As a Professional Organizer, I am asked all sorts of questions about organizing for a move. Frequently I am asked about how to make downsizing your home easier.  Moving to a much smaller space can be a particularly arduous task since you must make so many choices. Taking it all is not an option. Below is a common question, one I was actually asked this week about senior downsizing and my response follows. If you have a question, you can ask me directly here or post it in the comment section.

After years in a large house, where we raised our children and created so many memories, we are moving to a smaller home. How do we begin downsizing our home?

Starting early is the key to completing this emotionally and physically demanding undertaking with a minimum of stress and without regrets from hastily made decisions. As soon as you decide to move, start the process.

Begin by walking through your home. What would you save if you had just few minutes to gather your possessions? What would be devastating to lose? Those answers should come easily. These items will be the start of your ‘keep’ list. Now list the broad categories that your belongings fall into, such as photos, books, art and so on. Prioritize the importance of these categories. Is there anything you’re passionate about? Perhaps you are a collector, artist or sports buff. Most likely items associated with this area of interest will take priority as you assign belongings space in your new home. Going through this step will help you focus on what possessions are truly meaningful and make clear which categories have less personal value. This will make the dispossession process easier.

Keep in mind the kind of home you are moving to. If you currently have a large lawn to maintain and will be moving to a condo, it’s a safe bet that you’ll be able to let go of most of your yard and garden tools.

If you have chosen your new home, take a tour or review the floor plan to see how much storage you’ll have. Compare it to your current situation. This will give you a very good idea of how much stuff you will have to let go.

Now start going through your home and identify the excess. Decide too what you will be giving to family and friends. Do you have heirlooms to pass down, or furnishings that you know will not fit into your new home? Now is the time to let these items go. When you have decided what to give away and to whom, act on it immediately.

Anything not going to family or friends should be donated. Adopting a charity you feel good about can make the whole act of letting go much easier. So can creating a donation station – it allows you to be deliberate in getting rid of stuff.

Are you holding onto boxes of your children’s memorabilia? Many parents homes are used as storage by their children. Let your kids know they will need to take responsibility for their belongings and that it will no longer be stored by you. This should free up a sizable amount of space and seeing this kind of progress will keep your momentum going. Letting go family memorabilia can be tough, I’ve tips to make it easier to let go in this short video.

Next, move on to discarding or recycling anything that doesn’t work, is in need of repair or is outdated. Be ruthless. Things change so quickly these days that it is often easier and more cost effective to replace items than to repair them.

Then, make a list of big ticket items that you will not need but are in good repair. Things like lawn mowers, deep freezers and snow blowers would fall into this category. Schedule with a charity to pick up these items and be sure to get a tax receipt. Or, if you’re up for the extra effort, you can sell them. Sites like Craigslist make selling easy and often quite profitable. For very high value items such as jewelry, art, or antiques it would be worth the time to call in an appraiser to help you decide how to proceed with dispersal.

You should now be well on your way to making significant progress in the downsizing process. If you need more help, be sure to sign up for the decluttering and simplifying e-course. It’s free and it’s awesome!

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