Downsizing Your Home
Sometimes getting started is the hardest part!
If you know well in advance (months or even years!) that you will be downsizing, don’t wait. Start the process today.
By starting early, you’ll facilitate the process, have more time to sell large, valuable items for a better price, and you’ll be less stressed out.
To begin, grab a notebook or note-taking app and start taking inventory of everything in your home.
Make sure you take lots of pictures, too! Not only will these help you remember all the things you have around the house, but the pictures will preserve memories of items you may end up not bringing to your new home.
Once you’ve taken inventory, highlight any items that your friends and family members have “stored” in your home, as well as large heirloom items you planned on passing on to family members. Start calling those friends and family members and ask them to pick up their possessions. And if you were planning on willing large and bulky heirlooms, such as a grandfather clock, consider gifting them now.
Sort Your Documents
Another great task to tackle early in the process is to start going through all of your archived documents. Store away important files—deeds, wills, power of attorneys, passports, military records, etc—in a secure safe or file cabinet and let a trusted family member know where they’re located.
Shred and/or burn any documents you no longer need—old canceled checks, receipts, magazines, bank statements, etc. If you find a document you’re not sure whether you should get rid of, consult your tax attorney.
Evaluate Your Transportation Needs
If you have more than one vehicle, consider keeping just one. Getting rid of a vehicle could lead to large monetary savings.
In fact—according to AAA—if you factor in depreciation, fuel, insurance, and other car ownership expenses, it costs around $8,558 a year to own an average sedan in the US.
If you and your spouse are retired, you may be able to get by fine with just one car and supplement its usage with public transportation. And depending on where you’re moving to, you may not even really need to own a car.
If getting rid of vehicles isn’t an option (and we know that in Kansas City it might not be!), consider downgrading to more affordable ones with better fuel efficiency.
Pay Off Debt
Lastly, pay off your debt as quickly as possible (the waterfall payment method is a time tested strategy to get rid of credit cards and other bad debt).
And for ANY expense you need to have in the future (there will be many when it's time to actually move), live by this old school rule: if you can’t pay for it in full right now, you can’t afford it.
When processing through your current home and belongings to prepare for a downsize, don't forget to keep your new home (or ideal home) in mind. By referring back to your destination throughout the process, you can determine how extensively you actually need to simplify your life.
For example, if your new place doesn’t have a yard, there’s no reason to keep any landscaping tools. Or if you’re downsizing from a 3-bedroom home to a 2-bedroom, there’s no need to keep more than 4 or 5 sets of sheets and linens.
Moving is always a difficult experience, especially if you lived in your old place for decades, and you have tons of memories tied to the place. Focusing on your new home and thinking about all the new and exciting memories you will create, will also be of great help psychologically during this process.
There are certain places in the home that accumulate more clutter than others—places like the garage, the attic, and the basement.
However, don’t feel like these places need to be the first ones to be decluttered just because they have the most clutter to begin with. These places tend to accumulate a plethora of items with emotional attachment, making them harder to approach when you first start to let go of items.
From abandoned hobbies to holiday decorations, these places end up holding all the stuff that you just couldn’t bear to throw away in previous decluttering efforts.
Start with areas of the house with little to no emotional attachment, such as the laundry room, linen closet, yard, or home gym.
Pro Tip: If your treadmill, Bowflex, or similar exercise equipment has become a glorified clothes rack, you probably won’t use it in your new home. Get rid of them. If you’re planning on staying physically active, join a gym instead!
By going through those rooms first, you’ll make immediate progress, and you’ll be more inspired to keep that momentum going.
Scale Up Your Effort
Now that you’ve gone through the easy(-er) stuff, it’s time to tackle the harder stuff.
Needs vs. Wants
Before you begin, it’s essential to define the difference between what you want and what you need.
Needs are things you cannot live without like clothing, medical supplies, work tools, eating utensils, etc.
Certain items aren't technically needed but are very precious and irreplaceable. Items like engagement rings, photo albums, deeds, diplomas, etc. are items you cannot afford to throw out and therefore fall in the "need" category.
Finally, there are other items you should keep because they just make life significantly easier and get plenty of use. These could include toasters, blenders, coffee makers, crock pots, side tables, etc. If they are still in good shape, fit in your new home, and you genuinely like them, it’s a good idea to keep them.
Anything else that doesn’t fall into these three categories could be considered “luxury” wants.
Pro Tip: If you’re helping elderly family members downsize, consider helping them move away early, so they don’t watch their beloved home being taken apart item by item.
While it’s important to know the difference between needs and wants, that doesn’t mean that you need to be overly strict about it.
You want to simplify, not fully overturn your lifestyle.
However, if you want a successful downsizing, you do need to draw a line.
Yes and No Piles
When deciding whether you should keep an item or not, try asking the following questions:
- Do I NEED to keep it, or do I just WANT to keep it?
- Does it hold sentimental value? Why? Is taking a photograph of it enough to keep its memory?
- How often do I use it? Has it been months or even years since I used it last?
- Do I have any other item that performs the same function, possibly even better?
And as William Morris says “Have nothing in your house you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
When answering these questions, be honest with yourself. Make sure you also include your spouse and family members in the decision process.
As you begin to separate items into items to keep and items to get rid of, you may be tempted to keep a “maybe pile”. Don’t give in.
More often than not, the maybe pile ends up getting larger than both the “yes” and “no” piles combined, and you actually end up slowing down or even stopping your downsizing efforts.
Rehome Your "No" Pile
Moving is expensive, especially if you hire a professional mover. The fewer items you take with you, the more affordable your move will be.
Once you know which items you will be getting rid of, you can find a new home for them.
How to Get Rid of Things
Hold a Yard Sale
The old-school yard sale still works. Not only does a yard sale help you get rid of clutter and make a little bit of cash from your efforts, but it also places the burden of transporting the sold items on the buyer.
For best results, pick a yard-sale date that is convenient and likely to have pleasant weather.m
Before planning your yard sale, make sure you check with your neighborhood association or city zoning regarding requirements for a yard sale.
To draw the largest number of buyers possible, invest in some signs. Place them around the neighborhood a few days in advance, and let everyone in your social media circles know about your yard sale. Your neighborhood may also hold an annual yard sale, which will greatly increase the foot traffic you receive the day of!
Give Away Items
Make a list of items that didn’t sell in your yard sale and let your friends and family members know. They may want to take some of that stuff with them.
Donate to Charities, Schools, Animal Shelters, etc.
If you still have items in good condition that you couldn’t sell and your loved ones have no use for, consider donating them.
Did you know that Hills Real Estate partners with 4 community organizations annually (many of whom accept donations!)?
Ask your Hills Real Estate Agent for recommendations of charities, toy banks, and other places willing to accept them.
Take your time saying goodbye. It’s ok to bask in nostalgia or to even shed a tear or two. Take a few pictures, look through your old albums, and create a beautiful new album to remember your old home throughout the seasons, holidays, and special moments while you were there. You can use services like Artifact Uprising or Shutterfly to print a beautiful coffee table book for your new home while holding onto the memories of your last one.
Once it’s time to say goodbye, the goodbye should be final. It’s ok to feel sad, but don’t lose focus on all the exciting things to come in the future. Focus on the fact that it’s a new and exciting beginning, not just the end of an era.
Make the Transition
No matter how smoothly you managed to make the downsizing process, it won’t feel like home right away.
At the same time, the move-in day should be a happy event to share with friends and family, even if you’re getting help from professional movers. Once you get to your new place, make sure you unpack those items that make your new home feel more comfortable and more familiar first.
Be sure to accept help from any family member or friend willing to help out, even if it’s just bringing food and snacks or transporting a few potted plants.
Try to keep the entire occasion happy and optimistic.
The adjustment process is, of course, a process. It takes time to adjust, and you can’t just rush it. Keep communication open with friends and family and find ways to start making memories in your new home.
You Can Do It!
Downsizing is an excellent idea with lots of benefits. But it’s not a process that needs to be rushed. If you take the steps needed to make it as smooth as possible, you help make the process feel less painful.
If you are considering downsizing and want to find out how much your current home is worth, we are here for you!