Five Essential Tips to Keep in Mind as You Downsize to a Smaller Home

Feeling comfortable and settled in your new space is key.

There are a number of reasons why you might want to move to a smaller home: Maybe your children are grown and you no longer need as much space as you once did. Perhaps you're looking for something lower-maintenance, with fewer bedrooms and bathrooms to clean. For some, retirement prompts the desire to downsize—now that you're living on a fixed income, maybe you'd like to spend less on housing expenses so you can save for vacations and hobbies. Or perhaps you've decided to pass down a family home to the next generation, opting to relocate to a smaller, more manageable property nearby. Whatever your reason for choosing to downsize, this process can be one that's both exciting and nerve-wracking. While leaving your home can be sad, a fresh start always feels good.

In order to make the most of that fresh start, it's important to take stock of what you currently have and decide what should move with you—after all, when you're downsizing, the last thing you want to do is clutter your smaller space with too many things and oversized furniture. If your goal is to make your new home a comfortable, tranquil retreat, our downsizing guide will help streamline the moving process.

Break down the downsizing process.

Since downsizing into a smaller space can seem daunting, giving yourself plenty of time to filter through what's in your current home is necessary. One month is the standard rule of thumb to thoroughly work through your spaces. Vaishali Sahni, a professional organizer and the owner of Tiny and Tidy, recommends breaking down the process in chunks, too, or even consulting with a service to get it all together. "I encourage people to start with the easier spaces first, like the front entrance and coat closet of your home, and slowly make your way to tougher areas, like the garage and storage spaces," she says. "It also helps to start with highly visible spaces, like the entryway, because you'll experience the benefits of decluttering and organizing on a daily basis, and this will motivate you to work on the rest of the home."

To make this process even easier, consider putting sticky notes on a bulletin board to visually keep track of your plans and progress. "You can also use it to delegate work to idle family members!" says David Blue, the co-founder of Blue Moon Estate Sales. "Take pride when you move a sticky note from the 'doing' to the 'done' column with a little victory celebration. Work from top to bottom, left to right."

couple moving in to home
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Assess your keepsakes.

As you sift through your cabinets and drawers, you will inevitably come across meaningful heirlooms from years past. Blue suggests thinking about what they truly mean to you before moving forward with your organization. "If something really pulls on your heartstrings, take a picture of it and share it with a loved one to start a conversation," he says. "Ask yourself some simple questions: 'When was the last time I used this? How often do I use this?'" From there, you can better decide if you want to keep or give away the items. Plus, decluttering will make this process even easier. "When there's too much clutter, it's difficult to even notice what is special and valuable to us," explains Sahni. "Keeping the most treasured pieces will enable us to appreciate those pieces."

Only sell valuables.

"I think the biggest mistake people make when decluttering is that they try to sell the items that they no longer want," says Sahni. "This is very time consuming and will quickly demotivate you from decluttering the rest of your home. I recommend only trying to sell high value items that are very likely to sell." For other items you have in good condition, she suggests donating to those in need. If you need a hand selling gently-used items, Blue notes that online marketplaces, like Facebook Marketplace, are effective just as long as you price items at their value. Otherwise, consider services, like Blue Moon, that work on commission and sell your items within one week.

Keep your new space organized with multi-use storage.

Sahni says to avoid arranging bulky furniture (think: large dining room sets, wide shelving units, bulky bedroom sets, or a three-piece sofa set) in your new home. "Instead, try getting condo-sized furniture found at stores like IKEA and CB2," she says. Continue by opting for even more loft-style furniture or sofas and beds that have extra drawers or storage space at the base to keep useful essentials, like blankets. "Take advantage of the vertical space with tall, narrow shelving units, and cabinets," adds Sahni. "Use the space behind the doors with over-the-door organizers to store things like your ironing table, wrapping paper, cleaning supplies, and shoes."

Decorate with intention.

As important as it is to get everything to fit just right, don't forget a vital factor: Make your new house a home. "Rescue old pictures that have been in storage and give them new life on your walls," Blue suggests. "Take some pictures of your home or city and put them on a prominent wall in your new space." Keep the meaningful accents going by decorating with items that can spark conversations when guests arrive and refurbish a piece from your old home that may have previously gone unused.

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