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For many people, changing life circumstances may mean it makes sense to downsize their home. Sometimes family dynamics change, and there’s no need to have four bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, and a huge backyard. Sometimes, it’s all a matter of finances and affordability. At the same time, stuff accumulates over time to fill the available space.
Here’s our guide on how to downsize your home for an easier move to your new, smaller place.
How to downsize your home quickly with these 10 tips
We asked experts for insights on how to downsize your home as quickly and painlessly as possible.
1. Begin downsizing as soon as possible
You’ll want to begin downsizing as soon as you know you’re moving. The sooner you begin, the lower the chances of being completely overwhelmed by the seemingly monumental task ahead of you. This can also be a great process to help with your home sale, since it’s important to declutter anyway.
With that said, don’t feel like you have to tackle every room and whittle your possessions to the bare minimum in one day. Instead, we recommend starting one room at a time, so that you can go through things at your own pace and carefully consider each item.
You’re in a different time in your life and moving on to something different, so you should probably get new things to go with your new house.
- Suzanne Herron Real Estate AgentCloseSuzanne Herron Real Estate Agent at Keller Williams Citywide
- Years of Experience 11
- Transactions 212
- Average Price Point $170k
- Single Family Homes 189
2. Determine how much space you’ll have in the new home
To downsize appropriately, you need to know how much space you’ll have in your new home. It’s helpful to know the square footage and shape of the rooms in the house because it’ll help you figure out which pieces of furniture you can bring with you.
Suzanne Herron, a top real estate agent in the Toledo, Ohio area, says: “Typically, I recommend my clients take pieces that they like and that will fit in the new home. I always tell them to keep what they want or love, but other than that, make it a whole new experience. You’re in a different time in your life and moving on to something different, so you should probably get new things to go with your new house.”
3. Consider your new lifestyle
There are many reasons to downsize, and it’s a chance to take advantage of this new moment in your life. So when you’re trying to downsize your home, think about the new lifestyle this change will bring.
For example, if you’re moving to a suburban or urban area and no longer have easy access to nature, you may want to cull some of the outdoor sporting equipment you’ve accumulated over the years. Or maybe you’ll want to sell your car because you have easy access to a robust public transportation system. Every situation is different, so take time to imagine how life in your new home will be different from life in your old home.
4. Consult your real estate agent for resources
The real estate agent you ultimately hire should have an extensive list of resources for people who can help when you need to downsize your home quickly.
“I like to provide clients with many options,” Herron says. “I have an auctioneer for those who live on a farm, and they need to get rid of equipment. I recommend clients either have a yard sale or an estate sale, and I have people who will come to mark and price everything for the client. I have a list of contractors that have dumpsters, too.”
5. Take inventory of your belongings
When you’re downsizing, taking inventory of what you have is helpful. By doing this, you can sort through and separate the things you need and the things you think you’ll need. With the items you think you need, consider when the last time you used the item was. You probably don’t need to keep it if it’s been more than six months to a year.
6. Decide what to donate or toss
“The hardest part, depending on how long they’ve been somewhere, is figuring out what they’re going to get rid of, what they’re going to keep, and so on,” Herron says. “I have a cleaning and organization specialist that I recommend to help people clean and sort things out. It can be overwhelming to do on their own.”
Ways to get rid of your unwanted items
- Sell items that are in good condition. Selling some items will help you recoup some of the moving costs, which will undoubtedly come in handy.
- Donate or freecycle. For the items that you don’t think will sell, you can donate them to your local charity. Charities take items like clothing, toys, household items, and anything else in good condition. You can also post your items on sites like freecycle.org, for example.
- Rent a dumpster. Sometimes a dumpster is the only way to get rid of more oversized items, anything that’s broken or has seen better days.
- Pass sentimental things on to a loved one. Getting rid of things that hold sentimental value when you’re decluttering can be tricky. If it’s a family heirloom, keep it in the family and pass it on to someone who will love it just as much as you do.
7. Decide if you want to hire an estate firm or DIY
Downsizing can be made much easier if you hire an estate firm to price items you’d like to sell and handle the sales transactions. The downside to hiring an estate firm is that it’s recommended to book their services weeks in advance, but that can be challenging if you have to downsize quickly.
However, a seasoned real estate agent should be able to call on their connections to help you find an estate firm that can accommodate your timeline.
Tips for making the most from selling your stuff:
- Take good photographs of the items you’re selling. Show the items from different angles and in good lighting. If possible, use a tripod to ensure your photos aren’t blurry.
- Post your items on more than one website to increase the chances of selling. Sites like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Nextdoor, Letgo, and VarageSale are easy to use.
- Be honest when describing your items. You might want to describe something as being in “good condition” even if there are clear signs of wear, but by doing that, you’re just wasting the buyer’s and your time. Be honest about the item’s true condition, and ensure you include the item’s measurement details, so the buyer can determine whether or not the item will fit in their home.
- It’s okay to be aggressive with pricing. If a $100 price on a unique mirror would tempt you, but you’re ambivalent at $150, go for the lower price tag. If the item doesn’t sell within a day, consider slashing the price to generate interest.
- Adhere to a strict “no-hold” policy. When someone says they want to buy something, tell them there is a no-hold policy, and if they don’t come to pick it up (and pay you) within a specific time frame, then the item will go to the next interested buyer.
- Be clear about your pick-up or delivery expectations. In your listing, make it clear to the buyer that they must come and pick up large items. “However, if you have a truck and can offer to deliver it, you certainly can do that,” suggests Donna Smallin, author of Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness.
8. Make the most of storage spaces
When moving into a smaller home, you’ll want to maximize any storage space you have. For example, you can use multi-functional furniture like storage ottomans, platform beds, and entertainment centers to organize clutter and give things a “home.”
Depending on the layout of your new home, you may be able to utilize the extra space under the stairs, in closets and even in the crawlspace to store lesser-used, seasonal items. You can use over-the-door hooks for towels and bathrobes, bins under the counter for storing smaller items, and so on.
9. Digitize what you can to reduce space
If you have an extensive library of movies, music, and photo albums, you might want to take the time to digitize them. Of course, you can also digitize essential documents and shred the hard copies. By digitizing whatever you can, you’re reducing how much you have to pack, not to mention saving a lot of space in your new home.
10. Repurpose or memorialize sentimental items
There are bound to be items you don’t want to get rid of or sell but won’t have space for in your new home. For those items, you can repurpose them and turn them into something usable. For example, if you have a collection of band t-shirts you don’t want to part with, turn them into a usable quilt or even put them in frames and turn them into wall art.
Keep calm and downsize in peace
Figuring out where to start when you have to downsize your home shouldn’t be stressful, and it doesn’t have to be when you’re working with a top agent.
“It’s very important to interview who you work with and what agent you choose. Having the right agent on your side will simplify the whole process more than you may believe,” Herron advises. “It’s our job as Realtors® to make it as easy as possible for our clients.”
Transitioning to a new beginning
The process of downsizing offers homeowners a unique opportunity to reevaluate and refocus. It isn’t just about letting go of material possessions; it’s also about stepping into a new phase of life with clarity and a lighter load.
Consulting with experts, being strategic with storage solutions, and embracing digital tools can further ease your transition. Taking the time to assess what truly matters, both in terms of belongings and lifestyle choices, can transform the often-daunting task of downsizing into a cathartic experience. Remember, the journey to a simpler, more manageable living space can pave the way for new adventures, opportunities, and peace of mind in your new home.
Start by categorizing your belongings into essentials, items of sentimental value, and things you haven’t used in the past year. Often, items that haven’t been used in awhile can be donated, sold or discarded. Consider the size and storage capacity of your new home and be realistic about the space available.
Typically, moving to a smaller home can result in cost savings, especially in terms of property taxes, utilities, and maintenance. However, there might be initial costs related to moving, decluttering, or buying new furniture to fit the new space.
For items with strong sentimental value, consider creative ways to preserve memories without keeping the physical item. This could include taking photos of objects, repurposing items, or passing them on to family members. If you’re still unsure, it’s okay to set certain items aside and revisit the decision later.
Selling your current home before buying can free up financial resources and provide clarity on your budget for the new home. However, it might also mean needing a temporary place to stay in-between moves. Alternatively, buying before selling gives you a smoother transition but can pose financial challenges and pressures to sell your old home quickly. Consulting with a real estate professional can help you decide the best sequence based on market conditions and your situation.
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