Rightsize . . . Right Now!

The 8-Week Plan to Organize, Declutter, and Make Any Move Stress-Free


By Regina Leeds

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Get ready for moving day the stress-free way

Whether your new home is across the country or across the street, moving is never easy. Between the packing, the hauling, and the unpacking — let alone the clutter of boxes, the misplaced items, and the upheaval of leaving the old place behind — the stress can overwhelm even the most easygoing person. But with the right plan, it doesn’t have to be that way!

For over 25 years, bestselling author and professional organizer Regina Leeds has helped her clients prepare for new homes with practical support and a fresh perspective. She sees moving as an opportunity to simplify and start fresh. In Rightsize . . . Right Now! Regina outlines her 8-week plan to clear clutter, organize, pack, and relocate without stress, with:

Helpful guidance on making a moving plan, from hiring movers down to forwarding mail
Strategies to tackle each room in the house in a smart, efficient way
Rightsizing projects to weed out unneeded possessions
Expert advice on organizing your belongings for the move and the new home
Weekly self-care tips to keep you from getting bogged down
No matter if you’re going from dorm to apartment, house to house, castle to condo, or you’re preparing for retirement, Rightsize . . . Right Now! will help you to conquer the chaos of moving and settle into a simpler, cleaner home.


week 1


        The moment one definitely commits oneself, then

        Providence moves, too.

            —W. H. MURRAY, “The Scottish Himalayan Expedition”

THIS WEEK WE BEGIN THE MARCH TO YOUR NEW HOME. NO matter the nature of this move, I hope you will embrace the possibilities inherent in any type of transition. Think of the fable of two young children who returned home from school and found mounds of horse manure in their respective front yards. One child wondered what all this manure was doing in his yard. He was perplexed, confused, and angry. The other child looked at the manure and squealed in delight: “Where’s the pony?” Let’s keep our eyes peeled for that pony, shall we?

For any big project, preparation is key, so this week you’ll focus on doing your research and making a plan. Many of you are going to use professional movers, and I’m here to help you find a reputable and experienced company. You can’t move with or without a pro, however, until you know what your moving budget is, so this week you’ll also put together your financial forecast.

You want to create a move notebook as the official repository of all your notes. (No more scrambling from room to room, wailing, “I know I had that Post-it in my hand just this morning.”)

There are other items on our to-do list this week, but these are the big-ticket items. Moving tends to cause many people to freeze with fear. We’re facing that fear down this week with a simple exercise: a single item designated for donation, recycling, or the trash can be all that’s needed to get the ball rolling. You know what they say: once the first domino falls, the rest are sure to follow! And now let’s roll up our sleeves and get started, shall we?

The Solution Is in the Details

By nature I am a procrastinator, as are many of us. We all race to do the things we love. The things we dread, however, can really cause us to drag our feet. You won’t be surprised to learn that my mother never let me put off to the last minute any school project that caused me discomfort. Now, with a heart filled with gratitude for my mother, the most organized human being and my mentor, I offer the same advice to you. You need to make a plan because while eight weeks sounds like an eternity, it’s going to pass in a flash. You don’t want to be up all night the evening before the movers arrive to move your stuff, right? That happened to me once years before I became a professional organizer. You’d be surprised how your possessions go from “precious mementos” to “trash” as the hours fly by before the truck shows up.

Remember, the plan was crafted for a typical two-bedroom, two-bathroom home, but the same eight-week structure applies whether you’re moving out of an apartment or a mansion. This week we’ll take the first two critical steps in your plan, gather some tools, and make a dent. Are you ready?

The Moving Mantra

We all get overwhelmed when we look at the big picture. People come to hear me speak and leave fired up to get organized. They go home intent on setting up a great file system or making their closet look like a boutique in Milan—then the reality hits. The closet is stacked to the rafters with clothing, shoes, and miscellaneous items; the office looks like the FBI just did a raid. As the literal door closes, so does the one inside their hearts that had opened up to a new reality. I’ll get organized some other time, they think. But wait! It doesn’t have to be like this.

You succeed by breaking things down into manageable chunks. You aren’t organizing the entire office—you’re tackling the desk. And you aren’t doing the entire desk, just the stack of papers to your left. And you aren’t even going to organize that big stack in one action. You’re going to decide the fate of each piece of paper, one at a time. The same strategy applies to any project, including this move. The very idea of moving may send you screaming from the room straight to that box of ice cream waiting in the freezer. But I don’t want you to arrive in your new home with an extra five pounds on your hips! When feeling overwhelmed, here’s all you have to repeat to yourself: “Regina said it would be like this. I need to focus on one detail at a time.” Take a deep breath and find the detail you can tackle.

Preparation Is Key

This is where I sound like your mother. Here’s a list of things that will take you easily over the finish line. They will make your life better every day, and you’ll experience that ease and support as you use these tools to facilitate your move. Today I have to say, “Trust me.” On moving day, you’ll be telling everyone how you have managed to stay so calm.

What does the Zen Organizer suggest you remain vigilant about over the next eight weeks?

         Drink eight glasses of water a day. Water relieves stress. A dehydrated body will succumb to decision fatigue faster than you can say, “Rightsize!”

         Get a good night’s sleep. The body is a machine, and its functions are impaired when rest is inadequate.

         Eat healthy, fresh food, including vegetables and fruits. Avoid processed food, sugary treats, and soda. Expect to lose a few pounds during this process. How’s that for an unexpected bonus?

         Get a little exercise. I didn’t say run a marathon, did I? No, just walk for ten minutes a day. If you have a dog, Fido will think you’re king of the pack. (OK, he already does, but now you’ll be even more popular.)

That’s my list. Embrace them all, or try one or two on for size. And remember that these are suggestions to help you, not to beat yourself up over. “Regina told me to do these things, and I didn’t, so I am a bad person who will have a difficult move!” We aren’t going to go there, OK? It’s the last reaction Regina has in mind. Guilt, fear, and shame do not exist in the land of Zen Organizing.

If you never drink water, try consuming one sixteen-ounce bottle per day as a start. Keep the bottle with you and sip periodically. Rather than purchasing bottled water, you can get a cold-water thermos and a Brita pitcher and save a bundle. I sprinkle in some vitamin C crystals from Trader Joe’s for an extra immune boost on demanding days to give plain water some spark and help my body stay healthy. If store-bought water is easier for you, please be sure to read the label and get fresh spring water, not tap water treated by the company. Hate the taste of water? (People actually say that to me, so I presume they have company out there.) Try fresh slices of lemon or lime. Heat the water and have lemon tea all day. This drink is a liver cleanser and helps restore your system’s natural pH. How’s that for a bonus? Or you could steep some fresh ginger and have a tea that improves digestion and reduces inflammation in the body. There are numerous benefits you won’t find with soda. Where there’s a will there’s a way. Please don’t drink those sugar-laden waters that are like consuming a liquid candy bar! Sugar gives you a rush of energy, and then your blood sugar plummets—along with your so-called energy. It’s not uncommon to feel depressed after the inevitable crash. You’ll also experience this nosedive with so-called energy drinks. As a species we humans seem to relish a temporary high rather than seeking a steady flow of good energy. What’s that you say? You’re a diet soda devotee? Drink that instead of water, and you may face dehydration and that guarantees fuzzy thinking and exhaustion. There’s no substitute for water. I want you energized, not slumped on the sofa wailing, “I’m never gonna get out of here.”

If you are mostly sedentary, try walking around the block. If your diet consists of steak and Twinkies, introduce yourself to vegetables and fruit one at a time. Forget that they are good for you, will keep you regular, and in some instances protect you from cancer. They even taste good! Remember, it takes twenty-one days of repeating an action before it becomes a habit. Do as much as you can each day and focus on your successes.

Making a Move Notebook

To make your move as organized and stress-free as possible, create a move notebook so that all of your planning notes are in one place. You can be making notes as you read this book. You can create an e-notebook using Google Docs, Microsoft One Note, Evernote, or the organizing tool you prefer. Most can be set up as private and locked, or you can make the notebook accessible to others in the family unit. Let’s say you’re out shopping and remember you need to stop at the paint store. If your partner has access to your move notebook, you may discover that item has been checked off as done. Partnership certainly makes a move less daunting. If you prefer a binder, use sheet protectors for those items that you need for reference but won’t be writing on—for example, the contract with your mover or the rental receipts for your truck and dollies should you be doing your own move. If you are afraid you may lose these documents, for safety’s sake, scan them into your computer. As you might imagine, there are apps for that. I use Genius Scan. You can also purchase a few heavy-duty poly file folders. They can take a lot of wear and tear. Now all these valuable documents can live in your file cabinet. There are many ways to solve organizing issues, and that is why it’s such a creative endeavor.

To facilitate the creation of your move notebook, you’ll find the weekly summary lists waiting for you online at ReginaLeeds.com. I’ve created a page you can easily and instantly copy, paste, and tailor to suit your needs. Most of us work digitally now, and this simple copy-and-paste will get your move notebook started.

By the way, all the organizing tools I mention in this book are featured on a special board I created at Pinterest.com (visit my various boards at http://www.pinterest.com/zenorg1). You can show your local store exactly what tool you are looking for when you go shopping. If you wish to order online, links are provided. Over time I’ll add products and tips that I think will make your move a bit easier.

A Tidy Tool: Categorized Moving Files

You don’t want piles of moving brochures and scribbled notes spreading out around the house like a fungus. I would divide the material by category and create a few files. This is especially necessary if you purchased a new home and you’re also collecting decorating tips for that space. Use individual file folders for your categories and then store them all in your filing cabinet using box-bottom hanging file folders no wider than two inches. Conversely, if you want this material to be portable, try an expanding file holder or a portable file box. At Pinterest I have photos of all the products I’m suggesting as well as links to stores that sell them. If you have no clue what a portable file box is, for example, the visual is waiting for you.

These are all garden-variety supplies available at your local office-supply store or on the Internet. Any files you create in real time will likely have counterparts with similar material collected in folders on your computer. Be sure you use the same names for every type of folder, whether it’s saved on your computer or in your filing cabinet. You need to keep those names consistent. Where you keep the information is not important, but your ease in finding it all is everything. For some reason people have flights of fancy and get creative on the fly. Be creative the first time you choose a name, and then be consistent; otherwise you may wind up wasting time searching for information, asking, “What the heck did I call that folder?” You don’t have time to waste before a move! By the way, it would behoove you to empty your purse or briefcase each evening of any material you have gathered related to your move. A category is as strong as the items that compose it, and if the parts are scattered, you run the risk of a great piece of information slipping through the cracks.

The “B Word”: Making a Budget

No, I’m not talking about female dogs. The “B word” that concerns me is “budget.” Moving is expensive, and you need to factor in as many details as possible so you aren’t blindsided. The most common refrain I hear from my clients on moving day is, “Regina, I’m bleeding money.” Let’s put a tourniquet on that wound and see instead how you can economize. First, we need to know what you have and how much you need to spend. A personal budget is really a necessity. Many people view a budget as a straightjacket that will not permit them to have any fun. Nothing could be further from the truth. Numbers are your friends because they never lie. Everyone needs a budget to get a monthly snapshot of his or her financial health. With any luck you’ll have extra cash each month to save or invest. It’s a financial tool you don’t want to live without!

To create a budget, grab a pad of paper or fire up the computer. Draw a line down the center of a page or work in Excel. In the left column, make a list of all sources of income in a month. Next, in the right, make a list of all your monthly expenses: mortgage or rent, utilities and other bills, groceries costs, and so forth. (If you have periodic bills, factor in the percentage of that total amount you need to set aside each month. This way you won’t be having convulsions when that yearly insurance premium comes due for your home or you get the bill for your semiannual union dues.) Now add up both columns and see where you are. In the best of all possible worlds, you have money left over each month for an emergency fund, long-term investing, and big-ticket items—you know, like this move. If you freelance like I do, your expenses are probably fairly static, but working with income when it fluctuates can be a challenge. Freelancers can use their average income against their set expenses.

If you have a shortfall, you’ll have to figure out what the move is going to cost and then decide how you’ll raise that money. This might be just the incentive you need to sell some possessions that you no longer use. Perhaps you have to eliminate some expenses or reduce others. Call your cable company, cellphone carrier, and other service providers and see if you can cut your bills if only for six months. Give your credit card companies a call and see if you qualify for an interest-rate reduction. Paying bills on time puts you in the best position to receive these favors. It also boosts your FICO (credit) score, and that will come in handy if you have to move yourself. Big-ticket items, like truck rentals, will cost less if your credit score is high. If you are the unemployed partner in the relationship, it might be time to get a part-time job. If you have relatives in a position to help, see if you can float a no- or low-interest loan. Just remember it has to be paid back, so what you’re buying is time.

Considerations for Moving to an Address to Be Determined

Though it’s not ideal, sometimes you’ve got to plan a move before you even know where you’re moving to. I’ve been there! Through circumstances beyond my control, I had to give notice at my last apartment before I found a new one. This situation really lights a fire under you in terms of organization. If you want to move in eight weeks but haven’t as yet chosen your new location, here are some items to tackle this week:

         Once you know your budget and how much you can spend on the move, you can decide if you are paying too much for your current rental or can afford to move up in the world. This financial reality check will dictate where you look for your next home.

         In large cities agencies will help you find your ideal abode for a fee. You can also check Craigslist.org for ads or search popular real estate sites, like Zillow.com and Trulia.com.

         If you have time, walk or drive around your desired neighborhood looking for rentals. Not everyone registers with a service or advertises online.

         Walk into real estate offices and introduce yourself. Agents may have properties in escrow that happen to have your ideal guesthouse.

         Send out an e-mail blast or contact friends on your favorite social media sites. Personal networking can yield leads that are being held close to the vest.



               Check your current lease to see how much notice you need to give the management. You want to play by the rules and get your security deposit back, right?

               Have you painted any walls? You may be responsible for returning them to the original color before you go. In addition, leave the apartment in tidy condition if you have your eye on that deposit.

               Has Fifi or Fido done any damage? You’ll need to repair that as well, especially if you handed over a pet deposit.

               Once your ducks are in a row, schedule a walk-through with the manager or owner. You are responsible for damage, not normal wear and tear. Each state has laws that dictate the amount of time the landlord has to return your deposit. Note that date on your calendar, and be sure you’ve received a check or an accounting for the use of those funds.

               Find out from management at both ends if you need to reserve a parking spot (or two) for your truck. Some neighborhoods require that moving trucks have a special parking permit. Call the local chamber of commerce or check out the city government website. You don’t need a parking ticket on moving day; nor do you want to get off on the wrong foot with your new neighbors or leave a bad taste in the mouths of your old ones.

               What day are you planning to move? Are there elevator restrictions? Find out in advance because everything that slows the process down costs you money. Time really is money on moving day. You want to eliminate any delays and tell your mover about any restrictions at either location.


Box It Up!

Everyone who is moving requires boxes, so this week, do some research to figure out where you’ll get yours and exactly what assortment you need. If you’re doing your own move, you can ask for advice at a box store or interview a mover to get some guidance. In addition, Moving.com and ApartmentGuide.com provide a calculator that helps you estimate how many boxes you need and what types based on factors like how long have you been at your residence, how many people are moving, how many rooms you are packing up, and a general description of your stuff. You’ll find boxes designed to handle basic household possessions. For example, wardrobe boxes transport hanging clothes; small file-size boxes are great for books and paper; large, deep boxes, called “dish packs,” are designed for kitchen items.

Buying new boxes can be expensive, but many people prefer to do so because no one has ever used them before. The choice is yours. There are ways to save and even score free boxes, so let’s take a look at your options:

         Get used boxes from your mover. They will be in great shape but sold at a discount. Many movers will come and pick them up when you’re done. (Most will require you to have them cut down and tied together for pickup.) Your mover will be able to guesstimate how many boxes you need by surveying the possessions you plan to take with you.

         Check on websites like Craigslist.org or Freecycle.org to see if anyone has just moved or is about to and will give you their unpacked boxes.

         If you’re doing a “down and dirty” move on the fly, go to your local liquor store and ask for empty boxes. Those boxes transport liquid and glass, so you know they’re sturdy.

         Drive around your neighborhood over the weekend, and see if you can spot someone moving in; maybe you can strike a deal for his or her boxes. Most people aren’t in the mood to sell; they just want the empty boxes gone ASAP. I don’t mean that you should drive around for hours trolling your hood! On the way to the grocery store or on the way home from soccer practice, cruise a few extra streets and check out the landscape.

         If you’ve been dealing with real estate agents, ask them if they have any clients with a move on the horizon who would give you their boxes once they’ve unpacked.

         Put the word out to family, friends, and social media contacts. Someone may know someone who is moving, and by day’s end you could be hooked up.

         If you are a union member, you’ll be able to score a discount on boxes. In fact, check with your representative because certain large moving companies offer discounts on supplies and the actual move to union members.

Remember my friend Carla from the introduction? She put the word out in an e-mail blast, and a former client who owns a box company agreed to donate whatever moving supplies she needs, and a Boy Scout troop volunteered to help pack. Miracles happen when you ask. Nothing happens if you do nothing but fret.


       Two great aids for anyone contemplating a move are the popular websites Moving.com and ApartmentGuide.com. They have calculators for things like the number of boxes needed should you elect to do your own move. They can also assist you with details like mail forwarding. When I signed up, I received discount coupons for popular stores in my new neighborhood, like Pottery Barn and West Elm. If you aren’t comfortable giving out personal information online, simply peruse the sites for items like the free calculators.


Finding the Mover of Your Dreams

The next big task is choosing a mover. Heaven knows they are not all created equal. Let’s examine some things you’ll want to know if you are securing bids. In this first planning week, you’ll want to call a few potential movers. A little detective work will yield the names of reputable companies. When you call, ask the receptionist if the company services the area you’re going to and if the desired date is available. If so, schedule a meeting for week two to go over the details of your move with a company representative. You don’t have to inundate the person who answers the phone; just be prepared for the meeting with the rep. Schedule meetings with three to five companies, and see who offers the best deal and with whom you feel the most comfortable.


On Sale
Mar 31, 2015
Page Count
256 pages

Regina Leeds

About the Author

Regina Leeds, named Best Organizer by Los Angeles Magazine, has been a professional organizer for more than thirty years. She is the author of several books, including the New York Timesbestselling One Year to An Organized Life. She lives in Los Angeles.

Learn more about this author