Downsizing can be both freeing and stressful. It’s never easy to pare down a lifetime of memories, and most of us tend to associate our belongings with events and the people we love.
To help you make the transition easier, we have a guide on how to downsize. Read through our downsizing tips to help make sure you don’t make any mistakes while paring down enough to happily move to a smaller home or apartment.
1. Browse beautiful rooms
Begin by getting inspired.
You can thumb through magazines and books, or peruse the beautiful images of Houzz.com. Pay attention to how little clutter you see. Pay attention to the positive feelings you have about those simplified rooms.
Hot Tip: Tape a photo of a beautiful, simplified room into each room of your home. They can inspire you during your purge.
2. Contemplate simplicity
Get yourself mentally prepared — if not excited — that you have the opportunity to live in a simpler space, a space filled with only the things you love.
Think, too, about how many things you own that you haven’t actually used, touched or even seen in over a year. Focus on the joy you will feel by donating, selling or giving those items away. No matter which option you choose, you win.
3. Find a new home for some of your belongings
Ask family members and close friends if they would be interested in any of your belongings before you start to sort. Ask them to list what type of items they might be interested in, or to make any specific requests (in case someone loves a particular painting, memento or piece of furniture). If you don’t get a reply — especially from those under the age of about 30 — make a mental note to save a few things for them anyway. They might be too young to know the value of sentiment.
4. Invest in rubber tubs for items you’ll be gifting
These are your gift tubs, and we recommend rubber tubs with lids that seal tight. Think of them as a lovely gift, because they are. With each piece of jewelry, photo, letter, memento, homemade quilt or old letter jacket, you are filling this box with treasures that are sure to elicit a smile.
Picture future generations of your family enjoying or telling stories about these items. Label your tubs with the name of who they are intended for and put them in one room of the house.
If you have lots of family pics, consider one gallery wall of favorites. Ask your children to take or digitize the remaining images.
5. Identify items you absolutely love or cherish
Picture having to quickly evacuate your home. What few items would utterly devastate you if they were lost? (We’re not talking about collectibles with value, we’ll get to those in a minute). These are likely photos, letters, artwork, handmade gifts or things you made, jewelry, a small family heirloom, perhaps an item or two from your travels. What sentimental items would you save from a burning house? Gather or identify these items first. Try using sticky notes to mark these items or pack them all in a box.
Keep this selection deliberately small. It’s meant to be a special and meaningful group of items. There’s another level of belongings you can keep which are non-critical. But a personal treasure pile should fit in your backseat.
6. Declutter room by room: Gift, sell, donate or trash
Now you’re ready for the nitty-gritty part of how to downsize. Declutter room by room and learn the extraordinary feeling of lightness that a purge can bring. There are four categories that matter most to you now: Gift, sell, donate, trash. The more items you can identify for each category, the happier you will be (and the lighter your load at moving time). Tackle your home room by room — you’ll have a larger feeling of accomplishment that way.
If you have the space to do so, move items you plan to sell or donate into dedicated spaces, like the garage or a spare room. Fill your rubber gift tubs as you go. In addition, think about how you’d like to sell other items. There are selling apps, consignment stores and garage sales you could use to sell your unwanted items. Or, if you amass enough items, an estate sale or auction could be more productive. It won’t be long before you get a rush from filling your trash cans. You can do it!
Hot Tip: Many cities have thrift stores and organizations which will pick up items if scheduled on the day the truck goes to your neighborhood.
7. Consider your new floorplan
It also helps to have a floorplan of your new home, with the dimensions on it. Measure your favorite furnishings and figure out which pieces will comfortably fit into new spaces, and which should find a new home. There’s fun in acquiring a few pieces for a smaller home, and selling, auctioning or consigning older furnishings and collectibles might well cover those expenses.
8. Consult with others about their belongings
If you aren’t familiar with how to downsize there are a few mistakes you can make. One is getting rid of your children’s items without telling them. Give adult children a deadline by which to claim their left-behind items. Send them pics from your phone if they’re far away. Offer to ship them a box but don’t consider moving their items to your smaller home. The time has come. You are no longer obligated to store their old school yearbooks or letter jackets, cheerleading uniforms or trophies.
9. Be aware of emotions
If you’re downsizing after a tragedy, don’t go overboard. You might consider putting some things in storage for a year or having a friend help you decide what to keep. Emotions run high after unexpected events, and if you’re depressed, you may get rid of things you’ll want later. Don’t, however, use this as an excuse to keep everything.
10. Analyze your collectibles
The last warning: Don’t be sloppy when it comes to collectibles. Set them aside until you can get them evaluated by an expert or at least a friend or relative with a computer. These might include baseball cards, signed memorabilia, vintage toys or artisan-crafted pieces.
11. Consolidate the items you only need one of
Here’s a quick list to help you pare down some things of which we all accumulate extras. These are items you likely only need one of:
- Set of dishes
- Set of glassware
- Set of Tupperware
- Set of mixing bowls
- Large serving platter
- Household tools (hammer, screwdriver, tape measure)
- Extra blankets (keep one heavy and one light, per guest bed)
- Large winter and summer purse
- Coat for each type of weather (extra-warm, lighter-weight, rain jacket, windbreaker)
- Umbrella (one travel size, one oversized)
- Cooler (you might keep a small one for car trips or picnics with grandkids)
- Set of small tools, measuring tape
Hot Tip: Remember that donations will be a tax write-off. Always get a receipt.
12. Purge items you won’t need in an apartment or smaller home
Small homes don’t require as many tools or decorations you may have stored in your garage or shed. To help you identify which items you can get rid of, here is a list of items you won’t need in your new home:
- Ladders larger than a stepstool
- Garden tools
- Large power tools
- Excessive outdoor Christmas decorations
Hot Tip: If an item’s been in a box for more than a year, it’s very likely time to let it go.
13. Ask a friend or professional to help
If you have trouble with decision-making, ask someone impartial to help you. Be sure to choose someone who embraces your goal of downsizing and decluttering. A friend won’t have the same emotional attachment to your items and can help you narrow down your belongings, while also helping make sure you keep what you love. If your friends aren’t available, a professional or aspiring home organizer could be a great investment. They will be efficient while also being kind.
Embrace this new chapter
Downsizing to a new apartment may seem daunting, but with these downsizing tips, you’ll be ready to move in no time. By going into this process with an open mind, you will be able to create a home filled with your most important items to start this new chapter of your life.
Are you downsizing after retirement? Be sure to check out senior apartments in your area.