So you’ve decided to downsize. The first question to ask yourself is: why? If you have children who have moved out, you will suddenly find yourself with too many rooms, and with a garden that no longer needs to be quite so big. Or with household bills rising, perhaps it makes better economic sense to adjust to a smaller and more energy-efficient home. You may have decided that as the years are passing, you should look to the future with a low-maintenance house and garden that is easier to negotiate, and closer to local amenities.
Downsizing is not a simple process
Whatever your reasons, the thought of downsizing can be daunting. Just the upheaval and move is stressful, but in this case, you will have to make some hard decisions, and do some serious planning – getting rid of possessions is much harder than acquiring them. Make lots of lists. What can you manage without? What are you glad to see the back of? Then it gets harder. What must you get throw out, even if you don’t want to, due to its size or unsuitability for your new residence?
This is where nostalgia complicates matters, attaching memories to treasured possessions. It’s worth considering storage solutions at this stage, so that you can hang on to those items while you decide whether you really miss them, as well as freeing up space in your new location. You might come to realise that you never look at your memorabilia collections, and rarely have time for hobbies involving equipment that takes up room, such as crafting.
Where do you start the process, though? Being organised will make your job much easier, and again, lists are the best way to do this. Place larger items at the top. Check them for size and suitability, and tick off the ones that are going with you. Work your way through smaller items – you are literally downsizing – and then decide what will have to go into storage for the time being. Practical arrangements like getting quotes from a removal company, or for van hire, will help you to stay in control, and once the date is fixed, you’ll have a deadline to work towards.
Sort your items methodically
It makes sense to sort those bulky items first. Find out if there are already white goods, such as a washing machine or a fridge, in your new property. That way, you can plan how much space you have left, and can save on transportation costs for your old appliances. You might be even be able to sell them locally to help your expenses. If you can bear to be parted from them, the same goes for items of sentimental value or historical interest of any size. It might help to ease the pain if you can get a financial return from them, and could please buyers who can make more frequent use of them.
Still following the size principle, move on to furniture next, because it’s important to get this right, and then the rest can be worked around it. Measure everything, and then check that it will all fit when you move. If you have to dispose of anything, advertise, and any profit can go towards replacements more suited to your new place. Even if you end up giving it away, you will be helping the community.
Give stuff away
Apart from sales, there are other ways to dispose of unwanted goods. Friends and family will be only too glad to relieve you of surplus items, with the advantage that you won’t be completely losing track of what were once your possessions. Failing that, as long as everything is in good condition, they will be grateful received by your local charity shop. However, sometimes you just have to give up and de-clutter the quick way. Hiring a skip is the easiest way to do this, and you’ll be able to give the house a good clear-out, too. If you don’t have too much, you might be able to save money by taking it to the local council’s rubbish tip yourself.
Try to only keep the essentials
In the kitchen, set what you use on one side first, and then weed out the rest. This is an important, much-used room, especially if you like to cook, so give it priority, and make sure that this box is easy to reach when you arrive! Bathroom cabinets are notorious for harbouring out-of-date medicines, and you’ll find things that you forgot existed. The same applies to other cupboards, corners and spaces behind furniture, while basements and attics are the worst offenders for hiding dusty treasures from your distant past.
If you want to hang on to your best china, cherished books and so on, they will require shelving or cupboards, so get out your tape measure to ensure they will fit in. Make use of recesses around chimney breasts for shelves, and place a free-standing unit or a small table in the space under the stairs (if you have any). Technological advances make it easy to keep your music, films and photos online, rather than taking up valuable space with CDs and DVDs. If you don’t have shelf-room for books, get a digital reader.
You can now move from room to room, picking out smaller objects. This is more difficult, and will take longer. Be firm with yourself, but if it’s a wrench to part with so many memories, ask yourself when you last used them or looked at them – did you even realise they were there? Do you feel anything for them, or are they just a record of your past that you want to hang on to? Be kind to yourself by holding on to a few keepsakes for the time being, to speed up the process. Write down a series of questions if it helps, and if possible, get another opinion.
Unwanted pieces can be disposed of as already suggested – sale, gift, donate, skip or municipal rubbish dump. Always keep the possibility of home storage in mind, even if only for a short period. If you feel stuck, it will free up your options. For most of your belongings, however, you will need to be disciplined. Once you move in, you’ll be glad that you have relieved yourself of all that clutter, and have had the chance to leave the past behind with a fresh start. It will make unpacking so much easier!