Moving into a new house is often bittersweet. You are excited for the change, but sad to leave a home so full of memories. Downsizing can be even harder – a smaller place means you don’t have room for all of your current possessions.
But downsizing is also an opportunity to refresh and start anew. If you get rid of the clutter, you can fill your new place with the things you really love, making it feel like home.
Here are three steps for downsizing without sacrificing your meaningful belongings.
1. Make a plan
Take a trip to your new place and measure the size of your rooms and storage areas. This will be your guide for how much you can take with you. It is better to underestimate than overestimate.
As you’re deciding what to keep and what to get rid of, do one room at a time. Moving is a big job, and you don’t need to tackle it all at once. Plan to do a little bit each day, and leave extra time so you aren’t rushed.
Decide on your furniture first. Going from big to small will give you a better idea how much space you have left to fill. You don’t want to have to reshuffle everything if you can’t take that bookshelf with you.
2. Sort your belongings
Will you use it? It’s easy to convince yourself you might still wear that 10-year-old shirt with the tags still on someday. But if you haven’t used it in the past year, it’s likely you never will.
Also, get rid of multiples. Do you have multiple coffee pots, or several sets of china? If you can only use one at a time, you don’t need to keep both.
As you sort, follow a strict yes/no policy -no “maybes” allowed. Make a “yes” pile and a “no” pile, and force yourself to choose. If you aren’t convinced the item deserves a yes, then it’s a no. “Maybe” piles just mean more work for you later.
Decide how to divvy up your “no” pile. You may not want or need these items anymore, but they’re probably useful to someone else. Special items may handed down to friends or family members. Furniture, housewares, clothing and other items in good condition could be sold at a garage sale or on sites like Craigslist. Or, you can choose to donate reusable items to organizations like Goodwill, who sometimes offer neighborhood or even residential pickups, making your task that much simpler. Anything damaged or worn beyond repair should make its way to the recycling bin or a trip to the dump.
3. Preserve memories
Digitize photos to save space and easily share them with family. Photo albums take up a lot of room, and how often do you actually go through them? Pick up a digital frame and enjoy all of your photos in a rotating slideshow or create a slideshow screensaver for your TV or computer.
Take photos of items that bring up good memories, but you no longer have room for. You can look back on the memories without actually keeping the items.
To make sure those treasured items are in good hands, pass them on to your children, grandchildren or close friends. They will love the gift, and you get to enjoy seeing the items being used.
Another strategy is to give keepsakes a new life. If you love to craft, items like old movie stubs, letters and photos are perfect for scrapbooking, letting you create a record of your experiences. Or make three-dimensional pieces of art using shadowboxes. Gathering up your memories in one place will make them easier than ever to enjoy.
Downsizing is an emotional process. You will discover items you haven’t seen in years, and you will have to decide what to do with them. Give yourself some time to reminisce, and then make a decision. Keep in mind your space limitations. Take with you what is truly valuable – only you can decide what you can’t do without.
Just imagine: Once you’ve finished your move, you’ll be able to enjoy your new place surrounded by the feeling of home.
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Originally published November 2015.