Your lifestyle needs and tastes will change over time. My grandparents absolutely love their home. 2,000 square feet, 4 beds, 2 baths in the perfect weather of Huntington Beach. What more could you ask for?
They lived in that house for 30 years, but eventually, although they loved the home dearly, they came to the realization that it just wasn’t working for them anymore. They had both developed health conditions that made it difficult to navigate the stairs, and just doing standard chores and maintenance on the house was more than they could handle.
It was time to downsize. And as if accepting that wasn’t hard enough, they came face to face with the reality of what moving to a smaller home entails: What to do with the lifetime’s worth of possessions that that barely fit in the current house as it was. It can be really hard for people to part with possessions that they have held onto for years for one reason or another.
I think that this is a huge challenge for a lot of people. Unfortunately, this can cause people who have every desire to downsize to put it off for months or even years.
After entering the Real Estate industry I quickly realized that “downsizing” is one of the most common reasons that people are looking to sell and buy homes. So, I decided to put together this guide on how to make downsizing an easier and more pleasant experience.
1. Create an Inventory of Your Stuff
The first step to downsizing efficiently is to document your possessions. You can do this on paper, or better yet, use a spreadsheet. You’ll want to go through everything you own and write down what it is, what kind of shape it’s in, and it’s market value if you plan selling stuff.
This inventory will be useful for a lot reasons. First, it will help you filter out duplicates that you have of certain items. But it can also serve as a handy packing list when you move, and help you get a good estimate for what your moving costs will be.
2. Use a Floor Plan to Configure Your New Home’s Layout
Take measurements and draw up an accurate floor plan of your new home. You will also want to measure the dimensions of all your large furniture pieces. Now start visualizing where all your furniture is going to fit in the new home.
This will help you identify which pieces just aren’t going to be a good fit for the new place. It’s better to identify these before the move so you can save time, money, and energy on stuff that you are ultimately not going to keep.
*hint: You should also measure the doorways in your new home. Sometimes you’ll find that certain appliances or oddly-shaped pieces of furniture may actually be impossible to move into some rooms.
3. Consider All The Factors
Sometimes the decision about whether to keep something or toss it goes beyond whether or not you like it and have the space. There are several factors that should be considered when making a decision.
Weather Where are you moving to? If you’re moving from Spokane WA to Orange County CA, you definitely won’t be needing that snow blower anymore.
- Routine – If you are moving to an apartment, you can leave the lawn mower behind. No more yard work for you!
- Moving Cost – Some items can cost you a lot of money in terms of moving and/or shipping. Sometimes, it can make more sense to sell it before you move, and buy a new one later.
- Value – On the other hand, some antiques, heirlooms, or items with sentimental value may be worth keeping. Even if they do take up a lot of precious space.
- Practicality – Make an honest evaluation of how practical items are. Are they worn out? Has it been a while since you’ve used it? How likely is it that you will ever actually use it again? If it’s not in great shape, or you haven’t touched it in years you should seriously consider just letting it go.
4. Sort and Organize
As you go through every corner and cranny taking an inventory of your possessions, why not start the organizing process as you go? Pull everything out from under the beds, in the cabinets and drawers, and put everything in a staging area. Then, start sorting into different piles:
- The Keep Pile – For the stuff that you use and are definitely going to take with you to our new home.
- The Sell Pile – The stuff that you don’t need or have room for, but has value, is in good shape, and could be sold online or at a garage sale.
- The Give-Away Pile – Stuff that you don’t need, is in good shape, but probably isn’t worth the time and effort of trying to sell.
- The Toss Pile – Stuff that is worn out, broken, or outdated. Just get rid of it! You’re never going to use it again, and it’s just taking up space in your home.
*A little story: My grandfather was an electrical engineer, and over the years he had acquired piles of expensive electronic equipment. The problem was, all this stuff was just sitting there taking up tons of space in the garage. Most of these items, while prized possessions decades ago, were completely obsolete and impractical today. He ended up discarding all of it at the garbage dump.
As you go through everything, be strict and be resolute. If you don’t feel strongly about keeping an item, it’s not worth keeping. Once you’ve made up your mind, don’t think about that item again!
5. Start early and don’t backtrack
In order to relieve some of the stress of downsizing, don’t wait until the last minute to start going through your stuff. Get started early, several weeks or months early if you can. Don’t reconsider items that you have already decided to discard.
When people try to go through everything at the last minute, they tend to get overwhelmed. These people often end up packing everything up and going through it at the new home. Unfortunately, this won’t save you any money on moving costs, and it will ultimately be harder to go through in a more confined space.