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How to Downsize Before Moving Homes

The 7 Most Effective Tips for Downsizing And Decluttering Your Home


1) Make a List of Your Possessions

tips for downsizing your home

When you’re moving into a smaller home, you of course won’t have as much space for all the items that have accumulated over the years. It's best to take inventory of your belongings before you start packing anything.


As you go through your possessions, it’s imperative to separate what you want to keep from what you need to keep. Any items you haven’t used in the past few years, you should probably donate or trash it. And if you come across something you forgot you even had, it’s certainly time to let it go. The goal of downsizing is to simplify your life, so only take what you need.


2) Categorize Your Belongings Room by Room and Minimize Duplicates


As you catalog your items, it's best to create a system to stay organized. A great way to do this is to use the Three-Box Method, which forces you to make a choice item-by-item. Gather three boxes or containers and label them as “Keep,” “Donate/Throw Out” and “Storage.”


You should keep items that are used in your daily life. Once your “Keep” box is full in each room, pack it up and label it as such to make moving and unpacking effortless.


It's inevitable that you will come across things that you don't need or want anymore. Once you’ve determined which items you’re getting rid of in each room, sort them further by identifying what will be donated, passed down to family or friends, and what is broken or useless should be tossed out.


Seasonal and sentimental items are best to be put in storage. After you complete each room, empty the “Storage” container into labeled storage boxes.


3) Create a Plan of Action to Clear Out Unwanted Items

how to downsize home

Once you’ve pinpointed which objects aren’t making the move with you to your new home, you have several choices of how to get rid of them:

  • Donate: Give up any things that you no longer need to someone who might. Local charities usually accept apparel and other household items that are in good condition. Check out your local Goodwill and thrift stores for the full list of what they accept. You can also try posting to Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist.

  • Host a Garage or Yard Sale: Everyone know the saying "one man's trash is another man's treasure." When downsizing before you move, consider having a garage or yard sale to make some supplementary money. Furniture, electronics, toys, books, antiques, kids’ clothes, small appliances, power tools and lawn equipment are typically popular items at a yard sale.

  • Rent a Dumpster: Most likely not everything you’re getting wanting to get rid of will be in decent enough condition to sell or donate. Renting a dumpster is a worry-free option if you have a lot of things to declutter or downsize, or if you’re throwing out larger household items, like furniture or appliances.

  • Hand Down to Friends and Family: It's tough to throw away sentimental items you no longer have a use for but still have a lot of meaning to you. If there are heirlooms that you feel a family member or friend would appreciate, gift the item to them.

4) Go Digital


Paper mail, bills, and newsletters can really clutter up over the years. Spend some time sorting through old bills, receipts and other physical documents. Shred and recycle anything you don’t need. Store older paper files, such as taxes, in a plastic bin. If you can, scan non-essential records and receipts you may need in the future so you have a digital copy, then shred and toss them out.


Family videos, music and photos can also be digitally converted. This will add a lot of valuable real estate in your living and working areas without having to get rid of things you’d otherwise hold on to. In the day and age of streaming services, it’s probably not worth it to hang onto old VHS tapes, scratched DVDs or CDs. When in doubt, toss them out (or recycle).


5) Maximize Your Storage Space

downsizing homes

When you’re downsizing your home, it’s essential to maximize any space you have for storage. While not every house has assigned storage areas like an attic, basement or garage, here are some typical tips to remember:

  • Devise built-in storage options wherever you can. Multifunctional furniture such as ottomans, entertainment centers, beds with drawers, wardrobes & bookshelves are all helpful for taking clutter out of sight, but conventional shelves are always a good option as well.

  • Use open wall space. Floating shelves are great for displaying souvenirs and decorations around the house, as well as allowing for more storage in your bathroom, bedroom and kitchen.

  • Utilize of unexpected storage spaces. Take advantage of unused areas in your new home, such as crawl spaces, closets and under the stairs to stash sentimental and seasonal items. Affix floating shelves or cubbies, and stack bins in these secluded spots to use your space efficiently and effortlessly find what you need. You can also make additional storage space to your bathrooms by adding towel racks, over-the-door hooks, standalone shelves and bins for under-counter storage, a medicine cabinet and an over-the-toilet shelving unit.

6) Evaluate Your Furniture Size and Wait on Buying New Furniture


Your current furniture may be too large for your new, downsized home. When you are taking inventory of your personal possessions, measure your furniture to determine if and how it will fit in your new areas, or if you’ll need to do away with it. It’s much less painless to figure this out before downsizing, rather than moving a heavy couch into your new house to discover it doesn’t fit.


For this same goal, you should also wait to buy new items until you get a feel for the space you’re dealing with in the new home.


7) Allow Yourself to Take Your Time


An element of evaluating how to downsize is determining when to downsize. Decluttering can be a long process, so allow yourself more time than you think you’ll need to plan for moving and downsizing your belongings. Avoid the stress of rushing to clean out everything, and allow yourself to think about and make logical decisions on what to downsize and do away with.


Lastly, don’t be reluctant to ask for help while downsizing. Ask your friends and family, or even hire a professional service to help with clearing out your home and moving into your new house.

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