Moving to a Smaller House and Decluttering a Lifetime of Belongings

Moving to a Smaller House and Decluttering a Lifetime of Belongings

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Last updated on July 28th, 2023 at 08:14 am

Nothing is as hard as moving out of a home you’ve lived in almost all your life. The mere thought of downsizing can be overwhelming. The amount of goods you can accumulate after living in the same house for many years can fill a warehouse. 

Maybe you’re moving to a retirement community next month, or maybe you’re moving to a smaller home because all your kids have grown up and moved out. Figuring out how to squeeze your belongings into a smaller home can take most of your time. 

To make the process easy, get rid of the items you don’t need without throwing away the essential belongings. This might sound simple, but believe us, it’s not! You may be tempted to hold onto items you love and fail to prioritize space for the most important things. 

We’re not saying you get rid of everything. We’ve gathered tips from industry experts to help you navigate the downsizing process. So, if you’re moving to a smaller house and decluttering a lifetime of belongings, here’s how to go about it.

Start Decluttering 6 Months Before You Move

The thing is, if you start decluttering the month before you move, you won’t do a proper job. Begin six months in advance, and enlist some help because you will need it. Plan to finish decluttering before the sixth month.

Start decluttering furniture and large items before sorting smaller items. If you’re moving to a one-bedroom condo, don’t keep two beds, two dressers, and two bedside tables–you won’t need them all. Also, it’s not cheap to transport large furniture. If there’s no space for the extra furniture, you’ll have to pay for storage.

Keep What’s Important and Get Rid of What Isn’t

Keep the things you want, those you use, and those you need–but make sure you’re paring down. Don’t discard things you’ll need to buy again. Don’t give away all your cutlery. Put a few pieces in a box to avoid buying them again.

Experts recommend creating four piles as you sort your things, those you’d like to keep, donate, sell, and throw away. You may need to hold a garage sale or sell your stuff online on sites like ebay. You can also donate your used furniture.

Digitize Everything 

You may have a large filing cabinet in your home filled with real estate files, tax documents, and other documents you think you can’t live without. But if you’re moving and can’t take them with you, scan the important documents and throw away the rest.

You can digitize DVDs, CDs,  video cassettes, and photos. They can be saved to the cloud to free up space. Important documents like social security cards and birth certificates can be saved in a single folder. By going paperless, you’ll do away with physical documents, discs, and videos. You’ll also help save the environment.

Remember, the content is what’s valuable, not where it’s contained. Your photos are what’s important. Not the papers they are printed on. Store them digitally and save space without losing your precious memories.

Don’t Rent a Storage Unit 

Downsizing Home Checklist

When renting a storage unit, no one thinks “I’ll pay for this unit for the next 10 years.” But in most cases, that often happens. Storage units feed your bad habit of keeping things you don’t need. And the worst thing is you pay for the privilege. Remember our one-year rule: get rid of all things you haven’t used in the last year. 

The only things you can keep are seasonal clothes and decorations–but not the fluff. If you have sentimental items you don’t use but can’t throw away, give them to a family member or a friend. 

Keep Multifunctional Furniture

If you’re moving to a smaller house and not a retirement home, you may host guests from time to time. Instead of getting a bigger house, get multifunctional furniture for times when you have guests over. For example, a fold-out couch or a futon can provide an extra bed. On other days, it can make your living area more functional.

In a smaller home, each item should serve many functions. Some coffee tables feature storage and even accommodate folding armchairs underneath. And even if space won’t be a precious commodity, you’ll save money if you buy multifunctional furniture. You can get a bed with storage. It may have large drawers underneath for holding bedding. 

Make the Most of Vertical Space

You may be keeping your shoes in different closets, but a shoe rack can be a better option because it holds more shoes. Look for ways to make the most of space. You can sell your large dresser on ebay and buy a narrower one on the same site. You can also sell your current coffee table and get an ottoman with storage.

Steer Clear of Hidden Costs

When moving to a smaller house and decluttering a lifetime of belongings, do all you can to save money. When getting space-saving, multifunctional furniture, buy used. If you’re moving from a large house to a condo, it’s important to be aware of condo fees. Condo fees include a contribution toward the building’s maintenance and upkeep, but they may also include water, heat, sewer, garbage collection, electricity, and cable TV.

Downsizing Home Checklist

Here are some tips to help you pare down items.

  • Group similar items together. That way, you’ll know if you have four hammers, or three spatulas. Donate or sell what you don’t need and keep the rest.
  • Throw away what’s expired. Whether it’s medicine or a box of muffin mix, you won’t use it in your new home. Discard anything that’s long passed its use-by date.
  • Ignore the price tag. The mink coat you bought in 1990 may be worth a lot less now. Don’t hold onto things just because you paid a lot of money for them. What should matter is whether you use it or need it.
  • Make a decision and move on. Putting items in the donation pile only to remove them again is time-consuming and emotionally draining. Make a decision and move on. 
  • Choose clothing and possessions that reflect your current life. This doesn’t need a lot of explanation. Don’t keep clothes and belongings based on the life you hope to live, keep them based on the life you’re living and will continue to live. Follow the one-year rule and donate or sell items you haven’t used in the last year. 
Downsizing At 70

Lastly, don’t assume you should move with everything already in storage because it’s already packed. Open and declutter every box. You may find gems you’d like to keep, but chances are most of the things are for donating or selling.

Downsizing At 70

Downsizing to a smaller home in your old age can have its advantages. It may address mobility issues—because of smaller and fewer steps—and allow you to move around easily. Reducing clutter can create more space and minimize the chances of tripping incidents or dangerous falls that may lead to a loss of mobility. 

Decluttering and Downsizing For Seniors: Our Best Tips

Maintaining a home is time-consuming, costly, and stressful. You may no longer be able to care for your home as you used to. Downsizing and moving to a condo or a senior living community can help free up your time and relieve the stress that comes with home ownership. Here are our best tips for decluttering and downsizing:

  • Set aside plenty of time for decluttering–at least six months.
  • Tackle one area at a time, one day at a time. Sort the items in one room before moving to the next.
  • Ask for help because you’ll need it.
  • Put items in four categories: keep, donate, sell, discard.

How to Downsize Your Home for Retirement

Downsizing for retirement needs a lot of planning and takes time. You have to donate unwanted items, organize your home, put it up for sale, and move to a new location. Some retirees hire experts to help, while others enlist the help of their friends and family.

If you can afford it, we recommend hiring professional organizers. They can help you make objective decisions and decide what to keep and what to get rid of. They can sort, pack, and discard items quickly because they have no emotional attachment to the items. 

How to Downsize from House to Condo

If you’re moving from a big house to a condo, you probably have a lot of stuff that can’t fit in the condo. You’ll have to get rid of some stuff before you move, So, how to downsize from house to condo? 

  • Find out the size of the condominium
  • Sort through all your things 
  • Sell or donate unused items
  • Give sentimental items to your family

What to Do With Furniture When Downsizing

Discard any furniture that doesn’t function as it should. If some chairs can’t be sat on, give them away. Donate all the furniture to charity. You can request for a charitable donations receipt to use come tax time. You can also give items to your friends or family.

Don’t Get Overwhelmed or Emotionally Drained When Decluttering 

Decluttering a lifetime of belongings can be overwhelming and draining. It can uncover a multitude of emotions, including anxiety, sadness, grief, and stress. If you get overwhelmed, talk to someone. Ask a friend or family member to come over and help you sort things. They can listen to you talk about sentimental objects and help you get rid of things you no longer need. 

When something has been in your life for 30-40 years, it’s not easy saying goodbye. It becomes like a member of your family. Talking to an old friend over the phone after a day of decluttering can help calm your nerves. If you don’t have someone to speak to, you can consider speaking to a therapist or even your primary care doctor.

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