7 Steps to Start Downsizing

Large woman and shoe
Are you one of the 42% of Baby Boomers who are thinking about downsizing their home? Are you doing a lot of “thinking,” because the actions required to downsize are so overwhelming and you don’t know where to start?

Houses aren’t just filled with our belongings, they are filled with our memories, treasured traditions, reliable routines and family folklore. How can a person move from “thinking” to “doing” the job of downsizing 3,000 sq ft of stuff to fit inside something half as big? Or less?!

I understand and have great compassion for your worries! My clients are often relieved to have found someone who will walk them through the downsizing process and provide a framework for the tasks. Allow me to suggest you start in the least emotional space. 

For now, ignore those boxes of photographs, your children’s school-age memorabilia and collectibles you have sitting on shelves. Start somewhere more neutral, such as the laundry room cabinets. Do you really need 12 old towels and enough back-up cleaning supplies to last 5 years? Move on to the next least-emotional spot, perhaps the garage. Do you still own lawn and garden equipment, yet pay for a landscape service?”  Begin to disperse the items you no longer use, especially if you have been keeping them “just in case.”

Once you get through making easy decisions on items with little to no emotional attachment, you will be ready to face tougher choices on things you like, but don’t love. That vase that your Aunt Bev gave you 22 years ago would look great in someone else’s home, but it was never your taste, so let it go. The collection of career-related awards you have in an office can be easily trimmed when you ask yourself “which one or two of these am I most proud of achieving?”

Here are a few of Smooth Transition Delaware’s tips for downsizing a house and getting it ready to sell.

  1. Start the downsizing process in an emotionally-neutral place – Garage, Laundry Room, Guest Bedroom
  2. Sort items into piles: Pass along to family, Sell, Donate, Recycle, Trash, Keep
  3. Work in blocks of 2-4 hours, leaving enough time at the end to clean up what you started. (For example, sort for about 3 hours, then leave the last hour for returning items that are being kept to their place, bagging up donations and cleaning up the workspace of any debris.)
  4. Work on one area at a time, even if it takes more than one work session. If you start in the Laundry Room, continue in that space until it is finished.
  5. Get any items you intend to donate, recycle or trash out of the house as soon as possible. Say “YES” anytime a charity calls and says they have a truck coming to your neighborhood!
  6. Have family members pick up what you intend to give them, or box it up and mail out to them as soon as possible. (Remember that your family may not want your things, but that is a subject for a different post!)
  7. Wavering on an item? Ask yourself these questions: Do I need it? Do I use it? Do I love it? Any answer other than a strong “Yes!,” means that item has done all it can for you and now you can let it go.

Downsizing takes a lot of time and energy. Break the process up into manageable chunks so you don’t feel exhausted and too cranky to make decisions. Better yet, call Smooth Transitions Delaware and let us take the stress out of downsizing!