10/31/2014 02:54 pm ET Updated Dec 31, 2014

Organizing to Downsize: How to Shuck the Stuff

We Babes are the first to admit it: we've accumulated a lot of stuff over the years. While we've been fortunate to inherit treasures from our parents and grandparents, we've also become heir to our kid's college apartment leftovers -- just "in case" they may need it. If that old frying pan is so precious, why is it languishing in our garage and not in their shiny new apartment? And if our kids' leftover stuff isn't enough to deal with, we may be in the midst of helping mom and dad downsize. Where do we even begin to start the process?

To help us tackle our downsizing debacles, we turned to a pro -- someone who really knows how to ditch the crap so we can organize the move. Eileen LaGreca is the President of the Washington, DC chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers. Eileen shares some of her best shucking advice.

Start small and create an action plan. It's important to define your goals and create a time frame for moving. This will clearly set the pace for the work ahead.

Break the project down to small pieces and allow yourself plenty of time to organize. Make a "to do" list of small projects like organizing the junk drawer in the kitchen and then a closet. That way, downsizing will not be overwhelming and you will have achieved a sense of accomplishment with each small project checked off the list.

Identify what you can and can't live without. Make a list of the must have's -- the things you can't possibly part with. It's emotionally difficult to part with those things that created the memories of our lives. Take a picture of some of these items -- create a digital memory. Consider that someone else just might enjoy those silver salt and pepper shakers.

Clear out the storage bins. No one benefits from furniture and collectibles that are costing a small fortune in storage fees. Divvy out the goods so that they will be enjoyed. Deal with the leftovers by having a garage sale and use the proceeds to get the gang together for a party.

The kids need to take their things. Give them a deadline so they can make plans to deal with their stuff. Barb's suggestion for dealing with the boxes of love letters we've been housing since grade school? Post them on Facebook. That will get them moving.

Eileen's most important piece of advice: Ask for help. People often think they have to do this alone and it's very overwhelming. Asking a friend, family member, or professional organizer for help makes the job go faster, and it's way more fun!