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Downsizing Strategies

Space Planning

  • Subtract the square footage of the future home from the current home.
  • Add in new square footage like a den, deck, or sunroom.
  • Measure furniture to be moved to ensure fit.
  • Ask if the facility–senior development, assisted living, continuing care–can provide space-planning assistance.

Sort into Categories
Use various colors of Post-It Notes® to help sort items into categories:

  • Move
  • Maybe–move and decide later
  • Sell–at auction, estate sale, yard sale
  • Give away–to family member or friends
  • Donate–to charitable organizations
  • Throw out

Assess Future Needs

  • Is it family-sized? Items like large camping tents probably won’t be needed.
  • Will it fit? Compare size and square footage; a space planner can help.
  • Is it house-oriented? If moving to a condo or townhouse, get rid of lawn mowers, snow blowers, and large gardening tool.

Throw-Out Strategies

  • Resist the “maybe we’ll need it sometime” mindset.
  • If it hasn’t been touched for more than a year, throw it away.
  • Consider if it’s worth the cost and effort to pack, move, and unpack.
  • Still can’t decide? Put it in a sealed, unlabeled, and dated box; if unopened a year later, throw it away, unopened.

Give Keepsakes to Children

  • Give childhood arts, crafts, and family photos to children; they may cherish them and use them to start their own traditions.
  • Receiving meaningful keepsakes may ease the pain of breaking sentimental ties to the family home.
  • Ask children to sort items:
    • Take Now
    • Take next time
    • Give away
    • Throw away

Managing Time

  • Allow time: Most downsizing processes take 2-3 months.
  • Start early: Begin the process before the house is listed. If it sells quickly, there will be less time for accomplishing the tasks.
  • Schedule: Set a schedule by room, week, month, or other milestones.
  • Take time: Spreading out the process makes it less emotionally wrenching.

Can Family Help?

  • Some families assist, and some assert
  • A good indicator is the way a family behaves during Thanksgiving or while making vacation plans together.

Prepare to Feel Good

When the process of downsizing is complete, most people feel relieved and good about reducing the amount of accumulated stuff.

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