Although downsizing is just one step toward moving to a smaller home, it’s often the most stressful.
While it can be an emotional challenge, downsizing can also be a great way to pare down belongings that can feel just as overwhelming. So, moving to a smaller home will require less upkeep and allow you to enjoy more free time. And, for seniors who are new to retirement, simplifying your lifestyle may allow you to cut costs, as well as spend more time with grandchildren or traveling.
But, sorting through a lifetime of belongings can take a toll - emotionally and physically. That is why it i important to be strategic about how you do it.
Here are 7 tips that will make downsizing your home easier.
Give Yourself Enough Time
Downsizing is a major event. That’s why giving yourself ample time to take on this sizable project is important. If you feel rushed, downsizing can become very stressful.
Instead, don’t try sorting through your whole house in one day or even over a few days. Take at least a couple weeks - maybe longer depending on the size of your house.
If adult children are assisting the parent with downsizing, allow the parent to have the needed time to go through each item and deal with the process of letting it go.
Downsizing can be overwhelming, no matter your age, how large your house or the amount you aim to cut down. That’s why taking baby steps can help keep you from feeling overwhelmed. Here are a few small steps to try first:
Avoid big rooms initially. You probably have a few items in mind you want to toss. If they’re located in a large room, such as the kitchen, basement or garage, wait. Although it’s easy to get rid of those items first, you’ll be left with a large space filled with many items to sort.
Start with a small space. It’s better to start with a small space, such as a closet, laundry room or bathroom instead. This helps you focus on one specific area, and in the end, you’ll feel like you accomplished something. These types of spaces tend to have little emotional attachment as well, making the process easier.
Prioritize your comfort. Attics and basements are known for being uncomfortable. In the summer, they’re hot. In the winter, they’re cold. Downsizing can be an uncomfortable feeling for many. Don’t add even more discomfort right out of the gate.
Understand Your Needs
Chances are, you have years and years of belongings to sort through. And like many households, you’ve probably accumulated multiple sets of items, such as sheets and pillows. If you’re moving to a two-bedroom home, you only need a few sets of each. Donate the rest to a charity.
Understanding your future needs also will help you eliminate spaces. If you currently have an office, garage or second bathroom, but are moving to a new home that does not, you no longer have a need for the items in those spaces. Consider either donating or selling larger items. Pieces such as office furniture and tools can be more valuable.
Take One Room At A Time
Once you’ve accomplished the easier steps to downsizing, begin by moving through one room at a time. By making each room its own project, deciding which items to take with you to your smaller space becomes much more manageable.
Before getting started in each room, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Break out your tape measure. If you already have chosen a smaller house, take into consideration the dimensions of each room and those of your furniture. If you currently have a bed and two nightstands, your new space may only have enough room for one nightstand or the bed alone.
Minimize duplicates. The kitchen is one of the rooms where it’s easiest to find duplicates, whether it’s multiple spatulas, spices, drinking glasses or silverware. Only keep your favorite or what you need to entertain guests.
Reduce unused clutter. In a large home, you may have space for a blender and a food processor, two types of coffee makers, and multiple roasting pans used every Christmas to serve the family. But, if you’re moving into a smaller space, you likely won’t have the space for all of these items. Keep anything you routinely use and love, but get rid of items you use sparingly and can do without.
As you go through each room one at a time, only have Yes and No piles. You may have the urge to create a Maybe pile, but this will only prolong any decision making. In the end, you’ll have a Maybe pile that’s larger than the Yes or No piles.
Instead, take your time with each item, but in the end, make a decision. To help with this, ask yourself questions like:
Do I regularly use this?
Will I have room for it in my new home?
Does it bring me joy?
Has this been sitting in my closet, unseen for a long time?
Sell Or Donate What’s Leftover
Just because you no longer want or need items doesn’t mean they don’t have value. One person’s trash can be another’s treasure. Selling your items can also bring you cash that will help pay for your move. Donating your items will leave you feeling happy that you’ve helped someone else in need.
Here are a few ways to toss your items and reap the benefits:
Have a yard sale. Furniture that may be too large for your new home, as well as extra clothing, toys, power tools and lawn equipment always sell well at yard sales.
Throw your stuff online. There are many online sites where you can sell your items, including eBay, Craigslist, OfferUp and Facebook’s marketplace.
Use consignment. This type of store saves you the work of having to sell the items yourself. Consignment stores typically take a portion of the profits made from whichever items sell.
Enlist an auction service. If you’re experiencing a major downsize, auction services may be a good option for you. Auction companies typically pick up items from the home and conducts the sale off-site.
Donate. There are many local and national organizations that will accept your items. Some consignment services also benefit non-profit organizations.
Hire An Expert
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, there’s no shame in getting help from a downsizing expert.
When looking for experts, make sure they have a proven track record and are insured. Downsizing experts should be insured, since they will handle a client’s prized possessions.
Experts also will:
Identify and pack possessions for relocation
Identify and separate furniture for relocation
Identify and separate items for sale
Identify, pack and transport items for donation
Identify and transport remaining items for disposal
Not sure if it’s time to downsize? You can learn more in our article, When Is It Time to Downsize For Seniors?