Downsizing can be stressful. Selling your home is a big change in itself, but moving to a smaller space can be an even bigger adjustment.
Here are a few tips to help you navigate through the downsizing landmine.
Give yourself lots of time to prepare. You should start at least three months before your actual move, so you don’t feel anxious about running out of time.
If possible, get a floorplan of your new space to help with planning.
We all have lots of stuff. It just magically accumulates over the years. Deciding what to keep and what to get rid of is often the biggest challenge.
Ask yourself: If everything you owned was lost in a fire, what would you replace? Take stock of the things that are actually important to you, and the things that you could live without. A great rule of thumb is if you haven’t used it or worn it in over a year, it’s time to get rid of it!
Keep only the things that bring you joy. Here’s how one of my clients put it:
“Don’t double up on stuff. If you have a ‘good’ set of dishes and an everyday set, keep the set you like the best and use it every day. Live like you are rich with less stuff. Think quality and quantity.”
If there are things you need to keep for sentimental reasons, keep something small, not a huge armoire or china cabinet.
Think about what you could downsize that would make sense in your smaller living space – things like furniture, shelving, and dining tables. Get rid of that huge dining room table that seats ten, or that overstuffed armchair that looks like it was made for three people. Replace it with smart multipurpose furniture. A coffee table that opens to reveal storage. A pull-out couch that will double as a place for guests to sleep. You get the idea!
If you come across a few things that you feel torn about keeping versus throwing out, enlist the help of someone trustworthy to help you decide. But if they say it’s got to go, it’s got to go!
To help you purge, it’s helpful to make three lists:
- Things I can live without
- Things I could replace
If you need to figure out what it is you really use, try the “cardboard box test.”
The Cardboard Box Test
A couple of months before you move, empty your kitchen drawers and put everything into a cardboard box. Over the course of a month, every time you need something, take it from the box and then return it to the drawer.
At the end of the month, everything left in the box gets thrown out!
One wise client of mine who recently downsized from a house to a one-bedroom condo, told me she took only four pots with her. “I used to have so many pots, all different sizes, but I realized that I really only needed four. There are only four elements on the stove so I can’t use more than that!”
Another asked herself, “How many mixing bowls do I really need?!” She asked the same thing about towels, sheets and clothes and recommends being ruthless. Get rid of all those multiple items.
What to Do with the Stuff You Purge?
You can have a yard sale, sell things on Craigslist, donate them to charity, or give them to family. That grandkid who finally moved out probably doesn’t have much in the way of house stuff.
You can also enlist the help of a professional service that can purge with you and take away all of the items you don’t want. They then donate them to charity or recycle them for you.
Finding the Right Place
Moving from a house to a condo can be a strange thing for people, especially those who like to garden or pursue other hobbies in their yard or garage.
When choosing your new smaller space, think about what it is that really makes you happy. It might mean having some outdoor space in the shape of a balcony, patio, or common area yard, or being able to walk to the grocery store or a community garden.
Figure out your own personal must-haves for a happy life, and then work with a Real Estate Agent experienced in downsizing to help you find a home you will be happy in.
New Home Sweet Home
Once you make the transition to your new home, be sure to take advantage of all the available storage space you can get your hands on. Ottomans and coffee tables that open up and have space inside, wall-mounted shelving, under-bed storage boxes—they're your best friends if you're moving to a smaller space.
When it comes to small spaces, try to store up, not out. If you can make use of your walls for storage and shelving, do it – it'll keep things off of the floor and out of your immediate living space. Or be really ruthless and think, “If I have to store it, I don’t need it!”
Buy new items, such as smaller condo-sized furniture. Wall-mount your TV. And downsize items like bookshelves to ones designed for smaller spaces.
Downsizing can be an emotional process, so start early and enlist the help of your loved ones or a company that provides this service – and a professional Real Estate Agent who listens to your needs – to help make the transition as painless as possible.