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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

How do I downsize my life?

Q: I've been laid off, I need to move to a smaller place and I'm depressed and overwhelmed. Where do I start and how long will it take?

A: Well, first, it sounds like you need to stop and take a breath... do something to give yourself a break from feeling overwhelmed. Take your notebook and head to a nearby coffee shop or a park, sit for a while and formulate a plan. If you can, call a friend and have them join you.

For me, having a plan in writing gives a feeling of control. I start by writing down everything that comes into my head about the situation, in any order it shows up. Then I start organizing the thoughts into an outline and then I elaborate on each item until I feel I have actions to take that will get me to where I want to go. Action items get put on my calendar and time is blocked out to deal with them.

When I start working on a space, I start with the things I know I can get out of the way quickly. If I walk into a room with stuff all over the place I look for the most like things and separate them from the others. For example, I just sorted and packed a spare room for a client.

I began by separating paper from "stuff". Boxes with papers, books and photos went to one side of the room while stuff went to the other side. Then I boxed like items of stuff together - clothes, ceramics, decorative items, gifts for others, wrapping paper, office supplies, etc.

What's in this room?

Paper on one side of the room and "stuff" on the other.

Now we can deal with one box at time, going through them one at a time and deciding what to keep and what to give away. Breaking the job down into smaller pieces gives you a sense of control.

How long it will takes depends on you - how quickly can you make a decision and how much time you can devote to the project. Ultimately, your attitude is going to determine your success with this project. Find a way to stay positive. Think of what you are gaining, not what you think you are losing.

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