Downsizing your home—moving from a larger home to a smaller one—is a great way of saving money and simplifying your life. Living in a smaller home can save you money on heating and cooling, landscaping, property taxes, and upkeep costs. Downsizing your home also saves you time since you will spend less of it maintaining and cleaning a smaller home and will have more time on weekends doing what you enjoy.
There are many reasons homeowners are ready to move into a smaller home: their children have married or gone off to college and they no longer need the extra space; retirees want to lower their cost of living and spend less time on home maintenance; and some homeowners want the advantages of living in the city and opt for a condo or townhouse.
But some people who are thinking of downsizing hesitate because they don’t know what to do with all the stuff they’ve accumulated over the years. They think it’s too much work and will take too long to unload all their items.
The fact is downsizing is easier than you think. Just follow these 7 steps to get started:
#1. Take Baby Steps!
It took you years to accumulate your belongings, so beginning the de-clutter process can be overwhelming at first. Set a definite and realistic timeline on how long it will take to reduce clutter in your home. Start with one room, one closet, or even one file cabinet. Once you have finished one area you will be inspired to move on to the next one.
#2. Get 3 Boxes
Label 3 boxes to use when going through clutter: Donate – Trash – Keep. Don’t keep what you may need “someday.” If the item hasn’t been used in a year, throw it in the Trash or Donate box. If the item was a gift that you never use, place it in the Donate box. Your Keep box should have the fewest items in them.
#3. Get Everyone Involved
Have other members of the household get involved in clearing the clutter. The more people involved the faster it will go. It will also get everyone into the habit of not allowing clutter to accumulate again.
#4. Broken? Needs Repair? Get Rid of It!
Much of our clutter is stuff that we won’t throw away because we say to ourselves one day we’ll repair the zipper, glue the broken piece etc. The fact is, if you haven’t fixed the item for 6 months then you’ve lived just fine without it all these months so you might as well get rid of it.
#5. A Simple Rule to Manage Clutter
Don’t bring anything new into your home without getting rid of something old or unused. This is especially useful when buying clothing, toys, or gadgets.
#6. Have a Yard Sale
Having a yard sale can make you extra money as you gradually clear clutter. Advertise your yard sale on Craiglist, your local newspaper, and spread the word on Facebook and Twitter to get more foot traffic to your yard sale. Once your sale is over, don’t be tempted to bring unsold items back into your home. Place all the unsold items into boxes and bags to be donated.
#7. Don’t Get Stuck Owning Two Homes
Since two sales are involved it is imperative that the process is managed properly. The timing of offers, home inspections, purchase and sales signings, mortgage contingencies, and closing for both sales have to be exact. This is why you need to work with an experienced agent. One wrong date on a contract can leave you owning two homes.
To learn how to avoid owning two homes when downsizing, watch our video Trading or Trading Down: Buying and Selling a Home:
Bonus Tip: Parting with Sentimental Belongings
Have a friend or relative who doesn’t have memories associated with these items help you make the process easier. Have you looked at these items in the past year or does it upset you when you see them? If the answer is yes, then it’s time to donate them or give them away.
How Much Is Your Stuff Costing You?
If you’re still not sure if downsizing is right for you, ask yourself how much of your home is being used to store belongings compared to how much of the home is being used for actual living space.
Now figure out how much your stuff is costing you every month.
For instance, if your monthly mortgage payment is $1500, and your home is 2000 square feet, then you’re paying $0.75 per square foot per month. Now measure how much of your total square footage is being used to store your stuff. If you are using 800 square feet of the home, then it’s costing you $600 a month to store your stuff. Do you really want to keep paying that much to store items you rarely use?
And finally, clearing clutter will make it much easier to stage the home when you sell it. Staging a home is one of the most important factors in getting it sold. Buyers can imagine living in your home when it’s has been properly staged and has a clean, uncluttered look. Having less clutter to pack and unpack will also make it easier when you move into your new home.
For more information, read our 5 Tips on Buying and Selling a Home at the Same Time.