Time to Downsize?

Downsizing Your Home with a Plan

By REsides, Inc.

Selling your home and moving into a new house is often bittersweet. You are eager for change, but anxious to leave a home filled with so many memories. Downsizing can be even more difficult, but can be the right decision depending on your goals. People opt to downsize for many reasons, and in different stages of life. You may find that purchasing a smaller home makes sense if you want to save money and get rid of unused space, are moving from the suburbs to a big city, are an empty-nester, have recently been divorced or lost a spouse. A smaller home typically means not having enough space for all of your belongings and can lead to stress and anxiety, especially for those who have a great deal of stuff and may have a difficult time separating from it. However, downsizing is an opportunity to refresh and start anew. If you plan carefully, you can create a comfortable and stylish environment, without sacrificing meaningful belongings.

Consider Your Future Needs & Plan Ahead

Post it not on corkboard that says Plan Ahead for Less Stress

In order to effectively downsize, you need to envision the big picture. You should have a general idea of your future space and lifestyle. How many bedrooms will you have? Do you need an office? Will you be entertaining and need a good-sized kitchen and living area? Knowing these details will help you determine what you should keep and eliminate. By knowing your intentions and setting your goals ahead of time, you’ll have a much clearer view of what items will fit into your new lifestyle and home.

Start Early and Pace Yourself

You are keenly aware that this is going to be a huge undertaking, but you don’t need to tackle it all at once. Simply start early and set goals; plan to do a little bit each day, giving yourself daily and weekly completion goals. Downsizing is a chance to reset and revamp, so don't wait to start making decisions. Start the downsizing process as soon as possible to give yourself time to properly sort through your home without feeling stressed. A general rule of thumb to guide you is to begin the process at least 3-5 months before you plan to move, but the sooner the better. In addition, try to document the progression by taking before and after photos. Aside from building good habits, it will encourage you to reminisce upon the memories you’ve made in your home.

Focus on One Room at a Time

Stressed couple sitting among cardboard storage boxes

The thought of decluttering and organizing your entire home is exhausting, so it is crucial that you focus on one room at a time. By breaking the project into multiple, more manageable projects, you will feel less anxiety and more goal-oriented. Larger, more cluttered spaces can present unique challenges. So choose a room and create an open work space for you to begin. Then, break the room into even smaller tasks to ensure that you stay on track. For example, sort through the overabundance of DVDs and video games, tackle the dreaded “junk drawer”, pick the shoes you wish to give away and to keep, attack your dresser drawers, organize small kitchen items, and eliminate items for which you may have multiples.

Notes about decluttering written on a napkin next to a cup of coffee
  • Decluttering: When it’s time to determine what items you are prepared to part with, be sure to use a strict “yes” or “no” strategy. Avoid “maybes”, as they add up quickly and then all you’ve accomplished is moving your items from one spot to another. You have opted to keep the “yes” items and then must decide how to handle the “no” items. Although you may no longer need or want these things, they would more than likely be useful to someone else. Therefore, a common set of “no” options would be to:
    • Sell or Donate: Reusable furniture, housewares, clothing, and other items in good condition could be sold at a garage sale or online. Be sure you use proper safety and anti-fraud precautions when using apps to sell or buy items online (guidelines can be found on the organization’s website or app). You may also opt to donate to non-profits or charities, such as Goodwill, Salvation Army, ARC or Habitat for Humanity. Depending on your location, some of these organizations will pick-up your items, making the task that much easier.
    • Trash or Recycle: Anything damaged or worn beyond repair should be thrown away or recycled.
    • Pass Down: Sentimental furniture and décor can be passed down to family members or friends.
Organizing a memory box with photos and jewelry
  • Organization: Make the effort to leave your space more organized than you found it. Not only will it improve your day-to-day living, but it will also ensure that packing is much easier. Organize smaller items in your drawers by using trays and boxes. These will pack and transfer easily from one home to another. Don’t pack jewelry, money or other valuables, keeping those close by during your move or temporarily placed in a vault or bank lockbox.
    • Documents: Paperwork and files can really build up over the years. Shred any statements or documents that you have online access to, as well as any tax-related paperwork more than seven years old. Other documents can be scanned and organized neatly into digital files, but be sure you back up these files on a separate drive. For important physical documents (birth certificate, passports, etc.), make sure you have a fireproof safe to store them in your new home.
    • Preserving Memories: You will likely have many sentimental items that may not make sense to pass down or take to your new home. Therefore, do your best to preserve the memories. For example, photo albums take up a lot of room and photos deteriorate over time. Digitize the photos to save space and easily share them with family. Purchase a digital frame and enjoy all of your photos in a rotating slideshow. For other mementoes, take pictures of them and add relevant details (where it came from, what it signifies, etc.). Photograph or scan sweet notes and cards, paper mementos like tickets or playbills, and your child’s artwork. Create a “treasure” photobook of these items. Give keepsakes a new life by scrapbooking old movie stubs, letters, and photos, creating a fun record of your experiences. Put your memories in one place to enjoy by making three-dimensional artwork using a shadowbox. Or, repurpose or upcycle your keepsakes and incorporate into your new space. For example, turn your favorite t-shirt collection into a quilt that you can use or convert that old toy chest into usable seating or blanket storage.

Recruit Help

Cartoon of couple moving in a truck with their sold house in the background

Know what your strengths and weaknesses are. If you're a strong organizer and don’t need help to sort and pack your belongings, perhaps you’ll just need some muscle power on moving day. But if you feel that the downsizing and moving processes are too much for you to handle or you simply don’t have the time, don’t hesitate to recruit some help. If you have a hard time getting organized or letting go of items, ask friends or family members to assist you. Or, consider hiring a professional organizer who can offer an objective opinion when you're trying to decide what you really need to eliminate or donate to charity.>

Downsizing your home is an emotional process, and you will discover items you haven’t seen in years. Give yourself some time to reminisce, and then start making decisions. Keeping your space limitations in mind, take with you what is truly valuable. Only you can decide what you can and can’t live without.>

Once you’ve completed your move, you’ll be able to enjoy your new place surrounded by the feelings of newness and home.>

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