Ask the Experts

Dear Organizing Coach: We Are Downsizing — and Totally Overwhelmed

Packing up a house full of memories, clutter, and “stuff to be dealt with” is an arduous, time-consuming task even for neurotypical folks with a good sense of time and prioritization. For the rest of us, moving feels like a feat beyond our ADHD skills. Find survival strategies here.

A man moving house and learning how to downsize his stuff
Moving to a new house. Man in uniform picks the furniture and puts it on the truck.

Q: “We have lived in our present home for 14 years as a family of 5. I and two of my three grown-up daughters have ADHD; nobody is being treated (yet). We are currently floundering as we try to declutter and pack up a large 4-bedroom house with lots of storage to move into a small 2-bedroom house with almost none! Any tips to help us get through this major life-upheaval with sanity intact?” —Kinetikat


Dear Kinetikat: 

I feel your pain. Downsizing is truly tough. Knowing what to keep and what to pitch is even harder. For this process to truly work, I believe you need to start at the end and not at the beginning. Here’s what I mean: First, determine how much space you have in your new home for all your “stuff.” That includes furniture, kitchenware, books, clothing, and your children’s belongings.

Once you truly know how much storage you have, assign a specific amount of space to each category of stuff. For example, you might dedicate two shelves in the garage or a corner in the basement for kitchen overflow items. In other words, you choose first how much space to devote to specific categories and then everyone (including you) decides what goes there. By doing so, you are helping EVERYONE build decision-making skills and learn how to prioritize, organize, and set limits. And most importantly, you will feel in control of your stuff.

[Self-Test: Is Your Clutter Out of Control?]

Also, have you thought of hiring professional help to assist with this project? A professional organizer trained in downsizing and relocations could really help you put a plan in place, create systems where they are lacking, move forward with this project, organize your new home, and guide you through the tough decision-making process.

If you are interested, reach out to The National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (napo.net). Their website is set up so you can easily find an organizer by skill set and location. Good luck!


Organization guru Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, will answer questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.

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