How to Downsize Your Stuff for a Move

Whittling down a lifetime’s worth of belongings for a move into a smaller home can be a difficult and emotional task. How can you decide what to keep and what to toss? Here are some things you can do to make the process easier:

Get an early start
If you wait until you’ve signed a contract on your new home, you’ll end up getting overwhelmed and tossing everything into boxes to take with you. So start going through your belongings as soon as you decide to move.

Work in concentric circles
Start in the rooms farthest from the heart of the home, such as the attic, basement, and storage rooms. That’s where there are more items that are simply being stored rather than used.  Then move into the bedrooms, family room, and kitchen. Pack as you go through these rooms, and make separate piles of items you plan to sell, donate, and give to friends or relatives. Then get those items out of your home right away, so you won’t change your mind.

Involve your family
Items hold different meanings for various family members. You don’t want to save and store that box of toys from your daughter’s childhood only to find out later she doesn’t want them. You also don’t want to toss your son’s old baseball gear if it holds great sentimental value to him.

Ask yourself questions
If you’re unsure about whether to keep an item, ask yourself when was the last time you used it, how often you use it, what purpose it serves, what shape it is in, etc.

Envision your new home
Determine which pieces of furniture and other large items will fit in the new space, then sell or give away what you won’t have room for.  Storing these large items in a monthly storage facility is costly.  Items that were custom-made or specially purchased for your old space also may not transition well to your new place.

Determine the cost
Weigh the price you can get for selling an item against the cost of moving it.  It may be better to buy something more suited to your new home with the money earned from a sale.

Consider context
If you’re selling everything else a particular item fits in with, you might want to let it go. For example, if you’re saying goodbye to the couch, it might be time to part with the matching love seat.

Be kind to yourself
You don’t have to get rid of everything you hold dear. If you’re really attached to an item and it would break your heart to let it go, keep it!

Sources:,, The Wall Street Journal

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