Downsizing Your Home

by Ashley Wirgau

The minimalist movement has arrived and with it comes a growing number of homeowners anxious to downsize. Once you’ve individually touched every item in your house and pondered over each asking, “Does this or does this not bring me joy?” you tend to realize how few items your happy life actually requires. Or maybe you are a few trends behind and have recently become obsessed with tiny homes? Or maybe you don’t care for trends at all and are simply an empty nester drowning in an empty space? Or maybe you’re just sick of cleaning four bathrooms because who really needs four bathrooms?

Whatever your reason for dialing back, there are a few first steps to wade through before taking the downsizing plunge:

1. Do an Initial Eval

Before you decide how far “down” you will be sizing, it is good to flesh out a plan. Walk through your home and look at what you are willing to part with (and what things are completely non-negotiable). Can’t ditch the baby grand piano in the den? You will want to make sure the next place has room for it because that cozy studio apartment with the great view you’ve been envisioning is likely not your best plan.

Once you’ve gotten really honest with yourself, get a hard count on how many rooms you need in the next home – bedrooms, bathrooms, living spaces. What are those non-negotiables that will shape the picture you need to paint for the realtor? Make a list and keep it handy for revisions along the way. You thought you could live with just one bathroom, but after Taco Tuesday date night, you might be reconsidering. Remember the plan is to downsize, not divorce.

2. Just Cave and Read the Book

…or at least some book resembling the book. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has become the trendiest paperback to leaf through this year, but whether Marie Kondo is crafting the content or it’s the next organizer in line, grab a guide to help you through the downsize.

Once you have your final list ready, you will need to start getting rid of all the stuff that consumes the excess space in your current home. Purging is truly an emotional process and can be a time-extensive one, so it doesn’t hurt to have some help. Setting aside a few hours to digest an expert’s approach will likely get you to shed additional items without shedding additional tears.

Download our home cleaning guide

3. Decide Where to Donate

Sometimes it is easier to part with your beloved items if you know they are going to a good home or worthy cause. While larger organizations like Goodwill and The Salvation Army are easy (and equally admirable) first thoughts, communities have multiple organizations ready to utilize your surplus stuff. Women’s shelters, foster care donation centers, and local churches are additional options always in need of gently used items. If you are having a difficult time parting with your things, these outlets might provide a more specific picture of where your donated goods will be put to use, making the transition smoother (and your closets a little cleaner).

An added bonus for your generosity: You don’t have to do all the heavy lifting on your own! A lot of non-profits will actually come to you to collect your items. You are already on the verge of a big move, so any boxes that you don’t have to use your two hands to relocate are a total win.

4. Boost that Budget

The downsize is a great time to build up that budget for your next home purchase. Even if there is little equity in your current house, you are probably sitting on some high-dollar items that you will no longer need or have room for in the upcoming property.

Ebay or other online resellers like Poshmark and ThredUP, that specialize in second-hand clothing, are easy options for purgers with a little extra time and a comfortability with technology. For those with less internet prowess or folks dealing with larger, difficult to ship items, check out local consignment shops where you will receive a considerable percentage of the profit without putting in any of the work.

Downsizers embarking on a significant shift might also consider an estate sale. Believe it or not – these aren’t just for dead people! Homeowners entering a long-distance move, a divorce, or you guessed it – a significant downsizing – are great candidates for this type of sale.

When the sheer number of items is too much to add to an already full plate, cut yourself a break. Estate sale agents take on all your excess goods and arrange a one-time event, handling every detail, including advertising. These professionals are just as motivated as you are to get the highest price for your treasures since they are paid a percentage of the total sale.

5. Now Get Excited

This is the last, and really, the very most important step toward that future home. Through the downsizing process, you will be given the opportunity to reevaluate what truly matters to you, what truly brings you joy – and though the steps from 5 bedroom, 3 stall garage, castle-built-for-a-king to sensible, low-maintenance home-fit-especially-for-you might feel slightly uncomfortable at times, these steps are a means to a really rewarding end. Your life is about to become just a little simpler, and what could bring more joy than that?

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