The process of downsizing your home can be an exciting but intimidating one. Whether you’re moving to a new area with smaller houses, retiring, becoming an empty nester, or simply embracing a more minimalist lifestyle, downsizing is one of those life transitions that can take some adjustment.
As with most things, proper preparation can go a long way to making the process more streamlined, faster and more rewarding. Check out our top tips on how to downsize your home when it’s time to embrace the simple life.
Do a Direct Comparison
The first step in downsizing your home is knowing exactly how much space you’ll have to work with in your new place. While this may sound obvious, it’s important to note that even two homes of equal size may not be created equally, so when it comes to downsizing, you’ll want to know what you’re working with as precisely as possible.
For example, if your current home has multiple bedrooms and you’ll be downsizing to a single bedroom, it’s probably a good idea to start by getting rid of those bed frames, dressers, bedside tables and the like.
If you’re losing an office area, garage or dining room, think about the items you currently own that may be able to pull double-duty, and visualize which items will be out of place or in the way when you don’t have those specialty areas.
Let Your Lifestyle Guide the Way
If downsizing your home means a change in lifestyle, take into account the way you’ll be living can be a useful guide to what you need to jettison.
“For example, maybe you had a big family and extra dishes for entertaining,” says professional organizer Tina Staffon. “Now you’re not going to, so don’t hold on to that 12-piece dish set. It’s really about being honest with yourself and asking, ‘Do I really want this in my new place? Are you going to have room? Are you going to use it?’”
If you’re moving to a place with year-round sun, it’s probably time to say goodbye to winter coats and snow boots. If you’re retiring and excited to devote more time to travel and hobbies, identify the items you’ll need when prioritizing your new passions. (For those lifestyle changes that a new state can bring, we also have tips on making a seamless long-distance move.)
Of course, if saying goodbye is too hard (maybe you’re sending a kid to college and just aren’t ready to part with those sentimental childhood items), you can still effectively downsize by opting for a storage space for those things you don’t need on hand, but aren’t ready to give away.
If you’re struggling to say goodbye to photo albums and videos, Christine Stoeber of Los Angeles-based Golden Spaces Organization & Management recommends going digital to “help save space and properly preserve your memories.”
Make it a Family Affair
Whether you’re retiring, downsizing to save money, or going through another life transition (van life, anyone?), downsizing becomes much faster (and more painless) when you have a crew to help.
To make the process easier, Stoeber advises clients to “create a downsizing plan to get rid of certain items with the family. When everyone’s goals are met, it’s easier to move forward.”
Staffon and her husband Greg, who own Home Organizers Plus, are often called in when empty nesters are feeling the pinch of moving to a place with less space.
The pair often advise clients to reach out to their children and ask them to retrieve any items they want to keep. Just be sure to set a deadline, noting that “now’s the time, don’t just throw things in boxes and deal with it later.”
Between gifting items, passing down family heirlooms, and getting an extra pair of hands, involving loved ones in the process can help you get ready for your move more quickly and efficiently than going it alone.
For anyone whose downsizing involves moving in with said family, check out our tips on how to keep a multigenerational home harmonious.
Think Before You Buy
For many people, moving can present an opportunity to buy new things to embrace a fresh start and make the new place feel like home.
Downsizing however, is not the time for a shopping spree.
For every item you want to buy, find the equivalent item in your current possessions and weigh the benefits of getting something new—after all, downsizing is the last time you’ll want to end up with doubles of anything!
Of course, your smaller space will likely have new needs, like a more compact couch or smaller storage systems, but selling, gifting or storing the equivalent items you already own can help make way for the new without creating too much clutter.
Start Downsizing Early
Downsizing is not the time to go into procrastination hibernation. The key to effective organization is starting early and going at a reasonable pace so that you don’t get overwhelmed.
As far as getting started, the when can often be more important than the where. Kayla Spiroff, Stoeber’s partner at Golden Spaces, says that the most important thing is to “just start—big or small! Pick an area of your home and just start putting things into categories. Likes with likes.”
For example, gather all the pens together, all the craft supplies together, and all the exercise equipment together and put them into piles.
“When we see our belongings in one spot rather than spread out throughout the house we tend to notice how much excess we have, which helps us to let go of things easier,” Spiroff said.
Spiroff and Stoeber also recommend starting early so that you can have that extra time with sentimental items that are more difficult to part with.
We hope these pro tips have helped reduce the intimidation factor and help you learn how to downsize your home!