You’ve decided to downsize your home and just want to get on with it now. However, are you procrastinating? Coming up with a thousand reasons why you should put your planning off until tomorrow, or next week? In this blog I share two business tools which help overcome the emotional and practical barriers getting in the way.
I hadn’t moved house for over 30 years, so decluttering and downsizing my home was a major lifestyle change for me. I’ve learnt a lot in this time, and want to share it, to help others who may be thinking along the same lines.
Part 2 of my blog analyses some of the available research about downsizing. From this I’ve learned more about the wider benefits of downsizing, for the benefit of society and the economy.
Part 3 describes the nine key reasons that helped me decide why, when and how to downsize my home.
Part 4 of my series of Downsizing blogs describes how I used business change approaches like Project Management and Lewin’s Model of Change, to plan, get started and overcome emotional barriers to downsizing.
In this final blog, Part 5, of this Downsizing series, I share a couple more approaches to boost your commitment to decluttering and moving. Often people get started, maybe even using disciplined approaches outlined in Part 4 , however it’s very common to hesitate at the outset or along the way. So – if you do have second thoughts, business tools like the Change Equation, and a Japanese tool called 5S (Sift, Sort, Sweep, Standardise, Sustain) can provide the necessary structure and confidence.
The Change equation
It’s easy to carry on doing what you usually do. Conversely, change requires exceptional drive, and commitment, both at the outset and along the way. The Change Equation is a logical tool that persuades people to let go of their resistance, and identify the benefits of change.
D + V + F > R
D is the current level of dissatisfaction, V is the shared understanding of where the change will lead to, F is the first steps on that journey, and R is resistance to change
Successful change in a business setting requires that the sum of:
- your current level of dissatisfaction (D)
- your vision for change (V)
- and your plan for first steps (F)
outweigh your fear and resistance to change (R)
These four factors are explained in more detail below.
Unfortunately, resistance to change is inevitable as individuals become comfortable with their day-to-day processes, even if they are inefficient. Even if a change initiative aims to bring about a better process, it is often hard to envisage how this would work and employees are also unwilling to learn and adapt to a new process. Employee resistance is by far the largest barrier to change.
So, in this context, my reluctance to go through all the hard work of moving is my resistance. To embrace the prospect of this move, I focussed on the three factors on the other side of the equation.
I used self-reflection to confirm how dissatisfied I was with the status quo. So my conversation with myself was along the lines of:
- “There is never going to be a better time to move, and I am definitely starting to resent aspects of the big old house I no longer dash under the stairwell to retrieve stuff from the elaborate shelving system under there.”
- “Yes but, it’s such an effort to move, why not put it off until you really have to? ”
- “If I let more time pass, my mental, and physical health may deteriorate – none of us know – I may lose confidence in my IT skills to deal with the online conveyancing and progress chasing required to make this big move. My mood and my social life may be negatively impacted – just when I need as much love and support as I can get”.
- “Yes, but how will you ever find somewhere that you love enough to leave this house? “
- “I’ll never know unless I start to look. The estate agent says that I won’t find anywhere until I actually put my house on the market. I need to plough ahead and trust them and my gut feel more.”
It’s amazing how easy it is to argue against yourself isn’t it when the status quo is there as the easy option? However, as I looked at my situation from different angles, I became more objective and this helped persuade me that a move was a good idea.
I initially had a gut feel that this was the right thing for me to do. Once I’d listed my causes of dissatisfaction, I quickly turned these negatives into a positive vision for the future. For example.
- Too much space ⇒ to less cleaning, less maintenance, lower energy consumption
- Too much storage ⇒ to accessible and practical storage, easier to find stuff
- Financial pressure ⇒ to more disposable income
- High stress level ⇒ to reduced stress levels, improved health and wellbeing
- Too many possessions ⇒ to freeing up my life through decluttering and minimising.
- So much effort to start over ⇒ to an opportunity to redesign and update my home
My positive vision made my challenge a worthwhile effort for the long-term benefit it would bring. It helped me get the next twelve months into perspective.
To deal with my lingering apprehension about moving, I initially took steps which were good to do, without committing me to the full-blown move at that point. I decided to declutter.
The first steps of any change or transformation programme are the most crucial to success as the rest of it hinges on this. At this early stage project teams are often ‘forming and storming’, so careful planning and clear communications are needed from the start to manage expectations and navigate the challenges ahead.
First steps is a not-to-be-missed opportunity to demonstrate the pathway to change, including the benefits. As these first quick wins emerge, people start to believe in it, and support grows.
My first steps therefore found me sifting through every drawer, shelf, box, cupboard and corner of my big old house to declutter. Sometimes painful, but mostly therapeutic, I told myself that this process was useful in its own right. Ultimately a big driver for me decluttering was that I didn’t want to leave lots of possessions behind me for family to have to dispose of.
I was pleased, if not completely taken by surprise that these first steps also helped me to get my head round the process of downsizing. The theory of the Change Equation was certainly borne out in reality. It helped me to see the downsizing move as a natural progression after my first steps. My trepidation about downsizing waned. Just before Moving Day, I took comfort that everything left in my house had a place and a purpose in the new home.
After using the Change Equation to convince myself of the benefits of downsizing, I needed to get practical and make progress to reinforce the courage of my conviction. At this point it made perfect sense to turn to a Japanese tool called 5S.
In the workplace this tool provides a framework for organising equipment, materials, space or information and for sustaining new habits. An important tool in the Toyota Production System , and used in many Lean programmes, it was originally used in large manufacturing plants to organise assembly operations. However it can be equally applied to office services, call centres or to how we use and share information.
- Seiri (Sort)
Eliminate objects in the workplace that are not in use. Store or discard them
- Seiton (Set in order)
Arrange any items used on a daily basis so they may be easily accessed and quickly stored.
- Seiso (Shine)
Everything is clean and functioning properly
- Seiketsu (Standardize)
Develop a discipline for Sort, Set and Shine. Build in regular reviews to encourage the mindset, and regularly evaluate the benefits of 5S.
- Shitsuke (Sustain)
Through regular reviews of the benefits of 5S, build the new mindset into a habit – business as usual.
In a business sense therefore, 5S is a system for encouraging workplace organisation to become the norm. The science behind this is that employees and managers can see at a glance the current situation regarding productivity or performance. This enables people to swap into their peer’s roles as needed. It also makes bottlenecks and problems more visible. Flexible working and efficient processes are enablers for improved employee morale and productivity. Leaders and teams can see clearly that this new norm is effective, good for morale and promotes wellbeing.
Relating this business tool to my downsizing move, 5S worked well for me because it helped me to get started, to remain calm, and to physically see my progress. This inspired me to strengthen my new habit of decluttering:
- Sort: I decluttered & disposed of around half my stuff, so my new home didn’t feel at all cluttered
- Set in order: I decided what was going where in the new house, developing lists and spreadsheets to keep track
- Shine & standardise: I created a practical, logical storage system in my new house, reviewing and tweaking over the months as needed
- Sustain: I adopted a new mindset, including one thing in: one thing out, disposing of items not used (or worn) for 12 months, and thinking twice about everything I’m tempted to buy in future.
A special word about Sort
I learnt from my house move that if you are downsizing and you skip the initial Sort phase, you will:
- Procrastinate instead of pack in the week before you move.
- Procrastinate again when you unpack
- Discover you are short of space for things.
- Feel cramped and cluttered and the dream will become tainted
- Ultimately regret paying to get your ‘rubbish’ transported.
For me, ‘Sort’ was the most time-consuming, underrated – yet rewarding phase of my downsizing project.
The 5S tool is sometimes misunderstood, and berated if it is interpreted too literally. I hope that my explanation of how it can be easily adapted to support domestic change, will help people to focus on its underlying principles, and thereby widen its application.
Further information about business change approaches
If you are interested in learning more about business tools for change, or want to discuss support with individual change, please contact us at https://losethebox.co.uk, phone us on 07824 660120, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the 5S tool, you can find more detail here from Blaz Koz who explains how it can be used at work and in your personal life.
Part 5 concludes this series of blogs about my experiences, hints and tips for making big life-choices like Downsizing. I’ve covered my research, my decision-making process, the ethics, challenges, and benefits. I described how I treated this phase of my life as a project to keep on track practically and emotionally.
One year on, and I hope the benefits I’ve experienced from downsizing come across in this series of blogs. I hope the short video helps to summarise the significance of the move I have made, and that my learning, my Do’s and Dont’s are helpful. I trust that the ‘Why, When and Hows’ of Downsizing have reinforced vague thoughts if you ever considered downsizing. And I hope I have successfully dealt with the emotional barriers as well as the practicalities of downsizing.
For me, as each week passes, I am increasingly sure that I made the best decision of my life, at the right time, and in the right way. I think fondly of the big, old house and the many possessions I recycled, in the knowledge they have helped many people. I should add that this decision has been instrumental in healing the stubborn sports injury, and improving my general health and wellbeing. I’m grateful that everything has worked out well.
Covid-19 and downsizing
Of course, we all now have huge over-riding challenges to overcome going forward, with the global pandemic caused by Covid-19. I have relatives poorly with the virus, with one in hospital. My daughter is a care-worker so our once spontaneous hugs are now risk-assessed and restricted. Holidays, birthday plans and a huge family gathering are on hold. As a former microbiologist, data analyst, and a change agent, I know this virus is major. As a behaviourist, a family, a nation and a global community member, I am confident we will eventually settle on a different sort of normal.
As a Change Consultant, it would be remiss of me not to seek and share the benefits of this unprecedented situation, and to encourage you to do the same:
- I have volunteered my change skills in other ways to help co-ordinate a city-wide, streamlined and safeguarded response to the Coronavirus.
- I’ve concluded this series of five Decluttering and Downsizing blogs giving me structure, purpose and a sense of achievement in strange times.
- I’ve shared my learning, hints and tips to help people reflect about the benefits of decluttering and downsizing in the future.
- Where family confinement is proving a problem in the current lockdown, this blog series is a timely incentive for committing to improving domestic arrangements going forward.
- My garden is looking good, and Zoom is getting easier!
- Finally, the current situation has made the difficult decision to close down my business, a little easier.
It would be wonderful to get your comments on these Downsizing blogs particularly if they have helped or inspired you in these difficult times. In the meantime, the very best of luck, stay well and stay safe.