How to downsize before moving

Published on 
August 9, 2021

Moving is never easy, especially when your move involves downsizing. Not only are you starting a new chapter in your life, but you also most likely have more stuff than you can take with you. No matter the reason when it comes to downsizing, you have to be smart about it. Here’s a simple guide to help you pack smart and help downsize before you move.

1. Make the biggest decisions first

Downsizing is never easy. But a good place to start is by going to each room and looking around at what you have. An easy way to help you decide what items you want to keep is by asking these simple questions. Always start with the larger items, like appliances. Does your new home come with a washer and dryer? If not, is it worth bringing yours with you, or should you buy new? Ask yourself the same question about your fridge. Does your new place have a fridge? If so, is it newer or nicer than yours? Is your fridge worth bringing to your new home?

The next thing you should think about is which large items hold significant value. For example, your mothers' dining room set. If so, would you be better off taking them with you, eventually passing them on to your kids, or are you better to sell them? You can sell them online or in person. Another thing to think about is what collectibles you have. Do you want to bring them with you, should you sell them? All these questions apply to everything in your home, including smaller items.

Another question to think about is - do you have the space for any other large items or valuable items. If so, are you able to take them? How much space will they need? These are difficult questions, particularly if you’re moving into a smaller place. If you’re moving into a smaller place, it makes it easier to know what you can take, but it still requires a lot of thought.

2. Organizing your four-pile system

When it comes to downsizing, you do not have to wait to know where you are moving to start pairing your stuff down. Whether you’re just starting to downsize or already are in the middle of it, you can always rely on an easy “four-pile” system to help make your move a lot smoother and downsizing a lot easier.

The “Four-pile” system is very simple. All you need to do is have a pile for items you want to giveaway, items for donations, items you want to sell, and items to throw away. The giveaway pile is for things you want to give to your friends or family, the donation pile is for anything that is in good shape but you or your friends can’t use. A lot of places take donations, like Salvation Army or Goodwill.

Your next pile is for the things you want to sell. If you feel that you do not have anything you want to sell, that is okay. Just because it is called the “four-pile” system, you do not have to have four piles. The last pile is for the stuff that cannot be revived, no matter how much we wish it would.

When you start making your piles, it is important to remember to pick separate areas or for each pile. When you come across belongings that you want to add to the piles, the best thing to do is to put them in whatever pile it goes in as you find them. It is a lot easier to organize the piles as you go instead of last minute.

3. Check the little spaces.

When downsizing, you often find things you forgot about in those rooms you don’t use often. Spaces like, your basement or attic, your garage, or a spare room. More common spots are the backs of our closets, or any kitchen cabinets you do not use often, linen closets, or bathroom cabinets or shelves.

If you decide to keep items that won’t fit inside your new home, make sure you have enough storage at your new place or consider renting a storage unit. Often, it’s easier to pare down further once you have a little time away from possessions and can tell what’s truly useful.

4. Downsize your furniture collection next.

Obviously, you’ll need furniture in your new home. The more important question is: What furniture will fit in your new home? It’s very important to measure your new home and your furniture to see what fits. Make sure you remember to measure the doorways. Just because your furniture fits inside your new place, sometimes getting it through the doorway is a little tricky.

Most likely you’ll have to sell some pieces of furniture. Your focus should be on what is furniture you need or what could replace it, rather than on what you’re losing.

For anything, you’re not keeping, instead of throwing it all away, try to rehome any extra pieces of furniture. Whether you offer them to friends and family, sell them, or even donate them. Rehoming your furniture is preferred. You can also put your unused furniture into a storage unit.

5. Go through bedrooms and living spaces one by one.

Once you’ve made all the hard decisions about larger items, it is time to do some thorough cleaning and sort out the furniture. The “biggest” challenge is to go through all your smaller belongings that decorate your home. The hardest part about downsizing isn’t deciding what you're keeping, but how to not get caught up in all the memories as you’re packing. For example, your kid’s artwork, or a little league jersey, etc. It can be hard to let go of these things, but the only thing that matters is the memories they carried with them. While downsizing is a terrifying idea, it is also an emotional time. Taking things little by little, and starting with the larger items, you’ll soon have a simple and pleasant new home.

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