Downsizing tips

5 Tips for Easier Downsizing

There are many reasons why people aim to get rid of some of their possessions in order to move into a smaller space.

A new job might take your family to a new city where the home sizes are smaller, for example, or maybe you’re moving into a city apartment from a suburban home. And most of us will eventually choose to move into a smaller, more accessible, and lower maintenance home when we retire.

Related post: What to Look for in Homes for Retirees

However, choosing what to keep and get rid of can be an enormous project, especially when you’ve been accumulating physical stuff for many years. Downsizing work can also be a surprisingly emotional undertaking, requiring you to evaluate objects that used to mean a lot to you, or that represent a specific time from your past.

Different organizational experts all have their own takes on how to approach the job of downsizing. Here are a few tactics that can make the job a little easier.

Start with the big stuff

Consider starting with the larger furniture and appliances that you know you won’t need in your new space. Getting rid of the big items starts your project off with an easy, big win because each large item frees up lots of space in your home. Plus, sorting through furniture and appliances is generally an easier, less emotional job than sorting through piles of documents and souvenirs, which can make it a little easier to start.

If you still want to use certain furniture or appliances before the move, you can start your downsizing efforts by making plans for where they’ll eventually go. For example, you might want to start checking with friends and family first to see if they’d be interested in your furniture or appliances. If you don’t get any takers, you can start taking photos and writing descriptions for an eventual post on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or the like.

Free download: Keep or Toss? 4 Questions to Ask  

This column from Money Crashers has good advice when it comes to downsizing furniture:

“Look carefully at the floor plan of your new space, or do a walk-through with a tape measure to really get a feel for where you can place your tables, chairs, and sofas. You may realize you can keep your dining room table, but you need to sell your breakfast table; or, you may find that you can keep your sofa and a chair, but it’s time to give away your loveseat. It’s better to make these big decisions before you move so you don’t end up paying for the expense to haul or store the excess furniture.”

Downsize one category at a time

People’s general instinct when it comes to cutting down clutter at home seems to be to tackle one room at a time.

However, that’s not necessarily the most effective approach. Marie Kondo’s famous organizational method suggests organizing your things category by category.

Downsizing tips

To get organized, you gather one complete category of stuff — such as clothing or books — from every single area in your house. For example, when you get to the point where you’re organizing your papers, you’d gather them from your home office, your junk drawers, and the filing cabinet in the basement.

Seeing an entire category of stuff together at once will help you prioritize what’s important enough to keep. Working through the categories one at a time also helps keep the job of decluttering more manageable and can contribute to a sense of progress throughout the project.

Organize your stuff by “decision status”

In the classic productivity book “Getting Things Done,” author David Allen shares a few best practices when it comes to organization. He suggests gathering everything that isn’t in a permanent place in your home (anything that’s not going to be there “forever”) and putting it in a pile that he calls an “in-box.”

From there, you can go through the in-box and divide it into the things that you are discarding, things you want to keep, and things that you’re not sure about yet. The benefit of creating a “to-be-decided” pile means that you can save the mental deliberations for another time and move through the piles of stuff more quickly.

Later, when you’re ready and have enough time to dedicate to the job of moving through the “to-be-decided” pile, he suggests doing so in order, one item at a time, never putting an item back into the in-box.

Don’t miss: Keep or Toss? 4 Questions to Ask 

Tackle downsizing in specific increments

Another, perhaps simpler approach to getting your downsizing effort going is to commit yourself to getting rid of a certain number of objects per day — or to dedicate a certain amount of time to the work of downsizing each day.

If you can commit yourself to getting rid of stuff for even just 15 minutes each day, for example, you can make serious progress over time. Plus, promising yourself that you’ll only spend a small amount of time on any unpleasant task makes it much easier to get started (which makes the work much more likely to actually happen).

Another option for committing to the decluttering process is to commit yourself to removing a certain number of items each day, or, filling a trash bag each week.

Here are a few other downsizing tips that Kimberly McMahon, founder of moving service Let’s Move, shared with The New York Times:

  • Write some organizing time on your calendar.
  • Start small, even if it’s matching up a cup with a saucer.
  • Get a friend to help.
  • Call and book a donation pickup for the next day.

Embrace the adventure

Getting rid of your possessions can be bittersweet, but it also presents an exciting opportunity.

Getting rid of your possessions can be bittersweet, but it also presents an exciting opportunity. Share on X

We like how this writer on the site Be More With Less sums it up:

“Through the decluttering and downsizing process, I’ve realized that it’s so much more than organizing your stuff, emptying your closets, or living in a smaller space. It’s about creating a life with room for what matters most.”

Good luck as you embrace more of what makes you happy.

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