Reasons for downsizing vary, from empty nesters deciding to move into smaller, easier to maintain homes, to young people pursuing job opportunities in cities where housing is a hot commodity. Whatever your motives, downsizing is definitely a handful.

Tackle the issue as early as possible – ideally, you should have about three months to deal with all your possessions. Go strategically, starting with the largest items, like furniture and appliances, then moving to the smaller things such as clothes, books, and trinkets. Here are the steps you should follow for a smooth downsizing:

1. Downsize the big stuff first

Most people focus on sorting through clothes, books and kitchenware when downsizing, but are having trouble giving up on furniture for various reasons: they’re sentimentally attached to it, or they own good quality, expensive items. However, large pieces of furniture and big kitchen appliances are less than ideal in a smaller home.

Use tape on the floor and/or big boxes to visualize exactly how your existent furniture fits inside the new house. If it fills the rooms to the brim, you’re better off selling the massive pieces. Keep only the pieces that go with the new space, that you love and that are truly useful. It is a brutal process, but, once this part of the downsizing is completed, you’re halfway there.

2. Start the purge from the outside in

The old “out of sight, out of mind” saying applies pretty well to most homes. You probably have, in your attic, basement or garage, stuff you haven’t touch in years, or even decades. You weren’t bothered by them because they were out of sight. Unless, of course, you’re a particularly tidy and well-organized individual, in which case your auxiliary spaces are in perfect order.

The rest of us, however, have dozens of “mystery” boxes in our garages, the attic filled with old pieces of furniture, and let’s not even discuss the shed. Start with those spaces and dispose of all the junk before moving to the actual living areas.

3. Plan your storage

Sometimes, no matter how drastically you sort through your possessions, there simply isn’t enough room at the new house for the items you do need to keep. That’s why downsizing goes hand in hand with self-storage. Estimate how much extra space you need and rent a storage unit near you.

Old people moving with a truck

4. Digitize Everything You Can

You probably own boxes upon boxes of memories: your kids’ school projects and drawings, hundreds of family photos, newspapers clips that have a special meaning for you, and so on. Instead of keeping the physical items, you can scan everything and store them on a memory unit or online. You’ll have access to your special memories anytime, anywhere, and you can print them out, should you want to. It’s also a safer way to hold on to these items – paper deteriorates over time, but scans will always have the same quality.

5. Use the things that you love

It’s in the human nature to delay gratification, to “save” the things that we love until an undetermined moment sometimes in the future. You probably have a nice set of sheets, or towels, or maybe pots and pans that you love but you didn’t bring yourself to use. Well, stop doing that and start using and enjoying the things that you love – otherwise, you’ll just have more stuff to pack and store.

6. Follow the one-year rule

It’s a very simple, yet effective rule – ditch the items you didn’t use in the past 12 months! One year coves all the seasons, so, if you didn’t need a jacket, or a pair if shoes, or any other object, for that matter, during all the time, chances are you’re probably done with it.

There are some exceptions, of course: sporting equipment that you didn’t get the chance to use for different reasons, but you’ll be using in the future, or an outfit you wear only at very special occasions. But, apart from that, it’s safe to say you won’t miss any item you haven’t used in a while.

7. Give now the things you want to give

You want to give something to your children, grandchildren, other family members or friends? Do it now, don’t delay the moment! They will certainly appreciate it, and you’ll have less stuff to pack and to worry about.

Downsizing involves a lot of work, so do it smartly and strategically. Keep in mind that, at the end of the process, good things are in store for you: a house that’s easier to maintain, lower bills, thus more opportunities to travel, or a new and exciting job.


Maria Gatea is a real estate and lifestyle editor for Yardi with a background in Journalism and Communication. After covering business and finance-related topics as a freelance writer for 15 years, she is now focusing on researching and writing about the real estate industry. You may contact Maria via email.

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