There are many reasons a family may move into a smaller home—to save money, because kids are moving out, to have less space to take care of, and so on. However, no matter what the reason, there is nothing easy about paring down the contents of a five-bedroom, four-bathroom house into a two-bedroom, one-bathroom condo. Follow these tips to avoid some of the common problems people face when downsizing and learn how to keep your move stress free.
Determine your priorities.
You’ll need to identify what’s most important because you won’t be able to take everything with you. Laura Gaskill of Houzz recommends setting priorities so you can focus on what truly matters. In other words, if you had to evacuate your current home quickly, what would you want to take with you the most? Answering this question can help you make a list of items you definitely want in your new home. “Nothing should be off limits. Either use it, love it—or leave it,” says Kimberly McMahon, co-owner of Let’s Move, a downsizing and moving service, in a The New York Times article.
Be resourceful in getting rid of your stuff.
It will be a lot easier to let go of possessions if you know they won’t end up in a landfill or junking up someone else’s house. For things that are broken or obsolete, particularly electronics, find a recycling center that will take them. For books you’ve already read, donate them to a local library or nursing home. If you have family heirlooms you can’t take with you, Gaskill suggests giving your relatives a chance to take them.
Other items may fetch you some extra cash if you have a garage sale or post a Craigslist ad. “For those with antiques, silver, jewelry and other valuables, Laurene Sherlock, a Bethesda, Md., antiques appraiser, will advise people of outlets like vintage shops, where owners can consign their precious pieces for sale,” explains Elizabeth Olson in the Times article.
If you have things you really aren’t ready to give up, or are planning to move back into a larger home fairly soon, renting a self-storage unit is a great option to buy you some time and extra space.
Give yourself as much room in your new place as possible.
Consider adding extra storage spaces to your new home before you move in. “Floor-to-ceiling shelving or cabinets, underbed storage and closet shelving will make the most of the room you have,” says Gaskill.
And be prepared that you may have to pare down even more once you start settling in. Perhaps all your clothes don’t fit in that smaller closet or your couch is too big for the living room. Don’t get frustrated with these unforeseen challenges. Look at them as opportunities for more creativity in using your new space and making adjustments along the way. McMahon suggests getting someone else to help when you have to reduce your stuff further. A friend can help you make more objective decisions and take some of the emotion out of the equation.
If you are downsizing your home but don’t really want to, you may feel bitter about having to get rid of possessions and extra space. But there are many reasons why a smaller home may end up being the best thing for your family. Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist explains that smaller spaces are easier to maintain, less expensive, have less environmental impact, and could actually encourage family bonding. Gaskill says that a smaller home often means less pressure to host parties and family gatherings, and if your new place puts you closer to a city center, you may have better access to shopping, dining and cultural activities.
Preparing for a downsizing move doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Giving yourself plenty of time and being realistic about how the change may impact your lifestyle will help make the move a smoother experience.