8 Easy Steps to Downsizing Your Home

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When you’re moving to a smaller place – whether it’s because all the kids have left the nest or you’re getting older and don’t want to keep up a large house anymore – you’re faced with downsizing your possessions. But if every item you pick up has a memory attached to it, it gets hard to decide what to keep and what to pass along to your children or to a local charity.

We recommend these eight strategies to help you sort through everything a bit easier so you can focus on being excited about your move.

1. Use your new space as a guide.

Know the dimensions of the space you’re moving into and use them as a guide when deciding what to take. In addition to measuring areas like the living room and bedroom, find out how much closet, cabinet, and other storage space you’ll have. If possible, sketch the new space on paper for a visual reference.

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Photo by Stephanie Richard/Flickr (cropped)

2. Decide on large items first.

Work through one room at a time and decide on the largest items in each room first, then move to the smaller items. For example, in the living room, choose what sofas and chairs you’ll take to your new home. Then decide about lamps, pictures, and knickknacks. After establishing what isn’t coming with you, create a home inventory of what is. That way, if something is damaged or lost during the move, you’ll know it right away. And you’ll have a moving checklist to work off of – if someone asks whether this piece or that is going, and you can’t remember, you can consult your inventory.

3. Don’t use a “maybe” pile.

To streamline the downsizing process, avoid the “maybe” pile, as this only puts off making a decision about what to do with the item. Instead, organize the things you’re taking and create a pile of things to get rid of, whether they are being donated, sold, or thrown away.

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Photo by Howard Lake/Flickr

4. Give gifts away now.

If you’re saving special items to pass along to friends or relatives, give them away now. This eliminates packing and moving the items and frees up valuable space in your new residence. Best of all, you’ll enjoy seeing your loved ones receive and enjoy your gifts.

5. Don’t be afraid to throw things away.

There are some things that aren’t worth moving, selling, or even giving away. Old spices, magazines, and toiletries are examples of items you should toss in the trash or recycling. Broken items that aren’t worth repairing should also be thrown away or repurposed.

6. Get the help of a professional.

Often, adult children want to help their parents sort through things before a downsizing move, but this can put undue stress on both parties. An alternative is to use a professional moving manager who understands the emotional and practical aspect of downsizing. These folks are skilled at making the transition as stress-free as possible. The National Association of Senior Move Managers can help you find a professional moving manager in your area.

7. Set aside blocks of time to work.

Sorting through your possessions is less demanding, both physically and emotionally, when you’re rested. Create a moving timetable that meets your needs, and work in short blocks of time. Don’t forget to take regular breaks and reward yourself when you meet milestones.

8. Downsize by section.

Just like you choose to go through the large items first, it can be easier to segment a room or section of the house and decide that’s the space you’ll go through that day. As you go through each of the areas you’ve created, consider these tips for getting rid of items you don’t want to move:

  • Clothes
  • Try selling gently used clothing at a consignment shop or donating them to Goodwill or a homeless shelter. If you have professional clothing, search the Alliance of Career Development Nonprofits to find a local organization that helps outfit men and women who are reentering the workforce.

  • Kitchen
  • Sort through cabinets and drawers and throw away or recycle items that are no longer useful, like plastic containers without lids or broken blenders (which can be recycled at your local facility). Take unwanted kitchen appliances to a church or safe house, and donate non-perishable items to a food pantry.

  • Collections
  • If you don’t have room for your hobby or collections in your new residence, consider selling it on Craigslist or giving it away to a friend or relative. Before you do, take photos to help you preserve the memories tied to your collection.

  • Landscaping Equipment
  • Downsizing often means moving into a place where you don’t have to take care of a yard, and you usually won’t need your lawnmower or other yard tools in your new location. These items can be pricey, so consider giving them to a young couple just starting out or donating them to a local organization, like a VFW or childcare center.

  • Books, CDs, or DVDs
  • Call your local library or school and ask if they accept gently used books or media. Or post them on Freecycle, a website where people give away items at no charge.

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    Photo by @DrGarcia/Flickr

Whatever reason you have for moving to a smaller home, it’s the perfect time to go through the items you’ve accumulated over the years. By donating or disposing of what you don’t need, you’ll only take what’s most important with you to your new space.

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