Scenario One. You’ve sent your kiddos off to college. For the next 3+ years, you keep your huge four bedroom home, so your kiddos will come home for the holidays. Now they graduate, and your home is an open invitation to move back while they experience the real world. You might need to downsize NOW and QUICKLY!
Other Scenarios. You may have money issues, or a new job requires moving to a higher cost area. Maybe it’s time to retire, and you’re tired of maintaining a large home. There are many reasons to consider downsizing.
So You Decided to Downsize? Let’s get started. The following ten steps can help make your decision and prepare to downsize if it’s a good fit for you.
Over time, we tend to accumulate stuff – lots of stuff. We have drawers full of gifts that we’ve never used (and never will), furniture we don’t need but keep “just in case.” Items we’ve had for years may be difficult to part with due to nothing more than familiarity. The truth is, they have no functional purpose. Now is the time to get rid of excess baggage (literally!).
- Assess Your Real Needs. Someday, you might take up exercising, but the Treadmill/Stairmaster and Bowflex have been gathering dust for some time. Wouldn’t a good pair of walking/running shoes be more useful and take up significantly less space? Does anyone sit in that empty chair in the corner? How often do you eat at the table? When was the last time you used your stereo? Deciding what you need requires a focused look at how you live your daily life and prioritizing the activities and items that are currently a part of your actual lifestyle, not the events or things that you want to be part of but haven’t gotten around to yet. Take a walk through your home and evaluate everything you come across (furniture, books, food, etc.). Ask yourself if you’ve used it in the past year and, if so, how often? Be honest with yourself. If you can live well without it, get rid of it. Consider, most of the stuff you keep without using, is an unmet goal. The most common example is exercise machines. You always say you’ll use it, but you don’t. Then, there are those books you intend to read, that table you want to have dinners and brunches on, etc. You keep things around “just in case,” hoping their presence will eventually encourage you to use them. Be realistic, if you have a coating of dust, let it go. Make room for the things you’ll use. For stuff that you have a hard time getting rid of, make this agreement with yourself: Put the items in storage. If you don’t need or use them within six months, give, sell or throw them away.
- Go through your home and clear out, every cabinet, shelf, and closet. Only put back the things you really can’t live without. That means that if you use a whisk every other day, it stays but the melon-baller when you don’t even like a melon. Out it goes. Put these items in boxes, crates or bags in a garage or other storage area. Measure your furniture. You will need to know how your furniture will (or won’t) fit into your new space – particularly large items such as your sofa and your bed – so measure everything. You will also need to get the room measurements of your new space. Ask if you can take measurements or if there is a floor plan available to you. Don’t forget about the location of doors and windows as this will be a factor in furniture placement. Once you have these measurements, make a floor plan using your furniture’s measurements. Try using Better Homes and Gardens’ Arrange-A-Room online software to simplify the process (requires registration but is free). The software will give you a much better idea on what you can keep and what will have to go. Assess your new storage areas. How many times have you moved into a new place only to realize – too late – that you have overestimated the amount of storage space? While you’re getting room measurements, make sure to assess the storage situation correctly you’ll be inheriting. Will you have fewer kitchen cupboards? How many closets will you have? If you are moving into an apartment, does it have a storage locker and, if so, what are its dimensions? Assessing exactly how much of the new space you’ll need for storage will give you and idea of the volume of items you need to dispose of before moving in. Don’t forget hidden storage areas you currently use in your old place. If you put a lot of items above the kitchen cabinets in your current home, for example, find out if the cupboards in the new location have storage in that area as well.
- Ransack your old storage areas. Go through your storage areas first (attics, basements, closets, etc.). You will be surprised to find out what you’ve put away over time. If you’re like most of us, you will find boxes of items that haven’t seen the light of day for years, and there’s a reason for this: you don’t need them. Get rid of them at once. Hesitation will only melt your resolve. Don’t forget to go through your bathroom cabinets, kitchen, and “junk” drawers. We have a tendency to accumulate unnecessary items in these places. Get rid of empty bottles, balls of twine, expired medicines and beauty products, and your collection of plastic margarine containers. Be brutal. How you dispose of these unnecessary items will depend on how much energy and time you have. The easiest thing to do is to load them up on a truck and drop them off at the nearest thrift shop. Join a Freecycle group to give stuff away (www.freecycle.org).If you live in an apartment building or townhouse complex, notice boards and drop off areas for giving unwanted items to neighbors is sometimes provided. Call up your friends and relatives and see what they need. You may be able to enlist their help in the move for a promised dresser/bed/armchair!
- Sell your stuff. If you’re in need of a pre-move windfall, try these: For a large number of items, have a yard sale (or a series of yard sales). If you have a lot to sell quickly, consider a service to take care of it for you (e.g., Google liquidation estate content sales). If you have time before the move, utilize sites such as Craigslist and eBay to sell off the best stuff. You’ll likely get more money for your items this way, but it is more time-consuming. Craigslist is a good avenue for selling larger items such as furniture, appliances, and home décor items to people living in your area. If you have the means, offering delivery will often produce quicker sales. eBay is an excellent venue for selling collectible items such as old albums, comic books, and figurines. Make sure to take good quality photos of the items and offer good descriptions. Remember that you are a salesperson. Sell those products! You can sell used designer clothing can in consignment shops. These stores are in your local business directory. Be sure to shop around. Some stores offer better rates than others.
- Get organized. Before you move into your new place, it’s a good time to work out some storage solutions for your stored items. You can do this as you pack. Place your storage items in decorative storage boxes that can be moved and put in the new storage areas without much effort. Plastic bins are great for moving and storing, come in many sizes, are stackable, and the see-through ones make finding what you need a snap. The measurements taken of the new storage areas will ensure a good fit. Come moving day; these boxes will be much easier to deal with. Label everything by room. Don’t think that you will remember the big television box is full of pots and pans. You won’t!
- Move large items first. Move your furniture into your new home first. You will have the most energy for this task at the beginning of the move, and it will also give you a better indication of where the smaller things will go. Do not merely fill a room with furniture with the idea of sorting it all out later. There is nothing worse than trying to navigate through small rooms littered with boxes and stacks of furniture after a day of moving. Place furniture in the rooms as you go, according to the plan you made earlier. If you have done your homework correctly, your big items should fit in nicely and already give you a sense of home (and a place to sit while taking a break from all of your hard work!)
- Put away storage items. Contained elements that are for storage can be placed directly in their allotted spaces where they will be out of the way. By putting these things away as you move in, you’ll be saving yourself the stress of trying to maneuver through tiny, packed rooms during the next few days.
- Organize boxed items. You can put your labeled boxes into their respective places, and the unpacking can begin. Start with the bathroom, as that is the room most likely to be needed immediately. If you kept the basics, unpacking this room will be a breeze.
- Organize your space as you unpack. Utilize closet and cupboard storage solutions as you unpack. This way, more can be stored in these tight spaces, and you will be setting a precedent for how your new, smaller space is used. Don’t fall back into lazy habits or your downsized place will get you down.
- Relax and enjoy! You have now entered the realm of living small. You no longer have to worry about the financial burden or time draining tasks of maintaining a home too big for your needs, and you have simplified your life by surrounding yourself with only those things that are most important to you. Rejoice!
Now that you’ve given these ten steps some thought, I can help you on your journey to the downsize!