Mortgages

9 Tips for Downsizing Your Home

Downsizing your home can be a rewarding way to save money, declutter, and justify moving from a bigger house to a smaller one. Learn how to make the process pain-free and even enjoyable.

Tips for Downsizing Your Home

Big homes are not for everyone. Maybe you’ve bought your “dream home” only to find out you do not use many of the rooms efficiently, or want to save money on your mortgage. Whatever the case may be, it’s common to find yourself wanting a smaller space.

What Does Downsizing Mean?

If you’ve found yourself in a larger home than you want, downsizing is the process of moving from that to a smaller space. It often means shrinking your physical possessions so that you can actually fit into a smaller home. 

There are many reasons to downsize, and it can happen at any stage in your life. Some common examples include empty nesters who no longer need their children’s bedrooms, people who want a simpler, less cluttered way of living, those who travel often and so find themselves constantly away from home, or those who want more money for other things in life. 

Downsizing can be rewarding, but it’s also hard work. If you’ve accumulated years of possessions or you’re moving to a much smaller home, you likely have many possessions to go through. Though you could keep it all, it you may end up cramped in your new space, or you could find yourself renting a storage unit for your excess belongings. To ensure you are prepared to downsize not only your home but also your lifestyle, follow these 9 tips to get started on the right foot.

1. Take an Inventory of Your Belongings

This doesn’t need to be an extensive list of each and every thing you have, however, it’s wise to take note of the things you know you want in your new home. Beds, couches, appliances, and other big-ticket items are probably a must, for example. Creating some kind of checklist for essentials to keep can help you focus on what’s important. 

As you come across things you’re unsure about, you can add them to a different list and put them aside. You can then revisit that list to decide which items on that list you can let go of. 

2. Set Some Rules for What Goes and What Stays

When you’re going through things, it may be easy to set aside too many “maybes.” In other words, these are things you might not need but cannot seem to let go. While some “maybes” are permissible, it helps to set some clear ground rules for how you’re going to sort things. For starters, what are your options for dealing with an item? 

  • Keep the item
  • Donate the item
  • Sell the item
  • Memorialize the item by taking a photo of it
  • Throw the item away
  • Pass the item on to someone else

Knowing exactly what your options are can be a good starting point. Then it may be helpful to get more specific. Do you want to have fewer books? Are you trying to downsize your wardrobe? Are you going to have a smaller kitchen or less storage space? 

These questions can help you identify what kinds of things you should be looking to liquidate. When you know you have to choose your things carefully, it can help you be more decisive. Other criteria for downsizing could include:

  • Have you used it in the past 6 months?
  • Does it have sentimental value?
  • Does it bring you joy?

3. Work Room by Room

Going through all of your worldly possessions can be overwhelming. Taking it room by room can help you keep clutter to a minimum and make the process more organized. If you do not know where to start once you’ve determined the first room to work on, think about what you don’t want to keep. 

Pulling all of these items from the room first can help you remove some of the pressure. Once you know which items you do not want, you can sell them, donate them, or trash them. When you’re sorting, you may even find that you have duplicates — or at least many of the same type of object. Identifying which ones are your favorites can help you decide what to let go of. 

Then, you can start whittling down the next room, and the next. When you’re done with the things you don’t want, go room by room and identify things that can go into storage. This may be decor, seasonal items, or things you want to pass down one day.

4. Have a Plan for Unwanted Items

If you’re getting rid of a lot of things, chances are you need a good game plan to make sure you do away with the clutter as fast as possible. Otherwise, you run the risk of mixing things up or changing your mind.

Donate

If you’ve got clothes, books, furniture, art, or even kitchenware, you can probably donate a good portion of it. Local thrift stores and charities often accept these things if they’re in good condition. 

Sell

You may have some items that could generate some cash. Collector’s items, furniture, or even old appliances often sell well. Consider a resale platform where shipping is included, or use a system to reach people locally. A little research can help you decide whether something is valuable or not. 

If you decide to sell, it’s important to take good pictures. It also demands good communication skills, as you could get numerous inquiries and offers. Selling off your things takes time and work. If that does not sound like you want to invest, you might consider donating instead. 

Rent a Dumpster

If you anticipate throwing a lot of stuff away, especially large items, it might be worth renting a dumpster or scheduling a junk removal service. This can help you remove things that you likely cannot sell or donate, such as broken furniture and old mattresses.

5. Measure Your Furniture

If you’re moving into a smaller space, it’s a good idea to measure your furniture and see if it’s going to fit. You may find that you need a smaller couch or fewer bookshelves, for example. It is easier to do this ahead of time than to find out when you’re moving that your old furniture will not fit in your new space. This will also allow you time to sell or donate oversized pieces and scout for replacements.

6. Take Your Time

If you know you’re going to downsize, give yourself enough time between buying your new home and moving in. In many cases, downsizing is less a question of how than of when. When you do things on short notice, you run the risk of making hasty decisions, which can lead to regret. That, or you might run out of time and end up moving in with all your things anyway. It’s much easier to downsize before you get to your new home.

7. Get Organized

You may have ideas for how you’d like to organize your new home, so why wait? Grabbing organizational tools like drawer dividers, plastic totes, and more can help you prepare your things now — especially when you’re already combing through your possessions. 

This can also include files and documents you keep on hand. Grab a paper shredder and let go of things that are more than 6 years old (the maximum timeframe for an IRS audit). If you’re concerned you may need them, use a scanner to digitize important documents. Documents you already have online can be thrown out as well. 

Of course, you want to keep critical items, like your birth certificate, in good condition. Have a safe place, such as a fireproof lockbox, to store documents you absolutely need to keep.

Don’t stop there, though. Downsizing is a great time to start building your digital library. You may have certain physical books you couldn’t bear to part with. Keep those, but consider selling the rest and converting to e-books. That way you can revisit your favorites without losing valuable space in your new home. 

8. Turn Clutter Into Treasure

Do you have things of sentimental value that you don’t really use but cannot bear to get rid of? Try turning them into something new and more useful. If you have a collection of commemorative shirts from projects you’ve been involved in, try turning them into a quilt. You could turn old drawings into wall art, or even take children’s art projects and turn them into Christmas ornaments. An old toy chest might be the perfect upcycle for a coffee table with built-in storage. If you are not the crafty type, look up companies that may be able to convert items for you to give them a second, less space-intensive life.

9. Remember Your Downsizing Goals

Ultimately, remember why you decided to downsize to begin with. Think about the new lifestyle you’re going to create for yourself, and how that applies to your things. This can help you refocus your efforts to get the job done.

If you want to save money by downsizing, dig a little deeper. Are you hoping to save money in favor of traveling? Do you want to spend more time with your loved ones or pick up a new hobby? Some of your reasons may just provide the motivation you need to start the process.

Want to get clearer on your “why”? Here are some great questions to ask yourself:

  • What are your most important reasons for downsizing, and why?
  • How will downsizing create opportunities, and what are those?
  • Can downsizing help you make room for new activities?
  • What part of the downsizing process is the most exciting or motivating?
  • If downsizing worries you, what is going to help you alleviate that fear?
  • What’s the first thing you are going to do when you move in?

After you reflect on these questions, re-evaluate all your reasons for downsizing beyond fitting your belongings into your new, smaller home.