Downsizing happens for a variety of reasons: maybe you’re an empty nester and planning to move to a smaller home, or maybe you just want a simpler lifestyle with less stuff lying around!
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Deciding to work remotely for a while is another valid and common reason for downsizing. Whatever the reason, the process of downsizing can be overwhelming – it involves a lot of digging through your possessions, sorting stuff out, deciding what stays and what goes, then dealing with the items you’re no longer keeping. In other words, downsizing is a lot of work. But, with a little bit of planning, you can streamline it and make it easier. Here’s what you need to know about downsizing and how to come up with the right strategy:
Start the process early on
One common trap is underestimating how much time you actually need to downsize. It’s not something that can be done properly in one weekend, particularly if we’re talking about large family homes. Ideally, you should start sorting your belongings a few weeks prior to moving to the smaller home or apartment.
Have your measurements ready
Most people who downsize are planning to move some of their old furniture into the smaller home. In such situations, it’s very important to take detailed measurements of the furniture, the space where you want to place it, and of the door frames as well. Door frames can be smaller, especially if you’re moving from a single-family home into an apartment, and you don’t want to find that out when your sofa was already delivered at the new address – and you can’t get it inside. Also, if the rooms in your new home are smaller, it’s important to visualize how your old furniture fills the space – a simple way to do that is by using tape on the floor to draw the contours of the furniture you’re planning to bring.
Consider turning to self storage
According to recent research from self storage website Storagecafe.com, more than a third of Americans are using self storage, and the most common reason for renting a unit is downsizing. In fact, renting self storage is a huge help if you’re downsizing. It can benefit you throughout the actual process of packing up the belongings and preparing them to be moved as well as after the move. Rent a self storage unit located close to your new home and use it to safely store items you decide to keep, as you pack them, until moving day comes along – this takes a lot of the pressure off and allows you to use your time and effort more efficiently.
Self storage also helps if you’re downsizing your belongings because you are temporarily relocating to a new city or new country, combining remote work with traveling. It’s a safe – and affordable – way to store the stuff you’ll be needing when you get back home. The cost of renting self storage varies depending on where you live. For example, renting a 10’x10’ self storage unit in Austin costs around $170 per month. A unit in Oklahoma City, on the other hand, hovers around $100 per month.
In both instances, however (or in any other location in the country), using self storage is more convenient than paying months of rent on an apartment, just to house your stuff, or dumping your possessions on reluctant family or friends.
If you’re a homeowner and plan to relocate for several months or longer, it’s still a good idea to downsize your belongings and place the expensive and important ones in storage. Then, you can put your home up for rent without worrying about potential damage to your furniture and other items. This way, you’ll be cashing in a monthly income instead of paying mortgage and maintenance on an empty home.
How to decide what stays and what goes
This might just be the hardest thing about downsizing. We all get attached to our stuff, and it’s hard to let go. Try to apply some of the following principles in order to move things along and speed up the process:
- Sentimental items (old photos, journals, postcards, your kids’ artwork since they were in kindergarten) are probably the most difficult to deal with. But you have a simple solution to that: scan and take digital pictures of everything. You’ll hold on to the memories, which will be at your fingertips all the time, on your phone or on your tablet, without cluttering your space with a lot of boxes filled with old papers. Other ideas to keep your sentimental items without causing clutter include creating scrapbooks or framing and displaying the most significant ones.
- Limit yourself to just one of everything – if, for example, you own two vacuum cleaners, keep only one, the one you prefer. The same goes for everything, from tools to kitchen utensils and so on.
- Use the stuff you were saving for the future – the future is now. Maybe you have a set of fancy China, or luxurious bedding, that you saved up until now. Well, downsizing is the perfect opportunity to get rid of your old stuff and put the new and nice items hiding in your closets and cabinets at good use.
- When it comes to clothing and shoes, a good rule of thumb is to get rid of everything you haven’t used in the past 12 months.
What to do with your stuff?
Once you decide what items you want to keep, you’re left to deal with the rest. Some of them will probably go to recycling or straight to the trash bin. As for the stuff that’s in good shape, you can find various uses. Ask your family and friends if they need anything and gift it to them. Or you could sell them online, or even organize a garage sale. Find local organizations that accept charitable donations and contact them to pick up your belongings.
However, all these actions take a little bit of time – which is another reason why it’s important to start the downsizing process early on.