Maybe you are moving to a place where real estate is more expensive, or the neighborhood you want to live in has smaller homes, or your kids have moved out and it’s time for fewer rooms. Regardless of the reason, downsizing is tough! There will be difficult decisions to make about what to keep and what to discard before moving into a condo or townhome. We get it. But you know what? There are many benefits to downsizing.
For example, a smaller home is easier to maintain. Smaller homes, like condos and townhomes, also have lower utility bills. And once you get rid of unnecessary things you will feel good.
In this article, we provide a few guiding questions to make downsizing easier, and lay out the entire process of downsizing to remove some of the organizational guesswork.
What to Ask Yourself When Downsizing a Home
As you sort through all of your stuff to downsize before a move into a townhome or condo, you’ll have some easy divisions to make. Your extra ironing board? Bye-bye. The beautiful porcelain platter you inherited from your grandmother? Definitely keep.
With other items, the process won’t be so easy. When considering an item that you’re unsure about, here are questions to ask yourself to make the decision easier:
1. Have I Used This in the Last Year?
This is an excellent question to ask when determining the usefulness or importance of an item. In some cases, you may want to keep something that hasn’t been used in over a year (for example, if you have expensive winter boots but only go to a snowy and cold place every other year), but those items are usually an exception.
2. Does it Spark Joy?
You probably recognize this one, thanks to the tidying up guru Marie Kondo. If an item is not useful and doesn’t make you smile, why hold onto it?
3. If This Was Lost or Broken, Would I Replace It?
Some items are irreplaceable, of course, but if you have something that’s replaceable and you wouldn’t replace it if it was lost or broken, it’s time to let go.
Assess Your New Space
When it comes to downsizing, Molli Spear, the Managing Editor of LifeStorageBlog, suggests measuring your new home. This isn’t just about square footage, but also vertical space. “Start simple by calculating the total space of your new home. If you want to know how much you can bring, you need to know how much space you’re working with. Include the space in each room of your house, and don’t forget to include: basement storage, attic storage, bike storage, closets, kitchen cabinets, bathroom cabinets, space under the bed, and shelving in hot water heater closets.” Every bit counts!
You can also consider making changes to optimize storage prior to or after your move. Lifehacker suggests, “Make sure to make use of all of the available storage space you can get your hands on. Ottomans that open up and have space inside, wall-mounted shelving, under-bed storage boxes, they’re all your best friend if you’re moving to a smaller space.”
Oh, and keep in mind that downsizing space and downsizing the number of rooms require different considerations. If you currently have three bedrooms and are downsizing to two, you can get rid of one bed. If you’ll still have three bedrooms, you might need all three beds, just depending on how you plan to utilize the third room (it might be a dedicated home office that won’t need a bed).
Make a Plan
While sorting your things, divide them into the following four categories:
- Category 1 – What to keep
- Category 2 – What to get rid of (subcategories: sell, donate, and discard/recycle)
- Category 3 – What to store
- Category 4 – What to replace
Getting back to Marie Kondo, her website states,“The KonMari Method encourages tidying by category – not by location – beginning with clothes, then moving on to books, papers, komono (miscellaneous items), and, finally, sentimental items.” That method really applies to organizing and not downsizing, specifically, but it roughly corresponds to our recommendations below for downsizing before moving into a condo or townhome.
If you’ve assessed your new condo or townhome, you should know if and where your larger pieces of furniture will fit. We recommend getting the big stuff settled first because it’s relatively easy, and gives you a base to plan for the rest of your move.
If You Already Have Stuff in Storage, Sort Through It
This could be things you have in the attic, basement, or garage, or things you have in a storage unit. This may be tough (after all, you were probably storing these things for a reason), but you’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment after going through it.
Leave the Sentimental Stuff for Last
A lot of sentimental stuff is not necessarily useful, so we’re wading into murky and emotional waters. This is where Kondo’s guiding question, “Does it spark joy?” can really help. Something may be meaningful for you, but actually make you feel sad or disappointed. That’s an emotional burden that you’d be better off without.
Move Swiftly Until You Get the Job Done
Set daily goals and sort through your possessions as quickly and efficiently as you can. The things that you plan to get rid of should be moving out the door at a steady pace. Online resources and apps like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, NextDoor, OfferUp, and letgo can be a great help. For giveaways, the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) will pick up from your home for free. Taking a long time to process will leave you feeling drained and overwhelmed. This may mean taking time off work or clearing your social calendar, but it’s important to get it done!
Finally, if you find that you’re really struggling to get through it all, seek help. If you have a friend or family member who is a master of organization, ask if they can help you with the process of downsizing. Or get professional help. KonMari-certified consultants are also available for hire, or search online for “downsizing consultant” or “organizing consultant” along with the name of your city or town.
Someone once said, “Organizing the home is 1% buying boxes and bins and putting stuff away, 99% motivation.” Motivation is important, but even better than motivation is having a plan! We hope this article helps you to downsize before making the move to a condo or townhome.
For the last 16 years, Rachel Kinbar has been a writer of articles, blog posts, white papers, essays, infographics, web copy, sales copy, scripts, poetry, lyrics, and more. She has keen research skills that she applies to a wide variety of topics, and she especially loves topics related to design, history, and sustainable living.