Steps to Downsize Your Home or Declutter and Simplify

Bigger isn’t always better. In many cases, less is more – think of the tiny home trend and the overall popularity of downsizing. People downsize for many reasons. The most common ones we hear from our clients who downsize are to save money and to get rid of unused space. Downsizing your home can be the right move at any stage of life depending on your goals. You may find that purchasing a smaller home makes the most sense once you become an empty-nester, or maybe you’re a millennial who’d like more money to retire early or travel. Since there are so many reasons to downsize, we created a guide to help you learn how to downsize your home efficiently and live clutter-free.

1. Start As Soon As Possible And Pace Yourself

You should start the downsizing process as soon as possible to give yourself time to properly sort through your house without feeling overwhelmed. A general rule of thumb is that you’ll want to start at least 3 months before you plan to move but honestly, the sooner the better.

Aside from getting a jump on the downsizing process, you can also keep your home free of clutter and things you no longer need. There are some different organization methods that have gained popularity in recent years, like the KonMari method. Whatever method you choose, the goal is to find a balanced workflow and to end up with possessions that you actually need to keep around. Some popular methods include:

  • One-A-Day Method: Let go of one item per day or let go of the number of items that corresponds with the date (i.e. giving away 12 items on the 12th of a given month).
  • KonMari Method: Take on clutter by category (clothes, paper/books, miscellaneous items and then sentimental items). If an item no longer “sparks joy” then it’s time to get rid of it.
  • Four-Box Method: Restrict your options for what to do with a particular item by only giving yourself four options. Typically, these options are keep, donate, trash/recycle and sell. You should try to avoid putting items in storage.
  • Closet-Hanger Method: Face all closet hanger hooks away from you. Once you wear an item, turn the hanger hook toward you. After 6 months, donate any clothes that are still facing away.

2. Focus On One Room At A Time

The thought of decluttering or organizing your whole home might be daunting, so remember to take it one step at a time. You’re more likely to complete the whole process if you break it into multiple, more manageable projects. Try creating a plan or schedule broken down by room or smaller projects within a room to make sure that you stay on track but don’t get overwhelmed. Some example tasks to take on one at a time could include:

  • Go through DVDs and video games
  • Address the dreaded “junk drawer”
  • Pick shoes to give away and to keep
  • Trim down clothing in your closet
  • Tackle your dresser drawers
  • Organize small kitchen items
  • Match up containers, pots and pans with their lids

3. Measure Out Your New Space

In order to properly downsize, you have to know the size of the space you’re aiming to fit into. Ideally, you’ll know the square footage and shape of each room. This will help you figure out which large furniture pieces you should get rid of before the move. If you don’t have the exact measurements of your new place or don’t have a new place selected yet, focus on decluttering and getting rid of items you know you won’t need. Once you get more specifics, you can dig into those items that you were on the fence about.

Know that your current furniture might not fit in your space. Rather than squeezing large furniture into a smaller space, see what actually fits and take the opportunity to simplify and redesign your space.

4. Consider Your New Lifestyle

Aside from inch-by-inch measurements, you should also consider the bigger picture of what you’re hoping to gain from downsizing. You should be considering not just what will fit physically but what items fit in what you want out of your new space. Downsizing is a chance to reset and revamp – so take advantage of that!

Understanding your core reasoning and goals can help you stick to your plan and make you more excited about the process. Take it a step past the common answers of saving money and space and ask yourself the deeper “why.” Maybe you’re hoping to save money by downsizing, but “why?” Is it to be able to travel more or help send your grandchildren to college? Or maybe you want less home to maintain so you can spend more time with your partner or pick up a new hobby. The more specific your goals, the more effective they are in motivating you. Some questions to ask yourself include:

  • What are your top reasons for wanting to downsize?
  • What opportunities will downsizing create?
  • What will you miss the most about your old home?
  • Are there new hobbies or activities you’d like to explore?
  • What are you most excited about in this downsizing process?
  • What are you most nervous about in this process? Are there any steps you can take to help?
  • What is the first thing you want to do when you’re settled into your new home?

By setting your intentions and goals ahead of time, you’ll have a much clearer view of what items will fit into your new lifestyle and home.

5. Set Clear Decluttering Ground Rules

Once you start decluttering and combing through items, it could become easy to make exceptions here and there. Before you know it, all you’ve done is taken items from one place and moved them to another, instead of determining where they actually belong.

The best way to avoid this is by sticking to a strong set of ground rules and options for sorting your items. A common set of options could be:

  • Keep
  • Donate or sell
  • Trash or recycle
  • Pass it down or memorialize (through a photo)

Of course, categories can vary based on your specific needs and goals, but you should try to avoid categories that fall in between, as “maybes” can quickly stack up.

Whether you’re decluttering for the sake of organization or to move to a smaller space, try to remember to document the process and take before and after photos – this can help you reminisce and also encourage you to keep up your good habits once decluttering and downsizing is complete!