The Ultimate Guide to Downsizing | MYMOVE (2023)

Most people go through a downsizing process at some point, whether it’s because they’re moving to a new city, have kids who moved out, are going through a divorce or breakup, are aging, or just want to simplify their lifestyle.

The downsizing trend has picked up steam in the past few years. Census data on new homes built in the past decade shows that the average square footage has decreased in each of the past six years. More homeowners would also rather move to a smaller house than a larger one (37% compared to 23%), according to research from real estate site Trulia.

For most people, cost is a major factor. According to a survey from, “saving money” was the most common reason for downsizing for every generation. But figuring out how to downsize your home isn’t always easy: Half of all respondents said getting rid of possessions was a challenge.

No matter what the reason, downsizing can be a stressful and time-consuming process — both emotionally and physically. But knowing how to downsize the right way can keep the process from feeling overwhelming. Here are some downsizing tips from MYMOVE to help make the process easier.

Pro Tip: Create an inventory of your major possessions before you physically move anything. Mark each item with its fate or its new space in your next home.

Tips to make downsizing easier

1. Start early.

Give yourself plenty of time for this process, because it will inevitably take longer than you expect. Take your time, and don’t try to sort through your entire house in one day or weekend. A couple of weeks to a month is a more realistic timeline. Take it one room at a time, and take breaks throughout.

“Go through each item one by one,” says Alison Kero, CEO of ACK Organizing in Brooklyn. “It’s important to give everything you own your attention for at least a second or two. It will also help you develop a great decision-making system because you’re learning how to focus and then choose.”

If you aren’t rushed, you’ll find downsizing to be much less stressful.

2. Start small.

You probably already have things you want to get rid of in the kitchen or garage, but avoid diving into the biggest rooms at the very beginning. Start in an area with little emotional attachment. The laundry room or linen closet are good options.

Understand your needs. If you’re moving into a two-bedroom house, four sets of sheets should be plenty. The rest can go.

“Garages/attics/basements are notorious for being the hardest rooms to tackle,” says Debra Blue, of Blue Moon Estate Sales. “These rooms tend to accumulate all the old hobbies, boxes, old holiday decorations, and clutter. They’re also known to be rather uncomfortable spaces. In the summer it’s too hot, winter it’s too cold, and in the springtime, it can be too humid.”

3. Eliminate rooms you won’t have in your new home.

If you’re moving to an apartment or townhome, you might not have a garage or office space. Nearly everything in those spaces will need to be sold, donated, tossed, or relocated to other rooms. These areas might also be good items for consignment or garage sales; nice office furniture and outdoor tools are more valuable than old sofas or mattresses.

“Organize backwards,” suggests Jamie Novak, author of ‘Keep This Toss That.’ “A common suggestion is to pick out the stuff you don’t want and pack the rest. Try the opposite — pack the keepers. What’s left can be looked at and most can be shared or donated.”

4. Get rid of duplicates.

You’ll find this is especially true in your kitchen. You have two or three spatulas and ladles, a couple of oversized stock pots, and four different sized cookie sheets. Now’s the time to reduce the clutter. If you’re feeling wary of handing off that second roasting pan because you use it every Christmas (but at no other time during the year), consider giving it to a family member who can bring it over for the holiday and take it home when they leave.

5. Only make Yes or No piles — no Maybes.

When you’re going through belongings, some things are going to tug at your heartstrings, and you’ll be tempted to make a third pile of things to keep if you have space.

Don’t fall for it. You’ll end up with a Maybe pile that’s bigger than either of the other two. When that happens, you haven’t really made any progress in sorting, just moved it across the room.

Take a hard look at every item you pick up. If you use it regularly, keep it. But it’s time to let something go if it’s been sitting in a closet or on a shelf for a year or more.

“If you already weren’t using it, or didn’t like it, why on earth would you want to pack it up and schlep it to your next house?” says Hazel Thornton, of New Mexico-based Organized for Life. “I know it sounds silly, but people do it all the time. Moving isn’t cheap, either; do you really want to pay extra to move stuff you don’t even want? Don’t delude yourself by telling yourself you’ll deal with it at your next destination. No, you won’t.”

6. Reduce collections creatively.

It can be hard to thin out a lifetime collection of sneakers or snow globes from all your vacations, but they will eat up a lot of space or end up stored in a box where you’ll never see them.

Instead, pick a couple to keep and take high-resolution photos of the rest, then have them made into a photo book that can sit on your coffee table or mantle. You and guests will be able to enjoy them without the clutter. There are also tech tools or websites such as that will convert those boxes of photo negatives to digital files.

7. Don’t be afraid to sell things yourself.

With Craigslist, eBay, numerous smartphone apps, yard sales, and an abundance of consignment shops, selling your belongings has never been easier. You probably won’t make a ton of money on most items, so consider how much time you want to invest.

Yard sales are usually faster, but items won’t sell for as much. Craigslist has its drawbacks, but you’ll have a much wider audience and can probably get more for your stuff. Consignment is a good option for high-end furniture, handbags, and other accessories; prices are reasonable, and they’ll sometimes pick up heavy furniture for you.

But if that all sounds like more than you care to deal with, hiring a firm to run an estate sale might be the simplest route.

8. Allow some time to reminisce.

While you’re cleaning and sorting, there will be some days when you want to stop emptying out rooms and just look through the old drawings, mementos, and once-prized possessions. It’s OK to pause and let the nostalgia take over for a bit. Cry if you need to, or move on to another room and come back. This is why you started early — just don’t let it prevent you from eventually getting the job done.

“I always ask my clients how the item at hand makes them feel,” says Morgan Ovens, of Haven Home in Los Angeles. “If it brings up any negative feelings, let it go. If it brings happiness of course it stays! The idea here is to only be surrounded by things you absolutely love. Isn’t that a great goal?”

9. Use this as a chance to bond.

If you are a senior, invite your friends or family over and tell stories about all your favorite items. You can let them help pack, take some items off your hands, and spend quality time with loved ones before the big move.

It can be one more moment you share in the house you’ve loved — before you start making those memories together in your next home. Remember that it’s your people in your life you cherish, not the stuff around you.

Pro Tip: Go digital wherever possible. As you relocate, consider having all of your bills and other correspondence come via email vs. having paper clutter accumulating in your new, but smaller, space. Digitize photos and download favorite movies, music or games rather than have CDs and DVDs stacked up.

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The Ultimate Guide to Downsizing | MYMOVE (1)

Making the move after you pack

Now that you’ve downsized your belongings, how are you going to make your move? You’ll want to have an answer in mind from the beginning of your downsizing home process.

Will you be rounding up family members to help pack and drive a moving truck? Or will you pay for a full-service moving company to pack, ship, and unpack your things? Perhaps something in-between, with a mobile storage option in which you pack a container, and then the storage company does the shipping?

Downsizing for seniors can be a little more complicated. More companies, known as senior move managers, are popping up across the country that cater specifically to seniors moving — either to smaller homes or moving into senior living or nursing communities. They’ll usually do as much or as little as you want, from packing and moving to home cleaning and estate sales.

There are hundreds of senior move specialists. The National Association of Senior Move Managers reported nearly 1,000 companies as members in its 2015-16 annual report.

“There are now senior move specialists in most communities,” says Sara Geber, an aging transition coach with LifeEncore. “These are people trained to help at every step of the way, from selecting the new residence to downsizing, to transportation back and forth, etc. They are generally very reasonable in cost and well worth the expenditure. Most real estate brokers know of such professionals, as do estate attorneys and financial advisers.”

It’s important to keep these options in mind as you downsize because it might change your opinion on whether to keep or sell certain items. If you’re moving everything yourself, a 300-pound china cabinet might be better suited for the consignment shop to avoid the hassle and risk of injury. If you’re paying for full-service, you might be more inclined to keep it, but know that such heavy items add onto the price tag.

You’ll also want to be on the lookout for potential scammers. It’s fairly rare, but there are some companies out there that will promise one attractive price for a full-service move, and then once your stuff is all packed up in the truck, they’ll demand more money while holding your items hostage. Do your research and use companies that come with recommendations from family and friends.

If you’re undecided about what type of move is best for you, let MYMOVE help you compare moving options.

Dealing with the emotional toll of downsizing

Inevitably, most people will struggle a bit with nostalgia when they’ve reached a point where it’s time to downsize. Geber, with LifeEncore, spoke with MYMOVE about how to make the best of this difficult time.

“Change is hard for everyone, but the older we get, the more accustomed we are to our surroundings and our ‘stuff,’ even if all that stuff threatens to strangle us,” she says.

She says a lot of these negative feelings come from both sadness and fear, which is why she recommends making a downsize as early as possible when it’s easier to adjust to a new environment.

And don’t let the apprehension get you down.

“Looking forward to a new environment” can help ease the transition, Geber says. Focus on the positives and appreciate how much simpler life will be with fewer surfaces to dust, rooms to vacuum, or towels to wash.

Your downsize doesn’t have to be stressful, sad, or scary. Stay positive and get excited about a simpler life in a new place with less clutter.


At what age do most people downsize? ›

As adults age into their 50s and 60s, many of them are ready to downsize. That often means purchasing a townhouse to trim maintenance or a smaller one-story home to keep stair climbing to a minimum.

Why is downsizing so hard? ›

Downsizing and moving is often accompanied by the anxiety of the unknown. Anxiety when downsizing often comes from the prospect of discarding possessions and deciding which possessions to take with you. When you've spent a great deal of time in one home, a lot of stuff accumulates.

Is downsizing ever a good idea? ›

Done right, downsizing can still be a good idea. You might not just walk away with more money but also simplify your life and reduce your home-maintenance and utility costs for years to come. To reach that happy outcome, you need to steer around the unexpected pitfalls that make downsizing so dicey.

How do you downsize with old age? ›

There are five main options for seniors looking to downsize:
  1. Buying a smaller house or condo with home modifications applied as necessary.
  2. Renting a smaller home.
  3. Moving in with a loved one (adult child, sibling, etc.)
  4. Moving into a retirement community.
  5. Finding in-home care services.
  6. Entering assisted living.
Oct 17, 2022

What is the ideal home size for a retired couple? ›

A Size With Universal Appeal

And if you ask us, the perfect size for a retirement home is 1,500 square feet.

Which generation is most likely to downsize? ›

To get this data, surveyed 1,000 individuals who had downsized their homes. The survey found that of all the age groups, Boomers were most likely to size down because “the previous space was too big.” In other words, they are the main generation that is actually downsizing for the sake of downsizing.

What are the three downsizing tactics? ›

There are three downsizing strategies: workforce reduction, work redesign, and systematic strategy.

How do I let go of my house emotionally? ›

Take the time to say goodbye.

Take the time to reminisce with your family about the memories you've made there. Walk through each room and take a “last look”. Take pictures before you start changing it for the market. All of this will help you process your emotions and get ready to say farewell.

Is there a downside to downsizing? ›

Downsizing can increase your cash flow, lower your utility bills, and reduce the time you spend on maintenance and upkeep. The downsides to downsizing include having less room for guests and having to get rid of belongings to fit into a smaller space.

What is the $600000 incentive to downsize? ›

When you sell your current property, you can be eligible to add up to $300,000 from the proceeds of the (part) sale to your super fund. And for couples it's up to $600,000! This type of downsizer contribution also doesn't affect any contribution caps or your total total super balance at first.

Do I pay tax if I downsize my house? ›

Most people downsizing from a larger, more expensive property to a smaller, less expensive one are exempt from capital gains tax if it is your main residence. That means all the equity that is released by downsizing your home is tax-free and can be used as you see fit.

Are people happy after downsizing? ›

Most people who have downsized found that it brought them incredible happiness and it's perfectly logical. Downsizing means less responsibility financially so less stress and more to be positive about.

How do I know what furniture to keep when downsizing? ›

If you're investing in new furniture when you downsize, choose multipurpose furniture pieces. Go for nightstands with open and closed storage and ottomans with tops that lift to offer space inside for blankets or extra pillows.

What to do with furniture when downsizing? ›

If you're donating furniture, Habitat for Humanity is a great first stop. Many of their Habitat ReStores offer free pickup of larger items, keeping it hassle-free for you. The same is true of the Salvation Army — you can schedule a pickup if it's available in your area.

Why retirees are selling their forever homes? ›

Retirees are selling their forever homes to move into senior living communities that have everything within walking distance. Walking, as we all know, is one of the best exercises around, plus it's good for the environment, and there's no need to spend money on gas.

What percentage of seniors downsize? ›

Roughly 51 percent of retirees ages 50 and over move into smaller homes after retirement,1 but many older adults don't want to move. Sixty-four percent of seniors say they plan to stay in their current homes. Whether you choose to stay in your home or move, housing is an important topic as we age.

What is the ideal living arrangement for older adults? ›

Residents can choose independent living, assisted living, or nursing home services. As their needs change over time, they can move to a residence that offers more assistance or medical care. This option can work for many older adults.

Can a couple retire at 65 with 500k? ›

The short answer is yes—$500,000 is sufficient for many retirees.

How much money does a 70 year old couple need to retire? ›

How Much Should a 70-Year-Old Have in Savings? Financial experts generally recommend saving anywhere from $1 million to $2 million for retirement.

What is the average income for retired couples? ›

Average Retirement Income in 2021

According to the United States Census Bureau, the median annual income for individuals ages 65 and older is $47,620, while the mean annual income is $75,254. A few other income data points for people of retirement age are illustrated below.

Which is the unhappiest generation? ›

Going Deeper

However, the data show that Gen Zers report the lowest levels of happiness on record in the past five-year timespan. The silver lining, perhaps, is that we know today's Gen Z generation is the most likely to reach out for professional help and access mental health resources.

Which is the lazy generation? ›

Gen Z is often seen as lazy by older generations. But where did this reputation come from? Gen Z is living in a time of constant change, and yet earned the reputation of lazy.

What is the least parented generation? ›

Gen Xers would come to be known as one of the “least parented, least nurtured generations in U.S. history,” with parents divorcing at historic rates as both mom and dad worked in pursuit of an American Dream.

Why does getting rid of stuff feel so good? ›

If you're looking for an easy way to reduce stress, decluttering your environment may be a good place to start. Getting rid of excess stuff can benefit your mental health by making you feel calmer, happier, and more in control. A tidier space can make for a more relaxed mind.

When decluttering is overwhelming? ›

7 Tips for When You're Overwhelmed With Decluttering:
  1. Set a goal. It's hard to get to where you want to go if you don't know where that is. ...
  2. Make a plan. ...
  3. Progress, not perfection. ...
  4. Get an accountability partner. ...
  5. Make it fun. ...
  6. Complete your tasks. ...
  7. Celebrate your accomplishments.

Why do I struggle to get rid of stuff? ›

Sometimes you struggle to declutter because having a lot of stuff makes you feel safe and secure. Decluttering and getting rid of stuff makes you worry you won't have enough when you need it. This scarcity mindset keeps you hanging on to things, even if you don't use or love them.

What are the key elements of downsizing? ›

Five important points to downsizing
  • Total Transparency. Be transparent to staff about the difficulties that the company finds itself in, and also make any plan to overcome them as simple, clear and fair as possible. ...
  • Timing. Timing is everything. ...
  • Plan Thoroughly. ...
  • Allow Sufficient Time. ...
  • The Personal Touch.

What do you purge when downsizing? ›

13 Things to Never, Ever Throw Out When You're Downsizing
  1. Important Papers. ...
  2. Family Heirlooms. ...
  3. Electronics. ...
  4. Landline Phones. ...
  5. Photographs. ...
  6. Collections. ...
  7. Fine Jewelry in the Original Box. ...
  8. Sentimental Items.
Nov 14, 2017

What is the key to a successful downsizing effort? ›

Through these efforts we have identified three additional success factors that are important to successful downsizing: 1) Organizations must become more flexible; 2) they must become more innovative and creative; and 3) they must improve their communications with stakeholders who are increasingly skeptical of ...

How do you say goodbye to home full of memories? ›

7 ways to say goodbye to a home
  1. Take your time. If you can afford to, don't rush into selling. ...
  2. Capture everything. Take photos of every room, ideally both furnished and unfurnished. ...
  3. Host an informal memorial service. ...
  4. Take something with you. ...
  5. Leave something behind. ...
  6. Create a memory book.

What are the psychological effects of losing your home? ›

Losing a home can cause significant emotional distress. You should not underestimate the challenge of evacuation, relocation, and rebuilding after a fire. It is common for people to experience several stages of adjustment including shock, anger, depression, and hopelessness.

Why does it feel so hard to leave my house? ›

If you find it hard to get the confidence to leave the house, you might be experiencing agoraphobia. This is an anxiety disorder where people avoid leaving the house as they fear being trapped or embarrassed in a public place and having a panic attack.

What are alternatives to downsizing? ›

I'll list 13 alternatives to downsizing that either address long-term staffing needs or provide short-term expense reduction.
Cost-Saving Strategies
  • A Comprehensive Model. ...
  • Reduced Hours. ...
  • Lower Wages. ...
  • Attrition. ...
  • Alternative Placement. ...
  • Leave of Absence. ...
  • Employee Buy-Out. ...
  • Shared Ownership.

What is not a guideline for successful downsizing? ›

The correct answer is C) Make across-the-board cuts.

When should you downsize a property? ›

When should I downsize my home? People downsize for multiple reasons. Whilst for some it may be an empty nest and a house that requires too much upkeep, for others it may be loneliness, divorce, accessibility or the loss of a loved one that prompts the move.

How can I downsize my home fast? ›

7 Most Effective Downsizing and Decluttering Tips
  1. Take Inventory of Your Belongings. ...
  2. Sort Through Items Room-by-Room and Minimize Duplicates. ...
  3. Create a Plan to Get Rid of Unwanted Items. ...
  4. Go Digital When Possible. ...
  5. Make the Most of Your Storage Spaces. ...
  6. Measure Furniture and Wait to Buy New Things. ...
  7. Give Yourself Plenty of Time.
Feb 24, 2021

How can I downsize without stress? ›

6 Methods to Downsize with Less Stress
  1. #1 Focus on the positive. Maybe you've lived in a home with a large yard you've had to care for. ...
  2. #2 Start small. ...
  3. #3 Make it a family affair. ...
  4. #4 Donate and make a difference. ...
  5. #5 Sell your no-longer-needed valuables. ...
  6. #6 Let someone else do the work.
Jun 13, 2018

What to do with your stuff when you downsize? ›

For smaller items, you're probably better off taking them to a consignment shop if they aren't collectible or antique. That way they're off your hands in one big group, and you don't have to sell them piecemeal online. For valuable antiques, it's a good idea to take them to an antique dealer.

How do you mentally prepare for downsizing? ›

Keep A Positive Attitude. Start with the attitude that you are releasing these things to create space for something new. Consider that you are exchanging the burdens and expense of a big home for a more streamlined life with more opportunities for leisure. Focus on the positives this downsizing will offer.

What is the checklist for downsizing your home? ›

Obtaining estimates from moving companies and scheduling the move in a non-peak period. Drawing up a floor plan of the new home and think about the placement of shelving, storage and appliances. Planning where all of the major furniture will go. Changing providers for gas, electricity and water if need be.

How do you move out of your house with little money? ›

Top 6 Tips on How to Move Out with No Money
  1. Tip 1: Start Planning Early. No matter where or when you plan to move out, the best thing you can do is start early. ...
  2. Tip 4: Get Rid of as Much Stuff as Possible. ...
  3. Tip 5: Ask People to keep their Newspapers for You. ...
  4. Tip 6: Recruiting People to Help You.
Sep 16, 2022

How do you downsize Knick Knacks? ›

It can be helpful to break these sentimental things down into three different categories to help you separate emotionally from the objects and consider them more objectively.
  1. Financial. If the object has financial value, that should give you an incentive to let it go. ...
  2. Gifts. ...
  3. Paper. ...
  4. Sell It. ...
  5. Donate It. ...
  6. Recycle It.

How long should you wait to downsize? ›

Your downsize is generally scheduled for anywhere between 2 – 8 weeks after having the piercing done, and in this time that channel won't be entirely formed just yet and very, very delicate.

What happens if you dont downsize? ›

The result of not coming in to have your jewelry downsized is often irritation bumps, swelling and discomfort in the piercing area, or piercings that become crooked over time and attempt to heal in diagonal positions versus their previous perpendicular placement.

Does it make sense to downsize house? ›

Downsizing can increase your cash flow, lower your utility bills, and reduce the time you spend on maintenance and upkeep. The downsides to downsizing include having less room for guests and having to get rid of belongings to fit into a smaller space.


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