By Jamie Wiebe | Aug 5, 2020
Looking around, wondering how to downsize a house full of stuff so it will fit into your new home can send you right into anxiety overload. But look at it this way: downsizing can make a move to a new place a whole lot easier on everyone.
Granted, sorting things to toss or donate can be a headache in itself. But trust us: Downsizing is so worth it. After all, there’s a bit of the hoarder in everyone (sometimes more than a bit), and moving is the perfect opportunity to pare down your possessions. Plus, when you’re paying movers by the hour, fewer boxes means a smaller bill.
How to downsize when moving
Sound good? OK, here’s how to downsize in seven easy(ish) steps.
1. Consider your new space
Whether you’re downsizing or upgrading your square footage, you need keep in mind what will and won’t fit in your new pad as you debate how to downsize all that stuff—and we’re talking style as well as size. Don’t keep all of your ratty den furniture if you’ll have only a formal living room, and consider ditching the china cabinet if you’re losing dining space.
And don’t just plan to put oversized pieces in storage until the day you have a bigger home. Unless they’re heirlooms or antiques, or have sentimental value, you’ll probably never think of them again.
“Ask yourself if you are willing to pay to store” anything that won’t fit, says Michelle Hale, the co-owner of New York City‘s home organization service Henry & Higby. “If not, it’s probably best to cut ties.”
2. Downsizing the junk
No one will be surprised if future scientists discover that every closet hides a secret wormhole to another dimension. Somehow, it absorbs all your secret junk—and still has enough room for more and more stuff to be thrown in it. Step No.1 for a pre-move downsizing: Sort through that terrifying mess.
“Take a long, hard look at your clothing and closets to see what you can throw out or donate,” Hale says.
She recommends following the “two-season rule” and ditching any clothing item you haven’t worn in two seasons (six months) or more (“with some sentimental exceptions”).
3. Ditch old kids’ clothes
Go through your children’s closets with the same discerning eye. In fact—because kids grow so darn-tootin’ fast—take an even more critical look.
“Make sure to only move clothing that fits,” Hale says. Donate anything that’s gently used, or give the items to friends or relatives who might need them, because babies=expensive, y’all.
If your kid happens to hit a growth spurt right before you move, consider that a blessing and pare down his closet to the barest of essentials. You’ll be buying new clothes, anyway. Save yourself a box.
4. How to downsize your electronics
We all have a few skeletons in the closet. For most of us, those skeletons are broken electronics. Whether they’re old laptops, cracked cellphones, or numerous micro-USB chargers, those suckers need to head to the slaughterhouse. (Don’t just toss these guys in the dumpster, though; there are electronics recycling programs you can use instead.)
There’s one exception, Hale says: Unique chargers or cables whose pair you can’t identify. Maybe they’re for your kid’s 3DS game console or that old digital camera.
“Put it in a box for the duration of the packing process,” Hale says. “Better [to be] safe than sorry should you find a match for it in another part of the house.”
5. Sort, sort, sort
Go through each room of your house, from least-used to most-trafficked, and sort each and every item you see. Divide them into three piles: keep, donate, and toss.
Having trouble choosing the correct designation? Take a cue from Marie Kondo and ask yourself, “Does it bring me joy?” If the answer is a true, honest-to-God yes, add it to the keep pile. Otherwise, it’s time to say goodbye.
“We would never recommend throwing out everything unless you have the means to completely outfit your new home, but getting rid of those items will make your new house a happier space,” Hale says.
Once you have the donate and toss piles in order, deal with them immediately. The longer they sit, the more likely you are to put junk into your moving boxes. You’ve already said adios once—don’t force yourself to say it again.
6. Ditch the duplicates
Unless you’re holding onto something for sentimental reasons, now’s the time to get rid of doubles. Two wine holders? Multiple printers? Six table lamps when you need only three? Choose your favorites and downsize the rest.
7. Create an ‘open first box’
Hale’s last rule of downsizing keeps things smooth when it comes time to unpack: Create an “open first box,” complete with toilet paper, lightbulbs, toiletries, basic cleaning supplies, and bed sheets. This genius idea keeps you from having to dig through every box to fill your basic needs on your first night in your new place—just open, kick back, and relax. Just make sure to label it clearly and instruct your movers to leave it somewhere obvious.
“It will help you get through that first night with a little less stress,” Hale says.