The ups and downs involved with downsizing your home mean you could probably use some help navigating the trek. It can be both exciting and daunting to let go of stuff and simplify.
The key to a less stressful move is to break the process into increments. As a professional organizer, I’ve helped families downsize for a variety of reasons—from empty nesters with empty rooms to those with the travel bug or seniors who are tired of stairs to climb and lawns to mow.
Start with the Right Mindset
It’s too easy to get mired down in all the details. Begin with an attitude adjustment. There is clearly a reason why you started thinking about downsizing. Try to focus on the benefits of going smaller instead of dwelling on what you may need to leave behind.
Make a list of the things that drew you to this decision. Perhaps you will be living closer to family, or you’ll have less space to clean and maintain. This means you’ll gain more free time to explore hobbies and community activities, which should equate to less stress and more fun.
Focus On Your New Home First
The easiest way to decide what to keep and what to let go of is to fill up your new home with things you love and things you need. Once your new space is arranged to your taste, you’ll feel more comfortable letting go of the excess.
- Start with the Basics. Just like you had your very first apartment, start with the basics. You’ll need a bed to sleep on, a nightstand, a dining table and chairs and a couch or favorite comfy chair.
- Add Furniture You Love. You likely own at least a couple of furniture pieces that have history for you. Work those in next. For example, your grandmother’s hope chest might not be a necessity, but you love it. Plan to make space for it at the foot of the bed, under a window or as a coffee table.
- Build in Storage. Your smaller space will still need some storage. You may have photo albums, off-season clothing or extra bedding that you still need to store. If you are trying to decide between furniture pieces, always choose the one that allows for storage. For example, a pretty dresser can be used at an entrance instead of a foyer table.
- Add in Necessities. Take a look around your current home for things you’ll need in your new home. You’ll want to move some lamps for light as well as things to provide enjoyment such as a television, computer or stereo.
- Make It Feel Homey. Once you’ve selected the basic furniture and necessities, it’s time to choose decor accessories. Start with art. Select favorite family photos, prints or pieces from travels, or find new pieces that speak to you and fit your new home’s aesthetic.
- Bring in Textiles. Anchor your new conversation spaces with an area rug. It will create warmth and help tie together all of your various furniture pieces. A rug can instantly transform a cold, empty room into something that feels like home. Then, add matching accent pillows and pretty throw blankets to keep the cozy feeling going.
- Keep It Safe. While you’re choosing all of these items, make sure to keep an eye on safety. Choose sturdy furniture pieces that aren’t likely to tip over. Make sure bookshelves are anchored to the wall. Inspect older lamps to make sure cords are not frayed or cracked. Keep pathways clear of trip hazards such as magazine racks or extension cords. Be sure to arrange items so no stepladders are needed to reach things. Swap out older rugs and mats for new area rugs with a non-slip backing.
Tackle What’s Left
Once you’ve worked through your decisions about things to move to your smaller home, you’ll be more ready to let the rest go. There probably isn’t one solution for all of your extra belongings. Some items may be valuable, some may be historical and others might only be worth a dollar. Consider some of these solutions I’ve used in my time as a professional organizer.
- Gift to family. You may want to gift items with history and sentimental value to family members. Or, you may have a young family member just starting out who could use your extra sofa or kitchen gadgets.
- Find a historical society or museum. You may have items—from stacks of letters from the war, old family books or all manner of collectables—that a museum or library could use.
- Sell online. You may find a large market online for specialty items like collectables, china or silver. Keep in mind you can sell these kinds of items at resale sites.
- Hire an estate sale company. For a percentage of the sales, you can hire a company to come in and do a clean-sweep sale. They will handle selling everything from furniture to lawn equipment.
- Host a garage sale. Price your goods and host a garage sale. It takes some work, but the advantage is that you don’t have to share the profits.
- Donate. Local charitable thrift stores often offer pick-up services for big or large quantities of items. Let your cast-offs do good work for the community.
- Toss it. In most communities, you can arrange a special trash collection. Call your waste management firm and find out details of what they will pick up. Ask if you can stack it curbside or if you need a dumpster delivered. You can also search ads for a local hauler and truck.
It should be an easy transition to settle into your new home once you’ve outfitted it with the basic items you need, family treasures and accessories to make it feel like home. Take the time to fulfill promises you made to yourself to enjoy the extra time you have by pursing all the fun things you’ve planned.
Lea Schneider works with homeowners on important organizational issues that take place with major life events, including downsizing. Lea is a nationally known expert on home organization and writes on her experiences for The Home Depot. If you are considering downsizing in the near future, you can visit the Home Depot website to review a wide assortment of home decor items, including rugs.