How to Downsize Your House


November 20, 2017

It’s easy to accumulate things, from clothes and souvenir cups to random items from previous Halloween parties. But it’s not until you decide to downsize, whether you are moving out of your parents’ house or selling your family home after retirement, that you realize how much stuff you really have.

The good news is, the decluttering process can be immensely fulfilling. It offers the opportunity to recognize what possessions are most important to you and what you need for the next phase in your life.

But how do you go about this process? Whether you’re off to college or experiencing an empty nest, we have tips on how to downsize your house in the least painful way.

How to Downsize Your Belongings Before You Go to College

College offers many benefits, from great classes to fun, new friends. However, large living spaces are generally not on that list. When you move into a dorm or small apartment, you’ll have limited space and will need to carefully determine what to take with you.

Since this is likely your first time away from home, you may feel inclined to take everything. But you’ll soon find that the less you take with you, the less you’ll have to sort through, and the less you have to bring back home when the school year is over. Cut down on your “stuff” by asking yourself these three questions:

1. Will I Use This at School?

You shouldn’t transport anything you won’t use. While you may love your stuffed animals or sea shell collection, you won’t get any use out of them at school. It’s best to leave them behind. You may find that when you’ve been away from them for a few months, your attachment has faded, and you’re ready to give them away.

2. Will One of My Roommates Bring This?

Living with other people means you don’t have to bring everything. Talk to your roommates beforehand to determine what you’ll want in your room and who will bring it. This way, you don’t end up with multiple fans and microwaves. You could even sell your duplicate items to get money for buying textbooks.

3. Which Clothes Do I Wear the Most?

One mistake first-year college students make is packing their entire wardrobe for school. In reality, you’ll probably wear the same jeans, t-shirts, and sweatshirts most of the time. This cuts down on the amount of laundry you have to do, too. Leave behind most of your clothes, and then consider donating some of them to charity when you return home on break.

How to Declutter Your Home Before Moving After the Empty Nest

If your children are the ones going to college and you’re ready to downsize from your large house to a smaller space for just yourself or you and your spouse, then you have even more decluttering to do. Finishing this project before you move makes sense because the fewer possessions you have, the easier the move will be. Use these steps to rid yourself of excess things.

1. Say Farewell to Sentimental Items

Having an empty nest can make you understandably sentimental. But hanging onto your child’s complete portfolio of third grade art projects won’t ease your transition. Do this instead:

  • Keep three sentimental items from each kid’s collection
  • Take pictures of any paper or report cards you are tempted to save, save them electronically, then get rid of the physical items

2. Put a Donation Box in Every Room

Whenever you enter a room, find five things you can live without and place them in the box. By the end of the week, you’ll have dozens of items in each box. Put all the items in bags in your garage and wait another week or until your move to make sure you really don’t need them. Then donate them to charity.

3. Downsize Your Book Collection

All of us have books we’ll never read, despite our best intentions. Be honest with yourself and pare down your library. If you haven’t read it in a year, you’re not going to read it in another year. Consider asking your kids or friends if they would like to have your books or donate them to your local library.

4. Save Only Enough Furniture for a Guest Bedroom

With your kids out of the house, you don’t need multiple extra bedrooms anymore. One guest bedroom, or even a bed in the basement of your new house should do. There’s no need to hang on to dressers, bedside tables, or beds from a room that currently sits unused.

What Should I Do with My Downsized Items?

Once you’ve sorted through your stuff and decided what you can do without, you may find yourself with a big pile you’re not sure what to do with. Luckily, you have plenty of options for eliminating unwanted clutter. You can even make money by selling your old things. You may choose to:

  • Sell them online
  • Donate them to a worthy charity (some will even pick up large items for free)
  • Take them to a consignment store

Use Common Sense to Stay Decluttered

Once you’ve finished the downsizing process, make sure you don’t thwart your efforts by acquiring more stuff. And if you are downsizing for a move and want to buy a house in Pennsylvania, don’t forget to check out our low mortgage rates and find more money management tips and resources on our WalletWorks page.

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