Two years ago some dear friends of ours moved from a beautiful 5600 square-foot mountainside estate home in Northern Virginia to an equally fabulous 2200 square-foot bungalow on a golf course in coastal South Carolina. Their impetus? Cold blustery Virginia winters and more house and property than they wanted to maintain.
It's not just weather and maintenance that inspires people to relocate to smaller quarters. Downsizing happens for a variety of reasons including divorce, economic challenges, retirement and empty nesting.
Regardless of the cause of your downsize, try to think of it as a time of change, possibility and new beginnings. Moving homes (for any reason) can feel overwhelming so here are seven tips to consider that will make your relocation simpler.
1. Start early.
Start preparing for your move as soon as you make the decision to downsize. The more time you allow yourself to plan and prepare, the less stressful your move will be. If you have a year's notice, take the year and execute your plan. If you only have six months, use it all -- you'll need it! You don't want to wait until the month before your move and end up rushing important decisions. Besides the time it takes to make decisions about what to keep, the actual decluttering, selling and donating takes time and energy too.
2. See the new space on paper.
Get a floor plan of your new place to determine how many rooms you'll have and how much space you'll have for your things. Seeing the measurements of your rooms on paper is helpful when it comes time to choose what to take with you and what to leave behind. Remember to factor scale and proportion into the equation too. If your current living room is 20 feet by 18 feet and your new one is 14 by 16, your current furniture may be proportionally too large to feel comfortable in that smaller space.
3. Start with the easy stuff.
Begin sorting and decluttering in an area where you have low attachment, such as a junk drawer or your office. Start by clearing out just one drawer or your desktop, identifying things you can live without and getting rid of them. As you do these easy spaces, you'll build your decision-making muscle and it will be easier to make harder decisions as you go. Rememer the big picture is your goal of bringing only the items you use regularly, items that reflect who you are NOW and the most important historic pieces of your life that you simply can’t part with. No matter how many times I move, I'll always bring my late mother's antique ironing board and saddle stitching bench with me.
4. Evaluate kitchen tools carefully.
We all have utensils and kitchen unitaskers -- tools that only have one purpose. Downsizing is the perfect opportunity to eliminate duplicates and examine the value of unitaskers. Why keep that bulky apple corer when a knife will do the same job? For that matter, why keep more knives than you need? Donate the less-the-stellar tools in favor of keeping only the best ones you have.
5. Pare down in every category.
Your life is full of stuff, most of which can be grouped into categories such as books, clothing, and so on. Over time, some categories grow way larger than necessary without you even realizing it. A few that typically become unwieldy are clothing, books, office supplies, drinkware, and food storage. YES it’s good to have an abundant supply in these areas but how much is enough? How many pairs of black pants, boxes of binder clips, legal pads, plastic containers and coffee mugs can you actually use? Pare down each category so you have plenty, but no more than you really need. Better to have 8 mugs you love and have space for than to have 16 that just take up valuable space.
6. Clear out the history.
Parents tend to store boxes of memories from their children, such as baby clothes, school papers and art projects. Many parents also do their kids a favor by storing things left behind when the kids go off to college or move away. Downsizing time is the perfect time to evaluate your kids' things and pare down so you won't be crowded in your new space. Choose only your most favorite memory items to make the journey with you to your new home, photograph the best of the rest, then give (or throw) the physical items away. As for your kids things they've left behind, tell them well in advance that you'd like them to come get their things by a specific date deadline or the items will be donated. If they choose not to, that's their option, however then it's up to you to make good on your promise and donate the items.
7. Donate to friends and family.
You may not have room in your new home for all the furniture you love, so why not give family and friends your beloved possessions you simply can't take with you? Heck, you could even do a "long-term loan" of specific pieces to friends or family if you think you'll want the items back one day.