You don’t need a survey to tell you that moving is one of the most stressful events in a person’s life.
Everything about it—from sorting to packing to finagling furniture down the stairs and out the door—it’s a tiresome task from start to finish.
But downsizing? That’s even more stressful...
Downsizing to a smaller home means you need to declutter your house—a process that some people find downright painful.
If you’ve lived in your home for more than 10 years, chances are that you’ve accumulated more stuff than you realize. Many of those things probably have sentimental value to you.
And yet there’s no getting around it. Whether your kids are all out of the house and you’re ready to retire or you’re facing a financial setback … you need to make a plan for downsizing. And that includes decluttering.
So where do you start when you’re downsizing to a smaller home? We encourage you to begin with these 9 steps:
1. Start Early, Make a Plan, Tell Your Loved Ones
Yes, in that order!
It’s a good idea to start making plans for downsizing about six months before you actually do it. This gives you plenty of time to come up with a practical action plan and to let your kids and other loved ones know what you’re thinking.
Making a plan will make it easier to declutter your house. When you’re looking at that knick-knack your cousin gave you, it’ll be easier to toss it when you remember that this downsizing plan you’ve made is nonnegotiable.
Starting early also gives your loved ones a chance to clear out any stuff they may still be keeping at your house. Give them a deadline to make sure they follow through!
2. Begin Decluttering Your Closet, Then Your Drawers
When decluttering your house, it helps to start with specific rooms and spots in the home.
We encourage you to start with your closet. If you’re like most people, you’ve probably purchased plenty of new pieces over the years … and didn’t throw out nearly as many.
Many moms have kept their maternity clothes or their baby’s clothes for decades out of sentiment.
But clothes don’t last very well for decades unless their top quality. So don’t feel bad about throwing them out. If you’re looking to downsize significantly, force yourself to go down to a certain number of shirts, pants, shoes, etc. Some people choose 10 for each, but you’ll know best what you need.
3. Clearing the Kitchen: Toss Out Duplicates
The kitchen is one of the greatest culprits for harboring duplicate items. Think about it … how many spatulas do you own? Mixing bowls? Coffee cups? Tupperware?
You probably don’t need nearly as many kitchen utensils as you have. Go on the hunt for duplicate items in your kitchen, and either toss them out or give them away to someone who needs them.
4. Downsize Your Bulky Furniture
If you’re downsizing significantly, then most of your current furniture likely won’t fit in your new home.
Consider getting rid of your bulky items and replacing them with more versatile and compact pieces.
For instance, even though that huge four-seat sofa is beautiful, a smaller loveseat will work just as well.
In the same vein, your decked-out entertainment center and 75-inch TV probably won’t fit well either. Consider selling those items and using the money to buy newer and smaller replacements.
5. Sell or Give Away What You Don’t Want
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to get some extra cash when you can. Try to sell your bigger, more expensive items like furniture, TVs, and computers.
Facebook Marketplace makes this process fairly easy. And if you really don’t have the time to do it (or you simply hate technology), then ask a friend or family member to do it for you.
If your neighborhood allows it, consider holding a yard sale for your smaller items. You’d be surprised what some people might want from your collection!
And of course, if something means a lot to you, then give it to someone you love who you know will appreciate it.
6. Go Digital
This includes your personal records, important documents, and even family photos. (Raise your hand if you have over 15 photo albums stashed away!)
Going digital will save you more space than you realize. Trying to find enough room all your hard copies in your smaller home will be difficult.
If you’re worried about the security of going digital, then save several backups on external hard drives.
7. Let Yourself Grieve
One of the biggest obstacles when downsizing to a smaller home is the sheer emotion behind it. A part of you might feel like you’re throwing away important memories—memories of family members, loved ones who have passed away, or fond moments when your kids were younger.
Remember that, while things can remind us of people we love, letting them go doesn’t mean we’re devaluing those memories. Give yourself time to grieve the loss of those items if you need to.
And of course, take pictures of items you love that you know you need to toss. That way, you can still look back and remember.
8. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
Sometimes the size of the project or the emotion behind it makes downsizing to a smaller home too much to handle on your own.
That’s OK, my friend. You can ask for help!
Friends and family members may be able to devote several hours to the process. And if they can’t, then think about hiring a professional home organizer or decluttering service provider. (Yes, those exist!)
9. Search the Listings for the Perfect Home for You
Now that you are on your way to decluttering your house, it’s time to start the best part: house hunting!