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Whether you’re moving into a smaller home or simply want to eliminate some of the items you’ve accumulated over the years, it’s hard to pare down a lifetime of belongings. People have emotional attachments to objects — particularly when it comes to the memories associated with each item.

That said, relinquishing items can be freeing. The act can serve as a symbol of moving on to the next stage in life and help you feel positive about turning over a new leaf. It also serves the very practical purpose of helping you simplify your life and have fewer items to worry about or maintain.

As you’re getting started in downsizing your home, it can be difficult to figure out what to eliminate — and how. Here are some ideas that will help you downsize:

Consider space constraints

If you are downsizing your home, think about the size of your new residence to gauge how much of your furniture and other possessions will fit. Measuring the size of the rooms helps ensure you don’t waste time and money in moving items that won’t fit in the new space. Will a king bed work in the new bedroom? Is the dining room wide enough to comfortably fit your table and chairs with enough room to move around the space? Consider aesthetics, too. The sofa and easy chairs that looked great in your old living room might crowd the new one. A stuffed room can feel stifling. It can also be dangerous, restricting pathways through your home that should be free of objects to facilitate easy movement between rooms.

Take stock of items

Assess what’s in your house and divide things into three categories: “must have,” “I can live without it,” and “I can replace it.” A bed is indispensable, but books and other space-eating items — extra bedding or even some purely decorative collections — that are not essential for daily living are things you can replace if needed. Don’t be afraid to discard a household staple because it doesn’t fit or work with new décor. Remember that you also don’t need to keep other items, such as family heirlooms whose emotional power make them seem like must haves. Size things up and think logically about your daily needs and how frequently you plan to use each item.

Photos and memorabilia

Photos and memorabilia are difficult for many people to discard because they recall fond and important times. Save your favorite photos in one or two albums and make digital copies of the rest. Once digital copies are made you can pass on your collected photos and memorabilia to friends and family members.

You can also scan or photograph other things of importance, such as report cards and certificates of achievement. If possible, pare down important photos and documents so you can fit everything into a single box for easy storage.

Essential paperwork and documents

Birth certificates, insurance paperwork and other financial documents are important to keep. But old bills, tax documents more than seven years old and receipts or warranties for items you’re not keeping are prime for purging.

Just ensure you shred anything with personal information on it. If you don’t own a shredder and prefer not to, a number of office supply stores offer this service for a fee, and some communities also offer free shredding for residents.

If you’re still struggling with decisions about what to keep, ask someone without the same attachment to your belongings to help. That individual can offer suggestions or serve as a sounding board.

Remember that the downsizing process usually gets easier once you get started, especially if you keep your final goal in mind. It’s even easier to enjoy retirement when you can focus on living. If you’re ready to start preparing for life during retirement, learn more with our retirement plan services and tools or look for a financial professional online.

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