Is it time to downsize? Part I

Dated: April 13 2023

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Is it time to simplify your life? Is your house just too big for you now? Do you feel weighed down by your stuff?  Downsizing might be the perfect solution for you!  In this blog, we'll explore the benefits of downsizing your home and offer practical tips for making the process a success.

From reducing clutter to lightening your outlook to lowering your housing costs, downsizing can have a number of positive effects on your life. But where do you start? How do you decide what to keep and what to let go of? And how do you ensure that your new, smaller space will work for you?

Just the thought of downsizing can be overwhelming, so it's important to approach it as a process:

  1. Evaluate your stuff

  2. Assess your current home

  3. Determine what you need in a new home

  4. Make a plan

Give careful and thoughtful consideration to each step. For this post, we’re going to concentrate on Step 1, but these steps are not mutually exclusive, you will be thinking about what does and doesn’t work in your current home at the same time you’re thinking about what you need in a new home.  Those thoughts can play an integral part in evaluating your belongings.   Here are some things to consider:

As you downsize, you'll need to be realistic about what you can and can't keep. 

Round 1 - Take a room by room inventory of your belongings, don’t forget the basement, the attic, and the shed!   Start in whichever room you like and look at each item critically and mark them Keep, Sell/Donate or Trash:  

  1. To whom does it belong? 

    1. If the answer is anyone other than you or someone currently living in your home, box it up for the owner and ask them to come get it.  Give them a due date.  No holdovers!  Unclaimed items get evaluated for the Sell/Donate or Trash piles!  Be strong!  It won’t be easy to get rid of the American Girl collection, yearbooks,  or trophies!

  2. Is it a necessity or a nice to have?

    1. Necessities mark Keep

  3. Nice to have, ask yourself:

    1. Does it work?

      1. No?  Mark Trash

    2. When was the last time I used it?

    3. Why did I save it?

    4. Do I feel obligated to keep it?

    5. Does it bring me joy?  

For this first round, there may be several,  “Does it bring me joy?” is the key.  If you answer yes to that, mark it Keep; if you answer no, mark it Sell/Donate.  At the end of the round for each room, discard anything marked Trash immediately!  Ideally, it should go out to the curb that day.  Items marked Sell/Donate, photograph them and determine their commercial value.  This can be done by checking Ebay, Poshmark, Facebook MarketPlace, etc. to see what similar items are listed/selling for.  For the items you’re donating, put the photos with values and the name of the charity into your Income Tax File.  For those marked Sell, determine which website you want to use and get them listed.  If they don’t sell within a month, move them to the donations box.  Drop off your donations every week so they don’t end up back in your house!

You may have to repeat this evaluation process several times. It is a difficult but essential process,  so be patient with yourself.  In later rounds, the questions about why you kept things and how often they’re used become more important since you’ve already determined that everything you still have is a necessity and/or brings you joy.

Round 2 - Start the process again, but this time really think about your necessities, does each bring you joy?  Your bed, for example,  Clearly a necessity, but do you love it or have your tastes changed drastically from when you first brought it home?  If you don’t love it, it can be marked for replacement.  You don’t have to hold onto something just because it is a necessity!  

Now’s the time to start really looking at your more discretionary items, give more weight to how often an item is used, or why you’re holding on to them.  Let’s take knick knacks as an example.  Did you collect or inherit Precious Moments, Lladros or Hummels?  Are you emotionally attached to the entire collection or just a few meaningful pieces?  If your answer is “a few meaningful pieces”, give yourself permission to gift, sell or donate the other pieces.  That way, you honor your memories, and the people attached to them, and give someone else the chance to mark a cherished memory.  

You will repeat this process until you have paired down your belongings to match the size of the new home you want.  Fair warning, it gets tougher with each round.  At some point, you may want to enlist a friend, or professional organizer to help you reach your goal.

Stay tuned for Downsizing Part II coming in May.

Blog author image

Carole Conaghan

Morris, Monmouth and Ocean counties are great places to live and work, which is why my family chose to call them home throughout my life! With roots in Bayonne, NJ, we came to Morris county in 1964 a....

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