Downsize Like a Project Manager

To downsize any area of your home, from hall closet to attic, thinking like a project manager will be an advantage. While project management may sound like the only thing more painful than organizing your home, these two pieces combined can really make your life simpler and streamlined … I promise!

In my previous post about Cascading Decisions, we looked at how downsizing projects require thoughtful but quick decision-making that can be assisted through clever planning. This planning also involves enumerating the steps required to meet a clear goal, and being creative and flexible to adjust as needed. Using a project management approach can supplant some of downsizing’s in-the-moment mini-decisions and create a bit of emotional distance which will help you avoid getting stuck. It is also a mindset that encourages time management.

Don’t think you can do this? If you’ve found yourself managing projects within your career or through social event planning, you’ll be using similar skills to those you’ve already developed. While this may not come to you naturally at first, begin to draw parallels between your project management experiences that may be applicable. You can do this.

In Cascading Decisions, I described how time awareness and “organizing your organizing” can help, as can clear goal setting. Taking this a step deeper, think about what is driving you to make this change: to save time? money? feel more relaxed in your home? The intention behind it all will ground your planning and decision-making.

Set a clear goal. Instead of dreaming about a Martha Stewart-like home or a minimalist space you’ve admired in Dwell magazine, make sure your goal is realistic. Splitting your goal into parts keeps you reaching for the best version of your life while giving yourself concrete and manageable chunks to focus on. 

Break each goal into major tasks. These can be more general (ex. look through all the papers on your desk) or more specific (ex. organize your tax files by year and shred all unneeded papers). Whatever works for you. Maybe try a mix. Don’t be too specific or spend too much time on this. It is an iterative process.

Give yourself deadlines. Fortunately, there is no boss here breathing down your neck or birthday party surprise to fail at. But you still need to keep yourself on track and accountable. Make deadlines realistic and give yourself some flexibility to push them back when needed. But take them seriously and, perhaps, give yourself rewards for meeting them.

Enlist help. A project manager typically has a team of people that each bring a specific skill set to the group. Pick your team: a very organized friend, a family member who works hard, a professional organizer, a junk removal service, or (reluctant) spouse. Consider your team members when creating a timeline to ensure their availability and to take advantage of their potential contributions.

Adjust as needed. The process of moving toward a simple home can be full of discovery, both inside your home and inside yourself. Work with these surprises, not against them. Your project goals may adjust, you may develop new ones, and your process for doing the “grunt” work may improve. The key is to be aware, intentional, and focused no matter how the project evolves. Don’t look for excuses to give up!

Bask in the glory of your achievements. Not all project managers get this glory moment. But you will, because this is all about improving your life through simplicity. You will get to live it each day moving forward.

Think of project management as another team member of sorts. It’s easy to get lost in a tucked away shoebox of old photos or a seemingly endless stack of papers. Your project plan will help bring you back to your center, remind you of why you are doing this, and be at hand with a clear next step.