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Facing the prospect of downsizing your home can be challenging.  Whether you’re scaling down for philosophic, economic, health, or other personal reasons, think of this as an opportunity to launch a new life — one without the weight of unused and neglected possessions. It’s a great excuse to rid your life of clutter and focus on the things that actually make you happy either by serving a function or simply for being beautiful.

The process of downsizing will overwhelm most people, even those who embrace the process. Here are some tips to help you tackle the work ahead of you, whether you are moving yourself or helping a friend or senior parent downsize their life.

Tip #1: Map it Out

house floorplanIf you don’t know the dimensions of your current AND future home, then find out right away.  You need a practical measurement of the difference between the two spaces, otherwise you won’t know how much you really need to discard or replace before your move.

Once you have the floor plans and dimensions side by side, you can make decisions about how much space you will have for furnishings and storage.  You can also measure to see if your existing furniture, shelving, and other large items will even fit in the new space or if you will need to replace them when you arrive. Set specific limits for what can and can’t move with you and be sure to include your family in the discussion. Making them a part of the process at this early stage will help when it comes time to make decisions later.

Tip #2: Set Ground Rules

Take the decisions from the first tip and turn them into guidelines or rules. A specific rule could be something like “discard three books for every one you pack.” Another option is to give family members a specific number of boxes and say that everything they want for their room has to fit in those packing boxes and nothing more.

It is usually a good idea to make it a rule that any object that is torn, broken, stained, or otherwise damaged will be recycled or put in the garbage.  If the owner feels strongly enough about it, they must get it repaired before the move.

Tip #3: Find Compassionate Ways to Discard

Ordering a dumpster and sending everything to the landfill is an easy answer, but there are more compassionate ways to dispose of unwanted and unneeded items. Some of those ways are actually profitable.

Find out what charities in your area take donations. Research their guidelines for what is and isn’t acceptable and whether they will pick up donations from your home.  Once you’ve chosen your charity, make sure everyone is familiar with the guidelines and knows the deadline for gathering items.  Get a receipt for your donations so that you can deduct it from your income tax.

Another option is to hold a yard or garage sale.  This will get rid of stuff while providing you some additional spending money. If you have the time to devote to planning and running such a sale, do so.

If there are useful items that you simply don’t use yourself, consider gifting them to friends and families that will use them.  This also applies to sentimental items that you know they would treasure.

Tip #4: Replace Before You Move

Do you need to downsize your furnishings to fit the smaller scale of your new home? Do it now – before you move.  The two mistakes people make when downsizing is to move with their over-sized stuff or to move without any furniture.  The plan is to buy the replacements once they arrive in the new home.  That means they are either living in overcrowded space with furniture that is too big or they are living without furniture at all.  With everything else you have to deal with when you arrive at a new home, you don’t want to have to deal with making major purchases.

Tip #5: Be Decisive

packing up the houseAs you make the countless choices associated with downsizing, you need to be confident and absolute.  Any choice should be “yes” or “no” — remove “maybe” from your vocabulary.  You are choosing what possessions you want to take with you in this new and exciting phase of your life. You want things that make you feel happy and that you take pleasure in having. If you are uncertain or doubtful that something will be useful or will make you smile when you see it in your new home, then leave it behind.

There are many other tips and ideas that can help you downsize. Seek out other resources, from advice from friends to talking to relocation specialists or professional organizers.  Take these tips as a baseline, add suggestions from other sources, and mix in your own personal preferences and you’ll find that downsizing isn’t something to dread after all.

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