The process of going through the clutter can wipe the slate clean for a smooth transition to retirement.

Downsizing can be a great way for retirees and empty nesters to minimize their home maintenance and maximize their budgets. But moving to a smaller home can be a large undertaking. Over the years of living in a family home, it's easy to accumulate more things than you really need. Before you can downsize, you'll need to organize. Here are ten steps to help you declutter and prepare for your new home.

1. Start early, start small

Decluttering is time-consuming and it can also be emotionally taxing. You can make it easier on yourself by starting months (or years) before you actually plan to move and focusing on small areas each time you work.

2. Try for a resale

One person's trash is another one's treasure. Try selling gently-used items before donating them or throwing them away. You can sell items online, take them to a local consignment shop or auction house, or plan a weekend yard sale.

3. Shop your own closet

When pairing down your wardrobe, imagine you are shopping in a thrift shop. For each item, would you think you found a great deal or would you leave it on the rack? Anything that is worn, dated or ill-fitting needs to go.

4. Gift, trash or donate

Beyond selling, there are other ways to part with your belongings. Things you love, but don't need, may make great gifts for your family or close friends. Things that are ratty or broken are better off being disposed of in the recycle bin if possible, and gently used items are great for donations.

5. Love it or lose it

Parting with your belongings can be difficult. Look at each item and ask yourself three questions: Do I love it? Do I use it? Do I need it? If you don't really love an object, and you rarely use it, there's not much reason to keep it around.

6. Take pictures

When letting go of sentimental items, it may help to take pictures of them. You can create a digital photo album, share the pictures with friends, and even write down the memories that made the item special.

7. Go paperless

Junk mail, receipts and other paperwork can quickly clutter up anyone's home. In most cases, a digital copy is just as valid. Request paperless billing whenever possible. Use a scanner to record digital copies of your important papers and a shredder to get rid of the originals. If you aren't sure whether you need the originals, check with your accountant, lawyer or other relevant professional.

8. Enlist a friend

Sorting through your belongings can be easier with the help of a friend or family member. Don't be afraid to ask for help, but be careful that your socializing doesn't keep you from being productive. Look for a friend who will help you stay on task and make hard decisions.

9. Hire a professional

Sometimes it's easier to get objective help from a professional. There are many professional consultants who can be hired to help you sort through your belongings and create a more organized system for the items that you do keep.

10. Reward yourself

Downsizing is hard work and your efforts deserve a reward. Try to choose something that won't bring more items into your home, like going out to dinner or a movie.

Take a smart approach toward downsizing and you will soon enjoy a life with less clutter to clean and more time and money to spend on your favorite pastimes.