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  • Cardinal Solutions

Decluttering 101: A Complete Guide to Decluttering Any Home

Many seniors decide to downsize during their retirement years. Moving to a smaller home appeals to seniors ready to minimize their lifestyle and enjoy fewer care responsibilities around the home. Larger homes require constant upkeep, and the additional space may be unused. Unfortunately, piles of possessions that clutter unused rooms make cleaning and maintaining the home even more difficult. 

When downsizing to a smaller home, decluttering plays an important role in minimizing unnecessary items. Use the Cardinal Solutions Guide to Decluttering and organize every room in preparation for staging a home for a quick sale and downsizing to a smaller space. 

Table of Contents: 

How to Declutter Your Home 

What it Means to Downsize and Declutter 

Fast Track Organizing: How to Declutter Your House in One Day 

● Create Decluttering Lists 

● Top Decluttering Tips for Fast-Tracked Moves 

● How to Declutter Your Closet Fast 

Decluttering: A Room By Room Guide 

● How to Organize a Small Living Room 

● DIY Bedroom Organization 

● Kitchen Organization Ideas

● Bathroom Organizing Ideas 

Basement Organization Storage Ideas 

Key Takeaways: 

Seniors typically downsize to save money and minimize their home upkeep responsibilities. When moving to a smaller home or an assisted living facility, decluttering the current home allows seniors to clear out items they no longer want or need and beautifies the home for a 

quick sale. There is no right or wrong way to declutter, but downsizing requires a minimalistic approach that limits the items that can move to a new space. Understanding the items to keep, donate, and discard is crucial for every decluttering project. 

How to Declutter Your Home 

Some individuals are natural organizers; they prefer a neat and tidy space and devote specific days to cleaning tasks and organizing. Others, though, dread the task of cleaning and tidying. A bit of clutter does not affect them, and they may only clean when the clutter, mess, and dirt become too much to handle. 

Decluttering a home is a process, and, depending on the organizing habits of the homeowner, cleaning out clutter may require multiple days of work. Not everyone is a natural neatnik, and the concept of decluttering sometimes creates unrealistic expectations. 

There is no right or wrong process for decluttering your home. For homeowners who struggle with organizing, this “ultimate guide” aims to simplify the decluttering process and create simpler solutions for managing an abundance of items, clutter, and disorganization. 

Cardinal Solutions outlines strategies to organize and declutter every room in the home. Choose the methods that work best, and embrace a streamlined, clutter-free, organized house! 

What it Means to Downsize and Declutter 

Downsizing often requires decluttering. When seniors downsize, they must ensure that all items fit into the smaller home or apartment (for those transitioning to assisted living). Decluttering is an essential precursor to downsizing, as many seniors acquire more possessions during their lifetime than a smaller home reasonably accommodates. 

A survey conducted by discovered that seniors (aka the Baby Boomers) are not the only homeowners eyeing a smaller home. While 59 percent of Boomers planned to downsize to save money, more than three-quarters of Millennials reported that they, too, were downsizing their larger home to cut costs. However, more Boomers reported that they were downsizing to declutter (16 percent of respondents) or because their home was simply too large to maintain (36 percent of Baby Boomer respondents).

When seniors plan to downsize, they must assess possessions and keep only the most cherished and essential items. Some furniture may be too large for a new home or apartment and cannot make the transition. Larger furniture may be sold at an estate sale or donated to a charitable organization (like a thrift store). 

Fast Track Organizing: How to Declutter Your House in One Day 

Seniors who need to move to an assisted living facility or a nursing home for medical reasons must prepare to downsize quickly. Adult children or family members often manage the process of preparing a home for the market and decluttering each room to stage the appearance for showings and increase the home’s appeal to potential buyers. 

When downsizing hits the fast lane, family members need to work quickly and efficiently to declutter and downsize possessions. Cardinal Solutions provides professional assistance for decluttering and downsizing, but our team also understands that emergency decluttering leads to DIY solutions. 

Our goal is to help all family members as they support seniors during downsizing and decluttering. Use these tips for fast decluttering. 

Pro Tip: Create Decluttering Lists 

Before diving into downsizing and decluttering, always make a plan. Cardinal Solutions advises clients (and family members) to create decluttering lists. These lists outline the steps of the decluttering process.

Lists should include these 10 steps for a successful, fast, and more simplistic decluttering process: 

1. All items will be sorted into three categories: keep, sell (or donate), and discard. Designate a trash bag for discarded items, and use boxes for donate/sell and keep items. Label the boxes appropriately. 

2. Items designated as “keep” must meet specific criteria: they hold emotional value or financial value, are important legal documents, or are daily necessities. 

3. Remember to communicate with waste management companies if additional rollaway containers or dumpers are necessary. In addition, be sure to schedule additional pickups. 

4. Research charities for all donations. A quick Google search focused on “thrift stores near me” yields the best (and closest) results. 

5. Declutter open spaces first. This means that the process first focuses on items cluttering countertops, tabletops, the floor, and open shelving. Sort each item according to the three main categories. Broken items should be discarded. Remember that some items must be recycled for safety/environmental reasons. 

6. After decluttering open areas, start decluttering cabinet spaces in a designated room.

7. Again, sort items according to the three main categories.

8. When all cabinets are decluttered/organized, then focus on drawers. Use the same methodologies. 

9. Closet spaces and pantries are the final area for downsizing/decluttering. Keep necessary items only. In kitchen cabinets and pantries, always look at the expiration date of food and spices. Discard all expired items. 

10. Clean the room as you organize. Wipe down surfaces, sweep floors, and vacuum carpets. 

Finish decluttering by organizing the room. Arrange blankets and pillows on sofas, tidy the bed, and arrange magazines, books, or flowers on tables. 

Top Decluttering Tips for Fast-Tracked Moves 

Following the above 10 steps simplifies the decluttering and organizing process. Yet, many family members struggle to understand what to keep during a fast clean-out. The solution during a fast-tracked move does not mean tossing the majority of items or possessions. The process needs to be mindful. Use this chart to quickly assess the importance of items when decluttering for a downsized move:





Broken or non-working electronics


Broken dinnerware or glassware


Torn or stained clothing


Old or outdated clothing (good condition)


Leather shoes (missing a heel cap or featuring a damaged or detached sole)

X (a cobbler can repair!)

Incomplete dinnerware or flatware collections




Jewelry (real stones or precious metal)


Jewelry (costume)


Broken costume jewelry


Worn faux leather shoes


Old paperback books


Hardbound books

X (favorites only)


Old magazines


Old makeup


Used cleaning supplies


Old cards and letters

X (can scan digitally to save space)

Figurines and collectibles

X (only items with deep meaning)

How to Declutter Your Closet Fast 

Decluttering closets can be an overwhelming task, depending on the amount of clothes. However, do not feel stressed about decluttering these areas. There is a fast and simple way to declutter closets.

Follow these five easy steps: 

1. Sort all items by size. 

2. Keep only items in the appropriate size, including shoes. 

3. Sort the “keep” items by season and box them accordingly. 

4. If all items are the appropriate size, sort items by condition. Discard stained or worn items. 

5. When closets are overflowing, use the fling method. Designate one person to grab items from the closet and two people to sort. Designated sorters fling each item into appropriate size/condition piles. 

Decluttering: A Room By Room Guide 

When family members do not need to rush the decluttering efforts, focus on one room of the house at a time. This ensures that the process does not feel overwhelming. Start with the living room, as this room may be the easiest to organize and declutter.

Living Room Organization Ideas 

Decluttering the living room is simple if the clutter isn’t extensive. Begin the decluttering process by clearing the floor space. Divide any items into keep, donate, or discard. 

After clearing the floor, focus on tabletops and window ledges. Keep framed photos and treasured keepsakes/figurines. Discard old catalogs and magazines. 

If mail clutters the living room, always review the document. Save financial and legal documents and place them in a manila envelope (properly labeled). 

After all areas are clear of clutter, vacuum the carpets and polish the furniture. Wipe down and clean the windows and window ledges. 

Downsize Family Photos: Scan Photos to Digital Albums 

The team at Cardinal Solutions believes that photos are one of the most important items in the home. All photos should make the move to a new home. However, when seniors accumulate an abundance of albums or photos, technology provides solutions that streamline the process of photo preservation. 

Traditional photo albums can be transformed into digital albums, allowing seniors to keep every photo while saving space. 

DIY Bedroom Organization 

Bedroom organization also begins at the floor level. Always clear the floor of clothing and other items before moving on to other areas of the room. Follow the keep, donate, and discard procedures, ensuring that every item is properly sorted. 

Drawers may be packed full of items. Keep all precious jewelry and store these items in a secure location. Nightstands may contain medication; properly dispose of expired pharmaceuticals and keep current medications. 

Do Not Underestimate the Impact of a Well Organized Closet 

Bedroom organization also requires closet organization. Allow plenty of time to assess clothing and sort every item appropriately. Some individuals might have a minimal wardrobe, simplifying this step of the process. Others may love to shop and have a packed closet. As a general rule, discard worn, tattered, ripped, and stained items (unless clothing is minimal). 

When staging the bedroom for a home sale, focus on creating well-organized spaces. Use closet organizers for shoes and to maximize space for sweaters, jeans, etc. Many potential buyers open the closet to check this space. Neatly fold all shirts, sweaters, and jeans and place them on closet shelves or storage cubbies.

Don’t forget to sort linens. Donate old towels to animal shelters, keep towels and linens in good condition, and discard any ripped or tattered linens. 

Kitchen Organization Ideas 

After decluttering the unnecessary items in the kitchen, organizing this space is crucial to increase its appeal to potential buyers. Trulia reports that the kitchen and the master bathroom hold the most influence on buyers when considering a home. Pay very close attention to the organization and aesthetics when decluttering the kitchen. 

All counters should be free of clutter. Only basic and necessary appliances should rest on countertops. Wipe down all surfaces, organize all drawers, and disinfect the entire room. Potential buyers open cabinets to assess the storage space. Keep this in mind when organizing dishware and utensils in drawers. 

Clean out the refrigerator and the pantry, removing expired food and unnecessary items. Sweep and mop the floor, and if time allows, consider a fresh coat of paint for the walls. Be certain that all light fixtures are in working order. 

Bathroom Organizing Ideas 

The master bathroom also helps sell a home. Spend additional time decluttering and organizing this area. All counters should be free of makeup and personal care items. Wipe down all surfaces, and clean the bathroom thoroughly. This bathroom should be spotless if the home will be listed. 

Bathroom Counter Organizers 

Some bathrooms, including older master bathrooms, offer minimal space for personal items. Use bathroom counter organizers to create a sense of cohesion and order. Place toothbrushes in a holder. 

Use a Bathroom Drawer Organizer 

Many individuals store makeup, cosmetic brushes, and other care items in vanity drawers. Use drawer organizers to properly store all items and create functional appeal. 

Basement Organization Storage Ideas 

The last space for decluttering is the basement. Unfortunately, this space is the place where many homeowners store everything–holiday decorations, luggage, old clothes (for donation), unwanted items, etc. 

As the basement typically serves as a storage depot, it allows ample time for decluttering and organizing. Be cautious when sorting items, as brown recluse spiders often hide in boxes.

Bulky items that will be discarded need a scheduled pickup from waste management companies. Do not assume that current services include bulk items. 

The basement may be a treasure trove of memories. Assess items for any damage or missing pieces. Consider donating old toys, games, clothes, and decor items to charities. 

For finished basement areas, declutter floors first, shelves and table tops next, and then manage all other concerns. Vacuum carpets, sweep tile, wipe down tables, and arrange pillows and blankets on chairs and sofas to create a welcoming space. 

Cardinal Solutions Helps Simplify Downsizing and Decluttering 

Decluttering takes time, and many families and clients do not have the time to spare. Cardinal Solutions provides extra hands to clean out unwanted or unnecessary items, organize each room, and prepare the home for a quick sale. 

Our team cleans, manages downsizing checklists, packs items into boxes, and makes the proper arrangements for additional trash pickups, item donations, and more. Don’t declutter and downsize DIY; trust Cardinal Solutions to simplify this transition. Contact us today!


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