At different seasons in life many of us will face the need to downsize to a smaller home or apartment. Maybe you’re an empty nester or there are other circumstances that have changed. Perhaps you just want to declutter your current space.
In this post, we’ll tackle some ways to deal with this often emotionally draining process.
Study the New Space
- Measure the new rooms. Is a floorplan available? This will take the guesswork out of, “Will my sofa fit?” Make notes of windows and doors when considering furniture placement.
- How much storage space is in the kitchen, closets, crawl spaces and attic? Are there other storage spaces available such as a garage? Some condos and apartments offer storage space in the building but it may come at an additional monthly cost.
- Ask questions, find out storage details.
- Try a free service like Better Homes and Gardens Arrange a Room to help with designing your new space.
- Make a basic list of the “must haves” for your new space such as beds, dressers, lamps, etc. This will help later when faced with making tough decisions of what to move with you.
Survey Each Room in Your Current Home – Start Small
- Gather some boxes. Pick one room or area and empty the long-term storage areas first. Check closets, under the beds, or attic and crawl spaces. If you haven’t seen an item or used it for at least a year, you likely won’t need it in the future. Think of the item as being helpful to someone else as you put it in a box to donate to charity.
- Hobbies: Maybe it’s time to donate those tennis rackets if you no longer play. Survey other items and consider seriously if you will ever use them. Don’t get caught in the “maybe some day” trap.
- What about unused exercise equipment? Those bands that were supposed to give you abs of steel have been in a box under your bed for a year. Maybe there’s a new way you are exercising now?
- Then go through current items. Consider how each item you donate or sell will benefit someone else and free up your space.
China, Crystal, Family Heirlooms, Collections
- If you have sets of china, crystal, and other expensive and/or antique items, it might be a good idea to hire a property appraiser to value your items. This could help determine the course of action you take with them.
- Consider gifting special items. Perhaps you have a granddaughter that has always admired your collection of cow salt and pepper shakers? This might be a good time to anticipate upcoming holiday, birthday or even wedding gifts with heirloom family items.
- If you find yourself with shelves of great books that you don’t know what to do with, consider a shop that buys used books. You can Google and find those in your local area that will buy your used treasures.
Create Digital Memories! Overcome the “I just can’t part with it” syndrome.
- One way to keep memories and attachments to special items is to take a photo of the item. Almost any smartphone these days has a camera capable of taking great photos. Whether it’s a pile of special old letters photographed one at a time, a furniture item or even artwork made by your children. If you cannot or don’t want to move or store it, a photo will assure the memories will remain. Whenever you have the urge to look at those items, you can pull up the photo.
- Create digital files for your special items. Label the photo files in digital folders such as “Old Letters” or “Childhood Artwork”. Imagine how much you can store on a digital file! Just be sure to back up your digital photos as you would any other digital files of importance.
- Donate or Sell Unused Items.
- There are plenty of options for disposing of unwanted and unneeded items. If you’d like to make donations, it can be as simple as pulling up your vehicle to a drop off location and offloading boxes and bags of items. Resale shops have varying commissions. Call around and see what your area stores offer. Craigslist can be a good avenue for some larger items, or NextDoor and Facebook Market.
- If you have vintage items that might have a higher value, you can search online to see what they are selling for on Ebay or other online sites.
Label Boxes Carefully as You Go
- Be sure to clearly label boxes as they are packed. Make sure those that are for donations are indicated as such so there’s no mixup.
- Boxes that are going to the new location should be labeled with a general overview of contents and by room, for example, ‘Kitchen. Serving utensils, mixing bowls’. That way when you arrive at your new place you can put them in the space where they will be unpacked, saving yourself time later. Also, if you need to find something in a hurry, you’ll just have to read the box labels.
Take Breaks and Take Your Time
- If you aren’t under a time pressure, give yourself time to process the emotions of downsizing. Many times, it involves sorting items from childhood, or maybe collections amassed over several decades. It could include parting with treasures purchased when traveling. You might have gifts that were given to you by a special someone that may no longer be in your life for various reasons. If you are downsizing alone, consider inviting a good friend to hang out and give you a hand.
When all is said and finally done, hopefully you feel the freedom of living lighter. Your new space is a brand-new opportunity for a fresh start. A space that holds only things that bring you joy and inspiration and is less of an expensive storage space.
With the extra time you now save from cleaning and maintenance you can spend reading or blogging. Maybe you’ve wanted to start biking or hiking or maybe some other activity you’ve wanted to try. The extra money you save from lower utility bills, mortgage or rent can maybe go towards paying down some debt, student loan, add to your retirement account or even a much-needed vacation.
Hopefully these tips can help you on your journey. We’d love to hear your downsizing story or thoughts or concerns if its been on your mind.