Clutter is more than just having too many things. When we fill our lives up with an abundance of possessions, obligations, busyness and distraction, it can become difficult to distinguish the clutter from what is truly important. The good news is that when we face clutter head-on and release what no longer serves us, everything that remains will elevate and strengthen our lives.

If you’re thinking about downsizing or making the move into retirement living but don’t know where to start, it’s important to begin the decluttering process as early as possible, even if you start small. This will save you countless hours and potentially thousands of dollars when move day comes.

Downsizing Specialist Helen knows all too well how confronting the decluttering stage is for some.  One method to use is to break the process down into an easy to remember acronym of questions, called D.E.C.L.U.T.T.E.R . Here’s a couple of her favourite questions to ask.

Maureen and Jamal declutter with care

D – Does it have a purpose?

The first step in the decluttering process is to assess the purpose of each item. “Ask yourself whether the item serves a practical function or adds value to your life”, remarks Helen. “This first question should be used as an opportunity to think about the more compact scale of your new home. If an object does not fulfil a specific role, consider passing it on to a friend or family member.

Example: A recent Classic Moves client, Jenny, found it difficult to justify keeping her four occasional dinner sets, especially as she was moving into a fully serviced retirement community with restaurant and dining rooms. Although they were functional items, she recognised that one setting would adequately serve her new lifestyle. The other three found grateful homes with each of her three children.

L – Lifestyle?

Helen highlights the importance of this question because our lifestyles evolve over time, and our surroundings should align with our current needs and habits. She explains, “Recent research suggests that owning fewer possessions actually boosts wellbeing. People who focus more on experiences rather than material possessions report more positive social interactions and family bonds.”


Example:  Kathy and Ian hesitated to part with some camping and outdoor equipment that had sat unused for years, just in case they wanted to take a trip. After carefully assessing their current lifestyle, they acknowledged that gruelling hikes no longer held much appeal to them, but they still cherished their Friday walking club with friends. Ultimately, they realised that outdoor activities were about spending quality time with loved ones, not about possessing all the gear. Kathy and Ian consigned some of their outdoor equipment to auction, which helped fund their next holiday!

E – Evaluate your progress.

Take time throughout the decluttering process to reflect on your achievements. Helen cannot emphasise enough that “starting early significantly simplifies the process”! A recurring remark that she encounters from downsizing clients is, ‘I’ll deal with it once I’m there.’ This can lead to complications, however, as deferring tasks until after moving day only compounds the already hectic schedule of relocating. It’s far more beneficial, both emotionally and financially, to tackle small tasks consistently and early on, allowing you to relish the progress you’re achieving. Move forward a little each day, even if it’s five minutes going through your junk drawer. This keeps the job from building into an unmanageable chore while providing the opportunity to see tangible progress. Not only that, but it could save you money on moving day, with far fewer boxes and bulky items to relocate.

Example: Clients Charles and Elizabeth reported, ‘We cannot stress enough how important having the time to go through items in a rational manner will save you, not only from a financial perspective, but also the stress.’

Decluttering is not just about minimising possessions. It’s about reclaiming space for what truly matters. As we sift through our belongings, we rediscover the essence of our lives, shedding layers of distraction and unnecessary weight. Each item released not only lightens our physical load on moving day, but also clears mental space for new experiences and possibilities.

Helen’s wisdom has guided us through just three of her D.E.C.L.U.T.T.E.R. acronym questions. This sneak peek reinforces the importance of starting the decluttering journey early, avoiding the chaos of last-minute decisions amidst the whirlwind of moving day.

If you’d like to uncover more about the D.E.C.L.U.T.T.E.R. questions, download our PDF containing the full list – and some helpful hints of what to do with the items you can’t take with you.


*Names have been changed for privacy reasons.