Downsizing Before a Move: Tips to Organize and Declutter

By Amanda Lutz | August 7, 2023

Sorting clothes and packing into cardboard boxes to organize and downsize a home.

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Whether you’re moving into a smaller space or simply a new home, downsizing can make the process a lot easier. Having fewer belongings means you’ll have less to pack and organize once you get to your new place, plus it will allow you to start fresh in your new space. Read on to learn how to simplify your life through downsizing.



Why Downsizing Is Important

Downsizing is important because it means letting go of older, unused possessions and having less to sort through, organize, and pack before a move. It’s so common that there are specialty companies dedicated to helping aging folks downsize into smaller homes. Here are some common reasons for downsizing:



How to Downsize Your Home

With some planning, downsizing your belongings doesn’t have to be difficult. It will also make your moving company’s job easier, which may save you money. Here are some tips to follow.

Budget for Time

Moving is already stressful, and downsizing can make it feel even more daunting. Avoid this by dedicating specific time to downsizing, whether you casually sort through your belongings months in advance or take a more concentrated approach closer to the moving date.

Write Out a Plan

Sorting through old possessions might sound easy, but without a plan, it can quickly become emotional and messy—especially if you’re sorting through various belongings simultaneously. Sitting down and writing a plan of action clarifies your thoughts and provides a useful reference in case things become more complicated than expected. Research local places that accept donated or thrifted items; they’ll be helpful after you’ve sorted your possessions.

Categorize Your Belongings

Categorizing your things will make it easier to organize them when deciding what to keep or discard. Categories could include garage tools, linen closet items, kitchen supplies, and more. Map out these categorizations in the written plan mentioned above.

Sort Your Things Into Piles

Place your household items into one of three categories: keep, donate, and throw away. We’ve described what falls into each category below.

You can also sell some items on user-driven markets such as Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace instead of donating them.

Sort Through One Category at a Time

Pack by category in the corresponding room. For example, a category for “kitchen items” will be packed in the kitchen. Tackling one room at a time is much easier than sorting through the entire house at once. You may decide you don’t need to bring the multiple pizza stones you’ve been gifted to your new home. This is also a good opportunity to digitize belongings that don’t need a physical copy, such as personal documents or family photos.

Have a Yard Sale

Yard sales are a great way to generate extra income before a move, especially since the cost of movers can be high. There’s also the added benefit of your belongings finding a new home instead of ending up in the trash or collecting dust on a thrift store shelf.

Decide Whether a Storage Unit Would Be Useful

Storage units are an option for belongings that don’t fit in your new space but have too much value to give away, such as sentimental items. Consider using a moving truck to transport these larger items to a storage pod. See how much it costs to rent a moving truck in our guide.



How to Optimize Your New Home

Downsizing isn’t just about reducing your number of possessions. It also allows you to ensure your belongings fit into your new floor plan and map out where you’ll place them. Here are some ways to make the best use of your space.

Measure Before Buying Furniture

It’s much easier to figure out if your L-shaped sectional will fit into your new living room if you know your new home’s dimensions. Picking furniture with compatible dimensions allows you to create a floor plan that feels fresh, open, and inviting.

Write Down a Layout

Organizing a space can be an artistic process. Sitting down with a pen and paper is a good way to generate furniture arrangement ideas. It may help you to identify potential challenges early, such as where to put large pieces such as bookshelves or china cabinets. Ample time and forethought will make it simpler to overcome these challenges. Using a minimalist approach makes your space open, refreshing, and welcoming.

Embrace a New Aesthetic

A new space can quickly feel cluttered if every inch of the wall’s real estate is decorated, so only bring pieces that truly speak to you. This keeps your home looking clean and heightens the impact of the things you do choose to keep.



How to Part with Old Belongings

When parting with old belongings, it’s useful to look at the situation not as a loss but as a liberating transition to a new period of life. It’s a chance to be more discerning and intentional about the possessions you choose to keep. Deciding what to hold onto is personal, but we recommend donating objects you don’t feel strongly about to garage sales and charitable organizations or gifting them to family members and friends.



Our Recommendation

Purging old possessions and being intentional with the ones you keep is a great way to maximize your new home’s function and efficiency. Some preplanning, such as taking measurements, creating a layout, and deciding on an aesthetic, can help inform what you keep or get rid of during your downsize. Organizing your objects into categories and piles will help keep things organized, making the process more streamlined and less stressful.



Downsizing Before a Move FAQ

At what age do most people downsize their home?

Many people downsize as they age into their 50s and 60s. According to the 2022 National Association of Realtors report, homebuyers over the age of 57 are more likely to downsize financially and spatially.

What should I do with my old furniture?

You can store old furniture in a storage unit, donate it to a family member or friend, sell it, or arrange to have it thrown away. You can also gift the furniture to a young family member moving into their first home or apartment. Keeping too much furniture risks making your new home feel cluttered and small.

How do I declutter my house before moving?

Decluttering your home is a multistage process. Give yourself plenty of time before your move to reduce stress. Then, make a written plan and sort your belongings into categories as well as piles: keep, give away, and toss. If you want to keep an item but can’t fit it in your new living space, consider using a storage unit or entrusting loved ones with the item’s safekeeping.