with just remembering, take a photo of them and put them in a digital scrapbook. You can even get creative by adding notes about why it was important or what you remember most about it. 

Rehome, Recycle, Donate.

Now that you’ve gone through the process, it’s time to consider what to do with everything you’re ready to let go of.

Rehoming sentimental items is one way to ensure that they continue to have a connection to you and your life. What treasured family heirlooms or items would other family members love to have?

Recycling old magazines and newspapers or electronics is often facilitated by your local town, so look for resources on when, where, and how you can drop off these items.

Donating goods to various charitable organizations is the final step of this process—from clothes to furniture, books to kitchenware. 

We hope that these tips will provide you with a good start on the process of right-sizing your life! Think of it as an opportunity to design your next exciting chapter from the ground up.