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BEACON Senior News

The Upside of Downsizing

Feb 19, 2024 03:51PM ● By Lisa Lowdermilk

Spring cleaning, organizing, downsizing—is anything more daunting? Especially when it’s accompanied by transitions like an empty nest, moving and estate management. 

If your toss, keep and give away bins are getting the better of you and you can’t decide which items spark Marie Kondo-style joy, don’t give up. Local professionals can help you declutter your living space and even your digital assets.


A passion for organizing and making people smile led Sunnie LaMarre, 53, to start Chi-Mazing Organizing Solutions. Finding the natural rhythm of space to make it work is key to LaMarre’s and her clients’ success. 

“It just seemed like a really natural fit,” LaMarre said. “[Organizing] is something I’ve always done since I was a kid.” 

LaMarre uses the concept of chi to help her clients find the space between objects and, in turn, reorganize them. In China, chi means energy or life force and is closely related to feng shui. Practitioners of feng shui believe the arrangement of objects in your home affects your health, happiness and success. 

“I help clients declutter so we can organize and display the items that bring them the most joy,” she said. “It calms the mind to look at what you love instead of looking at a bunch of stuff that is squished together. When there’s space between things, everything can breathe better, which in turn helps you breathe too.” 

Busy mom Danelle Vallejos, 40, hired Chi-mazing multiple times to help organize her kitchen. 

“It’s so great that [LaMarre] sees a space with fresh eyes,” said Vallejos. 

She and LaMarre work together to sort through possessions, so Vallejos never wonders where items ended up. 

“She is skilled but has such a caring heart,” said Vallejos, “with a tender yet strategic way” of working. 

Theda Furlonge, 72, shared her experience of reorganizing her garage with LaMarre, admitting, “I’m not very organized, and that’s why I hired somebody.” 

Furlonge praised LaMarre as “very meticulous,” noting that she takes everything out and only returns what is needed. Together, they discarded a lot, and Furlonge was thrilled with the results. 

She mentioned that LaMarre always checks back to ensure the new systems are functional. 

“I’ve mostly kept it up,” she said

The process of decluttering isn’t always easy, however, especially when it’s associated with trauma. Emotions, indecision, feeling overwhelmed and sensing there isn’t enough time can all be roadblocks to reclaiming a more streamlined and livable space. 

“Your exterior space reflects your internal situation,” said LaMarre. “When people get depressed, their living spaces tend to reflect that. I believe that once we declutter and organize our external spaces, we start to feel better internally. We can look around our space and feel happier, calmer and more grounded.” 

LaMarre offers affordable rates and works on a sliding scale so she can help as many people as possible.


Tami Gale, 57, created Gale Force Organizers to help clients downsize when moving into smaller homes and senior living centers. Angela Gilpin, 62, works alongside Gale to prune seniors’ possessions.

Ensuring that “seniors are actively involved to the extent they’re able” is Gale’s goal when working with older clients.

“We clarify what really matters to each individual and encourage them to think differently about possessions,” she said.  

Gale helped one family transition to assisted living by encouraging them to host a family dinner with their china before giving it away. This helped them prioritize the memory of the dinner rather than the china itself.

But Gale Force Organizers never pressures clients to give away possessions against their will. Instead, they focus on helping clients reorganize their space so that both the area and the items within it work for them. 

“We don’t get rid of your stuff—you do,” said Gale. “We see [reorganizing] as a challenge and ask ourselves, ‘How can we make this better?’” 

Gale and Gilpin implement solutions their clients never considered. They helped one family restructure their kitchen until it became a space each member cherished, including a baking station for a son who worked as a baker and a hot cocoa station the whole family could enjoy. 

But perhaps the best gift Gale Force Organizers gives clients is time. 

“Watching a family go from chaos and drama to, ‘Hey, this is kind of nice’ is amazing,” Gilpin said. “They have more time to play cards, go out for a meal and just spend time together” without the stress of living in a space that doesn’t work for them. 

Gale and Gilpin recognize that the decluttering process often involves emotional baggage. They respect the sentimental value many objects hold for clients, even when keeping them is no longer possible. 

“This isn’t the couch you put on the curb,” said Gilpin. “This is a couch you want another family to enjoy.”

But sometimes tougher decisions must be made. One client recently downsized to a one-bedroom assisted living apartment and intended to store everything that wouldn’t fit in a storage locker. 

LaMarre encouraged her to speak frankly with her son about which items he truly wanted. This discussion led the woman to realize that leaving her son things like sets of china was not a gift but rather a burden. This change in perspective allowed her to let go of the unwanted items.


Decluttering isn’t solely limited to the physical realm; however, with today’s rapidly evolving technologies, it’s just as important to tend to your digital assets as well as your material ones. 

Kate Hufnagel, 49, is a former rocket scientist with a knack for breaking down complicated processes into manageable steps. Her business, The Digital Wrangler, offers organizing services related to estate management, business succession, passwords and digital devices. 

“I started doing this because my own parents are in their 80s,” she said.

Digital estates consist of a variety of assets, including some with monetary value, such as digital music and movies, airline miles and hotel reward points, as well as sentimental items like photos and email accounts. Most of these assets are protected by passwords, leaving surviving loved ones facing a challenge if they lack the magic word.  

Through her proactive approach, Hufnagel saves the loved ones of clients thousands of dollars in legal fees, not to mention hours of tears and frustration. She shows clients how to store their information securely, locate relevant files, keep track of all their passwords and more. 

“Digital afterlives are a real thing,” Hufnagel noted. “At one of my recent presentations, one woman shared that she lost her husband to cancer. She didn’t have the password to his Facebook account, and hackers began tormenting her after his death. Even though a Facebook account isn’t worth anything financially, the psychological toll it took on her was enormous.” 

It can take hundreds of hours to settle an estate. Technology can dramatically reduce this time, especially when relatives live out of state. 

“If your loved ones know where your assets are, they can access the information they need no matter where they live,” Hufnagel noted. 

Hufnagel offers 45-minute tech talks to local seniors where she’s discussed topics like designating emergency contacts, protecting yourself online, setting up medical IDs on phones and even artificial intelligence. 

If your energy and motivation can’t keep pace with your desire for deep spring cleaning, organizing your physical or digital assets, downsizing or moving out, consider turning to the professionals to lighten your load. 

For Decluttering and Downsizing Help:

Chi-Mazing Organizing Solutions

Sunnie LaMarre


[email protected]

Gale Force Organizers

Tami Gale & Angela Gilpin


[email protected]

The Digital Wrangler

Kate Hufnagel 


[email protected]

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