How to Downsize: 10 KEY Pieces of Advice

Did you know there are 300,000 items in the average American home? Just the thought of downsizing from that number is daunting. Where do you even start when figuring out how to downsize?

You have things you’ve collected over the years just from living. But owning these items comes with a hidden cost: space. And when you’re downsizing, every inch of space is valuable. You have to weigh the cost of that item taking up space in your new, smaller home. Or the cost of paying for storage. Or the cost of giving it away. It’s time consuming, but if you follow these 10 pieces of advice on how to downsize, it will end up being much easier than you think.

  1. Give Yourself Plenty of Time

    Here’s the first thing you should do when downsizing: start as soon as possible. The process usually takes longer than anticipated, so build in that extra time for yourself. You’ll be sorting through sentimental items you may need to part with. Giving yourself that extra cushion of time will allow you to reminisce before deciding what to do with everything.

  2. Get Rid of Duplicates

    Start out with a smaller, easier task, like getting rid of duplicates. The kitchen is a prime starting point, as most contain rarely or never used duplicate items (think cookie sheets, pots and pans, or utensils). The linen closet is another likely culprit, probably hiding duplicates of bed sheets, blankets, or towels. You don’t need seven of the same thing, which brings me to my next piece of advice on how to downsize…

  3. Part with “Just-In-Case” Items

    Most of us have these items hanging around, like the tea towels you haven’t used but purchased because they were on sale years ago or the extra holiday lights in case your current ones go out. Try applying the 20/20 rule. If you can replace the item for less than $20 and a 20 minute drive from your current location, get rid of it. “This theory likely works 99% of the time for 99% of all items and 99% of all people—including you.” And it could end up saving you a lot of space.

  4. Eliminate Rooms Not in Your New Home

    If you’re going from a four bedroom to a two bedroom house, that’s a clear indication you’ll need to part with some things. Get rid of sheets, pillows, pillowcases, and blankets you won’t be able to make use of in your new home. Decide what beds, dressers, and nightstands you want to keep and which you want to give away or donate.

    If you have time, you can create a floor plan of your new location. Walk through with a tape measure and take measurements of each room. Draw everything out to scale on a piece of paper. Cut out to-scale pieces of your furniture, and place them on the floor plan so you can get an idea of what will and won’t fit. The last thing you want to be doing is stepping over furniture to get from room to room in your new home.

  5. How to Downsize Collections: Keep What Matters Most

    Have a collection you’ve built over the course of your life? A lot of people do. This can be one of the more difficult things to downsize because there’s usually an important memory attached to each piece. If you need to downsize your collection and are committed to it, this doesn’t mean you have to get rid of every item. Select the 3-5 that hold the most memory or value for you (or the ones you just like to look at the most), and take pictures of the rest before parting with them. When you flip or scroll through the photos, you can look back on your memories without sacrificing space in your new home.

  6. Consider In-Home Storage Options

    Between IKEA and the Container Store, your options for home storage are almost infinite. Paperwork storage, mug collection storage, innovative kitchen storage–if you have a collection of items you can’t seem to part with just yet (or ever), look for a unique storage solution that will work in your new space. Vertical storage is the smartest move for downsizing. Utilize the height of your rooms that would otherwise go to waste up there. You can even visit IKEA and the Container Store and view their different storage options and set ups to find inspiration for planning your downsizing storage options.

  7. Have an Unbiased Friend Help

    You’re your own worst enemy when it comes to getting rid of your own stuff.  Just touching an object can give it a feeling of ownership. And once we feel ownership of something, we’re very unlikely to give it up.

    Ask an unbiased friend to help with your downsizing. They can help you sort through items that are keep, toss, or donate. They don’t find the same value as you do in that item and can ask, without bias, “Do you really need this? How much are you using it right now? Will you ever use this?”

  8. Give Items Away

    If you’ve been saving an item for a specific family member, give it to them now. Ask if they want any items you’re planning to get rid of even if you weren’t saving it specifically for them. But if you do this, be sure you give freely. Don’t go looking for the throw blanket you gave your granddaughter when you visit.

    If you have time, put a little effort and research into giving things away, and find people who really want what you’re parting with. Large collection of records? Find a used record store that will re-sell them. Pieces of furniture? Call around to local charities or even churches to see if they can take it or know someone who can use it. Let your friends and family know as well, even if they don’t want the pieces. Chances are, they might know someone who can use them.

  9. Don’t Oversave for Your Grandchildren

    You might have an antique bedroom or dining set you’re saving for your grandchild. The problem is, they’re 8 years old. If you’re downsizing now, you probably won’t have the space to store it until they’re ready to take it. You’ll have to find a storage unit and pay a monthly fee to store it for 10+ years.

    But perhaps this alternative will work for you: Sell or donate the furniture. Instead of paying that monthly storage fee, put the amount that would have gone towards storage into a savings account. Then give that as a gift to your grandchild at the time and age you would have given them the furniture.

  10. Don’t Acquire More

    Lastly, once you’ve finally downsized to the point of livable square footage, don’t acquire more things unless they’re a replacement or an absolute necessity. You just got rid of a plethora of items for a reason, and you probably don’t have reasonable space to store anything new.

To prevent accumulation of more things, create a rule that will work for you.

    • Try the 1-in-1-out rule: If you purchase something, you get rid of something you currently own to make room for the new thing. For example, if you purchase a new shirt, one shirt currently in your closet has to go.
    • Avoid temptation and only go shopping with a purpose. When you need to purchase an item(s), make a list and stick to it.
    • Put time between the want and the purchase. If you find an item you think you really want, wait 24 hours, a week, or even a month. If you still really want that item, go ahead and purchase it. By giving it this amount of thought, you’ve probably already figured out a way to store this item in your downsized home.

What’s next, after you figure out where everything needs to go?

Once you decide what you’re doing with your old belongings, how do you get them where they need to go? Moving and junk removal companies give you options for downsizing. At Moving U & Junk U, our movers and junk removal crews are cross trained, so they can safely move or remove things from your home. We understand downsizing is a delicate process. Our friendly, professional team can offer solutions to any situation:

  • Family wants to take the dining set? We can deliver it.
  • Downsizing at the last minute and need things taken to donation centers? We can take care of that. (Though this falls under the junk removal category, we try to donate or recycle everything possible before junking altogether.)
  • Gathered lots of trash during your downsizing and need it hauled away? We’ll get rid of it for you.

When it comes to downsizing, the right time to start was yesterday. The further out you plan, the more likely you are to end up with a favorable outcome. Otherwise, you’ll pay a monthly premium for a storage unit, end up with no choice but to donate items you really wanted, or have little to no breathing room in your new home.

To discuss your options for donation or delivery, give us a call or text at 484-301-2442 or email us at


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Moving U & Junk U is a full-service moving and junk removal company located in the Greater Philadelphia Area, Reading, PA, and Dayton, OH

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