Expert Reveals: The 7 Best Ways to Downsize and Declutter For a Move

Why declutter before a move? The reasons are plentiful: from health benefits to streamlined packing and reduced stress, the advantages are clear. With our comprehensive guide, you'll be equipped to tackle the task with ease, ensuring your move is not only manageable but also sets the stage for a fresh start in your new space.

How to Downsize for a Move

Moving is one of life's most stressful experiences; it doesn’t matter if you’re a first-time mover or a seasoned expert, it might be one of humanity’s least favorite things to do… ever.

So why not make it easier on yourself by decluttering before? We’ll tell you the 7 best ways to downsize and declutter when moving to a smaller space.

Why You Should Declutter

There are many reasons to downsize or declutter. Here are just a few:

Health Benefits

Downsizing and opting for a minimalist lifestyle can improve relationships and sleep, and even lower cortisol levels. Clutter tends to affect our anxiety levels and ability to focus, making us less productive and healthy.

Packing Less

Decluttering means you’ll be packing fewer items when you do eventually move. When selling your house to potential buyers, less clutter will make the space feel more open and appealing to buyers.

Time, Stress, and Money

Even if you’re not moving, beginning to declutter can save you an immense amount of time and spare you from pulling your hair out. Plus, hosting a yard sale could put some extra cash in your pocket.

1. Create a Plan

According to our Move Planner, we suggest ordering moving supplies 6 weeks before moving, and starting the process of planning and decluttering around 5 weeks before the move. 

Make a plan of action 5 weeks before the move. Start using refrigerated food, decide if you want to host a garage sale or donate unwanted items, and figure out what appliances to take with you. If you are moving big items like hot tubs or fridges, schedule a mover to walk through your place two weeks before. 

Come up with a decluttering plan before hopping into the mess. Here are some general categories to sort by:

  • Appliances
  • Books
  • Clothing
  • Decor
  • Gadgets
  • Furniture
  • Kitchen items
  • Paperwork
  • Toys
  • Outdoor items (patio, deck, pool, garage, yard, driveway)
  • Seasonal decorations

2. Make an Inventory List

When downsizing to a smaller home, the reality is you’ll have less room for your items. It’s key to make an inventory list of your belongings before starting the packing nightmare.

First, separate necessary items from non-necessary items. A good rule of thumb is if you haven’t used it in the past year, you should probably get rid of it. And if you forgot you had a certain item, it may be time to say goodbye unless you really think you’ll use it. This process is to simplify your life, so only take what you need.

3. Sort Room-by-Room: Toss, Recycle, or Donate?

As you go through your belongings, set up a system to stay organized. The last thing you want is for all your hard work to fall apart. We recommend the Three Box Method, which is a strategy that forces you to make a decision item-by-item. Get 3 boxes/bins, and label them “Keep”, “Get Rid Of”, and “Put In Storage".

Items that play a part in your everyday/weekly life go in the “Keep” box.

Items that no longer serve a purpose go in the “Get Rid Of” box. Once you’ve sorted through all the items, go back through this one to determine whether you’ll donate or host a yard sale depending on the items.

Items that are infrequently used like suitcases or sentimental keepsakes go in the “Put In Storage” box.

4. Declutter Digitally

Over time, paper can accumulate significantly. Take some time to sort through old bills, receipts, and important documents, and recycle what’s necessary.

For documents like tax returns over the years, use a plastic bin for storage. Scan any other important documents that you may need in the future so you have a digital copy, then shred them.

With the emergence of streaming and electronics today, holding onto old VHS tapes, DVD’s, or CD’s may not be the best use of space. I know they may bring back memories, but it may be time to get rid of them and go for a minimalist lifestyle.

5. Smart Storage in Tight Spaces

When downsizing to a smaller home, it’s crucial to optimize every bit of storage space. If you don’t have traditional storage spaces, like basements or attics, consider using these strategies:

  • Built-In Storage: For built-in storage spaces, use multifunctional furniture pieces to maximize the space. For example, instead of buying a regular couch, buy one with drawers underneath that pull out. These kinds of items not only reduce clutter but also blend seamlessly into your living space for convenient use. Built-in shelves are also an option. 
  • Open Wall Space: Floating shelves are very popular nowadays, and for good reason. They offer a cheque and efficient use of storage space for your belongings. 
  • Hidden Storage Spaces: Look for unused spaces under stairs, closets, and crawl areas for storing solutions. Cubbies and clear plastic bins are game-changers in these areas because they maximize the space while also keeping your items organized and accessible. Enhance your bathrooms with over-the-door hooks, towel racks, above-toilet shelving, and more.

6. Furniture Fit

Your new home might not have enough space to hold all of your current furniture, so make sure to do the measurements beforehand. It’s much easier to figure this out ahead of time, instead of finding out your sectional doesn’t fit the new space.

Hold off on purchasing new items until you’ve familiarized yourself with the new space. It might be more crowded than you think. We want this new space to feel open and airy.

7. Give Yourself Plenty of Time

Understanding how to downsize also means knowing when to start the process. Allocate more time than expected because there can be many unexpected problems when sorting through your items.

By taking this approach, you essentially lower your stress and cortisol levels, giving you the peace of mind to sort thoroughly and without rushing.

Remember, it’s ok to seek help from friends and family, or you can also hire a professional service to pack and clear out your home for you.

Questions to Ask Yourself While Decluttering

  1. Will I use this in the next year?
  2. Do I have more than one?
  3. Does it work/fit?
  4. Is it difficult or expensive to move?
  5. Where will it go in the new house?

A New Beginning

We know it can be very difficult to let go of sentimental items, but it may be time to move on and start a new chapter. Choosing a minimalist lifestyle might be the change you need moving forward, so be open to the possibility of downsizing from your current home. 

These are the 7 best ways to declutter when moving to a smaller, cozier space. Now that you’ve learned these secrets, we wish you the best of luck on your journey!

Nik Watson

Meet Nik, a writer specializing in real estate and moving. Over the past two years, he's written for various real estate firms and e-commerce companies, gaining expertise and a solid reputation. Nik has moved several times recently, experiencing both DIY and professional moves. He recommends using professional movers to reduce stress significantly. When not writing, Nik explores other business opportunities in real estate and moving

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