Downsizing is not easy for most people. Whether you are moving from 5,000 square feet to 2,500 or from 2,500 to 900, just the idea of getting rid of your personal belongings can stop you in your tracks. For some the idea is enough to put an end to the desire to downsize completely. Yet for others, the idea is filled with potential and endless possibilities. Let’s look at ways to make the transition from “more to less” a bit more comfortable.
The first thing to do is inventory your possessions. An exercise to help you document your belongings is to write down the items you would replace if you everything you owned was lost in a disaster. Take inventory of only the items that are important to you, as well as the things you can live without. The idea is to create a list of possessions you could downsize while downsizing your living space.
The “Get Started Guide” found online at knowyourstuff.org not only helps you inventory your belongings (good to have for home owner’s or renter’s insurance documentation), but you can use the lists you create to identify your “take with me” items you want to keep. These are the essentials you need or “must have” when you relocate to your smaller space.
Items you can “live without” are the things you can sell, donate or give to family members —or at the very least are not necessities. These are the items you can get rid of if space becomes a concern. In other words, your “live without” items are the first ones to go when downsizing.
Create a "could replace" list for things you can sell, donate or give away and then turn around and buy in a smaller version. For example, smaller furniture in place of the over-sized sectional or dining room set that accommodates 12 guests at family and holiday gatherings. If you are feeling overwhelmed, becomingminimalist.com offers tips for decluttering your home so you can purge, combine and move your possessions only once.
Selling and Donating
Downsizing is not easy, but selling your things and making a little cash may make it more palatable. A garage sale is an efficient way to unload several things at once. Online options like eBay, Bonanza or Craigslist are popular with individuals looking to buy and sell items organized by product type. Other popular “swap and sell” groups are available on social sites like Facebook and are targeted to interested buyers in your area.
If you need help pricing your possessions or crafting the perfect description for your listings, look for similar items being sold online and price accordingly. After all, the goal is to downsize so be competitive and make some money. The more money you earn, the more you will have to hire movers, purchase size-appropriate furniture for your new space, take a trip or add to your retirement account.
When all the wheeling and dealing is done and you are not able to sell something, donate it to charity. Organizations like Goodwill, Salvation Army and The American Red Cross help those in need 24/7, 365 days a year. Your donations may be tax deductible; and someone in need will appreciate your generosity.
Even though you have gotten out of the mindset that you need “more”, storage is important when downsizing your life and living quarters. When scoping out your new home, make sure to identify and use all available storage space. For example, deep cabinets are ideal for storing items like blankets or household items like extra linens and light bulbs. Ottomans and benches with interior storage space, wall-mounted shelving, baskets and under-the-bed storage boxes are smart storage solutions. There are storage answers all around you. If you find yourself still in need of inspiration, turn to storage professionals at Container Store or IKEA for helpful ideas.
Only as a last resort do you want to consider renting a storage unit. Not only is it expensive to pay rent for “extra stuff” you are not using, the fact that you need to rent space is an indication you should repeat the inventory exercise to identify what else can be downsized. If there is no way around it and your belongings are absolutely essential, sentimental or valuable, then do the math and compare the annual cost of a storage unit to the value of your possessions.
Running Your Home
The real benefit of downsizing is less time has to be spent maintaining and managing your home. With less square footage comes less cost to run your household. From saving on utility bills, lawn maintenance and general upkeep, you gain time to do things you enjoy rather than cleaning and using your income to preserve a larger residence.
86% of Americans who voluntarily cut back their consumption feel happier as a result of downsizing. Like them, you made the choice to downsize in order to improve your quality of life. Whether your decision is driven by a shorter commute, living in your dream neighborhood, saving money or just to try something new and different, enjoy the simpler life you are embracing. This is an exciting time; an adventure and an opportunity to try something new−living a life with a lighter load. By downsizing you can now find time for the more important things in life.