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5 Easy Steps to Downsize

Ready to downsize? Follow these five steps to quickly get rid of at least half your belongings.
If you are thinking about downsizing, chances are that you have thought about the amount of stuff you have. Downsizing can be an appealing choice, but often times people are overwhelmed with the amount of work they would have to do. I've previously talked about reasons to downsize, but once you've made the decision to cut your living space in half (or less!), you are going to have to do some hard work to cut down your belongings to fit into the smaller home.
Recently Mr. DCeo and I decided we were going to downsize dramatically. During the weeks it took to get ready to move out of our big house, we realized that this is not a quick process. Most people would call us minimalists, and our house was pretty well organized, and yet it still took us about three weeks to go through the purging, sorting, and packing process. Keep in mind that we tried to keep our sanity by working on it a little each day, so the work could have been completed quicker. Depending on how much motivation and time you have, the process may go a little quicker or take a little longer.
Round 1: Purge
This first round of purging is where you are going to look for the most obvious things to get rid of, including trash and donations. For this process, I'd recommend getting a box of black trash bags to fill with trash, and a box of tall white trash bags to fill with donations. Then, pick one room to go through, and as quickly as you can, grab everything you don't wear, use, or like, and throw it in to either the donation bag or the trash bag. If it's still in good condition, and someone else could get use out of the item, it should go into the donations. If no one else would want the item, put it into the trash immediately.
This first round is meant to go quickly. Don't over think, don't try on clothes, don't ask opinions. That will all come later. This first go round will likely clear out about 25 percent of your stuff without even trying. Again, just make sure to focus on the stuff you don't wear, use, or like. Some examples of things that are easy to toss in this round are:
Clothes you haven't worn in years
Bottles of shampoo that no one in your family likes to use
Receipts for items you know you aren't going to return, or are past their return date
Anything that's broken (unless you really intend to fix it before you leave home)
When we did this, I was able to fill three tall trash bags with clothes immediately. I don't have many clothes compared to most women, yet my closet was still overrun with items I didn't really like. I was also surprised to find that most of the items in our bathroom cabinets went straight into the trash. Over the years, I hadn't put much thought to the cabinets in the bathroom because they weren't super messy. When I started to go through them, though, I found multiple items that I remember moving from my last apartment eight years ago. If I haven't used the remainder of a bottle of lotion that I bought before I was married, it's pretty clear it can go in the trash. You'll likely be surprised by what you find lurking in your cabinets during this round. Again, don't think, just throw it in the trash!
Round 2: Group Duplicates
After you get rid of the stuff you know you don't want, it's time to start figuring out what you still have. During this step, you are going to start putting similar things together. Hopefully you already have some areas of your home organized like this, but you'll still probably surprise yourself with the amount of duplicate items you own. By putting all the like items together, you'll be making the next couple rounds even easier.
In our home, other than realizing that 80% of my wardrobe is black, white, or grey, we didn't have too many surprises in the closets. Where we were shocked with the duplicates was in our kitchen. We could have literally stocked 3 kitchens with the amount of cookware, cooking utensils, and dinnerware we had in our cupboards. By putting everything together in groups, we were able to move on to Round 3.
Round 3: Pick Your Favorites
As you can imagine, when we realized we had enough stuff for three kitchens, we also realized that we only liked about one full set of the items. Other items had made their way into our kitchen as gifts, impulse purchases, and hand-me-downs. We already had a great selection of items, but the ho-hum items had been getting in the way. I have to admit, we actually enjoyed picking the favorite items to take with us because it was kinda like shopping in our own house.
When you are ready for Round 3, gather each person who needs to have an opinion on the items that will get taken with you, but decide an order of who picks first. For example, if you are the one who does 80% of the cooking in your home, you should be the one to pick your favorite items to get packed. If your spouse does the other 20%, have him or her go through to see if there are any items you were leaving behind that they feel should come along too.
When it comes to closets, let the person who wears the clothes make most of the decisions. I've worked with many families to help organize kid stuff, and almost every time the parents want to hold on to more than the kids do. Allow your child to pick his or her favorite clothes, toys, and household items, and only step in to grab a few things you think they might really regret leaving behind. The added bonus about making each person responsible for picking their favorites is that they can't blame anyone else for items they forgot or chose not to bring.
You are also going to need to pick your favorite pieces of furniture, but I've found it's easier to do this when you are able to start moving things in to your new place. That way, you can plan the layout of each room, pick from your current furniture, move it in, and then determine of additional items need to be purchased to complete the space. I've made the mistake of getting rid of something when moving out of a home, only to find that it would have been perfect in my new home, which is why we will talk a little more about this in Round 5.
Round 4: Purge Again
Chances are that by this point you've identified some more items that you don't want to take with you to your smaller home. There's also a good chance that these items are still in good condition, which is why they didn't get pulled out in the first round. These items may have value and would make sense to be sold, either online, at a garage sale, or through a consignment store. All those options take time and energy, but can make you a few extra bucks to apply toward your new home or the move. If you don't want to go through that process, start giving it away.
After we picked out the items that were going to move with us, we had a decent amount of clothes and kitchen and household items that we no longer needed. We were able to get a few hundred dollars by selling a fancy blender, some landscaping tools, and some small electronics. But the rest of the stuff would have commanded just a few dollars each, and neither of us was willing to coordinate a rummage sale or list each item individually online. What did we do? We called a few of our friends who we thought might like to go through the stuff, and they came over and picked out what they could use for themselves. Then, we packed everything else up and dropped it off at a donation center. Our friends were happy that they got some great quality items for free, and we were happy that some of our better yet unwanted items were going to great homes.
Round 5: Store Items During Transition
Now that you've gone through the purging process a couple times, you probably still have a few items that you are still confused about. You don't think you want to take them with you, but there's a chance you might want or need them in your new place. For these items, and for a very short, defined amount of time, I advise storing them so you can pull out individual items if you realize you can't live without them. Keep in mind that storage facilities are not cheap, so you should be very selective with the items you put in to storage. If you're paying $100/month to store half-used bottles of soap, clothes that no longer fit, and kitchen utensils you can purchase for $5 if you really discover you need them, it's not a good use of your money.
What we personally found was that it took us about two months of being out of our bigger home to realize what things we truly did need to take with us. We had several trips to our storage, and only pulled a few really important items out. Your experience will likely be similar, so I'd suggest circling a date on your calendar and committing to emptying the storage unit on that date. Anything you haven't needed to pull out gets donated, no questions asked. We found this was a very effective way to ensure we didn't spend thousands of dollars storing items that we don't have a use for. It may be scary to think about just donating boxes of stuff without going through them one last time, but if you have lived for 2 or 3 months without the stuff, that's a pretty good indicator it wouldn't get used even if it is in your new home.
Downsizing can be scary, but it can also be very rewarding. If you're considering cutting down your living space, you might want to check out my episode, "6 Compelling Reasons to Downsize." It might help you figure out if you really do want to downsize, or if you are just romancing the notion.
Until next time, I'm the Domestic CEO, helping you love your home.
Originally posted here: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/house-home/organization/5-easy-steps-to-downsize?page=1

To see more: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/domestic-ceo

Ask the creator about this project

  • Jackie
    Jackie United Kingdom
    on Jan 21, 2016

    Well some people just aren't organised and need help with it. Especially hoarders like me. I personally found it quite useful.

  • Beatriz Maria
    Beatriz Maria Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic Of
    on Jan 21, 2016

    i Agree with you. I move from a house no too big but a house with garden,etc, to a flat and I did a kind of garage sale with all my belongins who I acumulate for years. including some from my parents house who I herited. And now Im happy . We dont need too much things to live confortably and chic.

  • John Biermacher
    John Biermacher
    on Jan 21, 2016

    I think they make some good points, especially number 5.

  • Pam P
    Pam P Fifty Lakes, MN
    on Jan 21, 2016

    I'm 62 and getting ready to move. I felt quilty about downsizing - it's hard to get rid of things you've accumulated. This article definitely is going to make it easier on me now.

  • Jeanette S
    Jeanette S Atlanta, GA
    on Jan 21, 2016

    Great job...good advice! The reason I do not want to downsize is I just don't want to go through all the junk. I think if I did downsize, I would take what I wanted and have a charity come out and take the rest! HA! I did get rid of 80% of my clothes over the first 2 years after I retired.

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