10 Downsizing Tips for Your Home
How to downsize your home, whether by choice or necessity, can be a daunting task. Having recently gone through this process, I’m sharing 10 downsizing tips for seniors, retirees, empty nesters or anyone choosing to move to a smaller space? These are tips that worked for us or that we realized after the fact would have been helpful.
Like many of us in the sandwich generation, we are smack in the midst of helping my parents downsize their existing home as they move to a much smaller space, a little more than 1/3 of their current space. Wow…what an undertaking!
And actually, they will be moving temporarily into an apartment that is 1/4 the size of their current home…so we really have had to get creative.
When you think that we are distilling the possessions they have accumulated over 60 years of marriage down to the bare essentials; it goes without saying that it has been stressful and emotional.
We’ve learned a great deal through the process and are gladly sharing our downsizing tips for seniors or downsizers in the hopes that it makes the undertaking easier for someone.
10 Downsizing Tips
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1. Start early
There are many takeaways here…if somebody were to ask me how to downsize your home, I would definitely say that of all the downsizing tips, if you only do one make it this one…you can’t start too soon. My father was in the Navy, which meant that we moved every couple of years for 25 years. One would think that having to pack up your possessions every couple of years would make you very aware of superfluous belongings…not necessarily so. Of course, many of the things that were kept were sentimental and hard to part with, but many are not.
And most of those ‘things’ were things that were stashed in the attic or in drawers/cupboards and so weren’t really within eyeshot on a regular basis.
So as you look around your attic and storage spaces, really ask yourself…’ If I had to downsize my home, would I want to take this stuff?” The first downsizing tip is that this process would be much easier to handle over a longer period of time than it is over a short period of time. Having to do it quickly is quite stressful and very emotional. With a longer period of time, you can help diffuse the onslaught of the concentrated stress and emotions.
2. Be Realistic
My parents will not be entertaining large groups of people in their much smaller space, as such many the pieces that mom used for those purposes were passed on to me, to someone else who could use them or have been donated. That was a difficult realization for mom, but a very important one nevertheless.
And mom probably had accumulated just about the entire color wheel of embroidery floss but came to realize that she is enjoying needlepoint much more so out went all the embroidery floss.
3. Get Help and Guidance
Downsizing your home is so difficult because so many items have an emotional tie, it’s been very helpful to have objective viewpoints from others. Mom has benefited from my daughter and I saying, “No Grammie…that’s too ‘Grandma-ish'” to some of her clothes and friends counseling her that, while she might think she really needs to take that dish, does she really?
With all items, do heed Marie Kondo’s advice of examining everything and asking ‘does it bring you joy?’ My parents’ clothing and shoes had to be significantly pared down for their new, much smaller closet. We were pretty ruthless and they only kept the items that brought them 100% joy; there is no room for 75% items. I had read Marie’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, several years ago and still employ some of her guidance and downsizing tips for seniors that might be useful to you as well.
4. Be Creative
Storage was clearly going to be a challenge in their new, smaller space and so we had to get very creative in thinking of our downsizing ideas and finding ways to ‘make’ storage space.
We turned a small armoire that previously held sweaters into overflow kitchen storage and liquor cabinet.
After all the items that needed to be in the cabinet were put in their place we realized that we could better utilize the space by adding another shelf.
And once all the shelves were in we saw that we could use a wine glass hanger to utilize the space above their placemats. The wine glass rack will hold up to 9 wine glasses and opened up some space in the already tight kitchen storage. By purchasing bed risers and by raising their bed just a smidge, we are able to get rolling plastic bins under the bed. When the dust ruffle is on the bed, you can’t see the risers. With this set, we were able to raise the 4 outside legs of the frame and support the 2 middle support legs.
We especially like these bins as they have hinged lids, meaning that the bin doesn’t need to come all the way out from under the bed to open the lid. These bins will be their ‘linen closet’ in the temporary space.
Instead of housing books and magazines in their nightstands, these boxes will hold their underthings.
Mom purchased these wicker ‘suitcases’ years ago and they have housed scraps of fabric for several moves. The scraps have been removed and now they will be repurposed to hold items that she might not need every day, but still wants on hand (extra placemats, toilet paper, table cloths, etc…) The beauty of something like these is that they could also be used as a makeshift table.
5. Know Your Measurements Plan Ahead
Painters tape marks how much space will be in their new ‘temporary’ apartment. When considering how to downsize your home, it’s helpful to focus on the dimensions of where you’re going. This really helped mom visualize what can be stored where.
6. The Kitchen
It takes one to know one, so I can honestly say that it is very easy to accumulate too many kitchen gadgets. We really went through the kitchen with a fine-tooth comb and knowing how much space she actually had made it easier to get rid of stuff that won’t fit. While having a special knife for grapefruits it’s not worth the extra space when a regular knife will do just fine.
With drawer space at a premium, napkins will be held in a basket on the counter.
My daughter and my niece, who will both be setting up apartments in the near future, really scored as Grammie whittled down her kitchen to the bare necessities and rid it of duplicates.
7. Objects with sentimental value.
Over the years, mom was gifted with a collection of birds by several of her close friends. She will not have space for all of them in her new abode, so she will choose 1 or 2 to take with her and will make the rest available to close friends and their families.
Parting with sentimental items that have been accumulated over a lifetime is difficult, there is no denying it.
8. Know Where to Donate
If you’re in the process of planning to downsize your home and you have to pare your possessions down a great deal, it is surely helpful to know where and to whom your ‘discards’ will go. We had ‘piles’ all over my parents’ home… a pile for me, a pile for my brother, a pile for the grandkids, a pile for a friend, a pile of books for the library and local schools, a pile for the local homeless shelter, a pile to be eBayed…you get the drift. Check out this post for suggestions of where to recycle and donate.
Making several runs to actually donate the items was definitely helpful to see our progress.
9. Keep Track of your Donations for Tax Purposes
The very last of my downsizing tips would be to keep track of your donations as you go along for tax purposes. I have made a form to help keep track of your donations that is available in the Subscriber Benefits Library. Site Subscribers have access to that library here.
Don’t forget, If the donation value exceeds $250.00, make sure to get a receipt from the charitable organization.
10. Digitize Photographs and Artwork and display on Digital Frame
Mom and Dad have been struggling with what to do with all the photos they have accumulated over their lives; from black and whites of their parents to the current graduation photos of their grandkids. The hard truth is that they just don’t have room for all the frames throughout their new home. All these precious images were digitized (I used Costco…$19.99 for 64 images, .32 for every image after 64) and purchased this digital frame. The timing couldn’t be better…a Mother’s Day gift from my brother and me!
You really don’t realize how many frames you have and how much space they take up until you move to a smaller space. Digitizing them is a useful downsizing tip for seniors and makes a great gift!
So, if you find yourself wanting to or needed to downsize your home, I do hope these downsizing tips for seniors or anyone moving to a smaller space will be helpful to you. Bookmark this page or pin the following image for your future reference.
Been through the Downsizing process? What are your downsizing tips for seniors, retirees, empty nesters or anyone choosing to move to a smaller space?
Interested in More Decluttering or Organizing Posts?
- Catch up on all 4 weeks of the Unclutter Your Nest Bootcamp here:
Week 1: Bedrooms and Bathrooms
Week 2: Kitchen and Craft/Office Space
Week 3: Den/Living Room/Play Room/Coat Closet/Laundry Room
- Other Decluttering and Organizing Posts:
Personalized Kitchen Drawer Organization
Organizing and Storage Ideas for an Uncluttered Bathroom
Organized Closets and Cabinets
Organized Office and Craft Room
Clutter-Free Kitchen and Organized Linen Storage
Freezer and Refrigerator Organization that Works
Where to Recycle and Donate when Decluttering
Technology and Digital Declutter Ideas – Week 1
Thanks again for spending a few minutes of your busy day with me today.
I’d love it if you shared some of the downsizing tips that have worked for you.
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Until next time…
Thank you , Lynn! Great tips! We have dealt with dissolution of our parents households twice, now we are downsizing our own. We have no plans to relocate but want to unclutter for our own sanity…. makes for a much more relaxed living space.
Hey there Lesley,
I do agree with you. We will be moving into my parents’ home and will definitely go through a bit of a downsize when that move happens. It will be good to shed some of this ‘stuff’.
Have a great weekend my friend,
For helpful info. Thanks for sharing!
You are so very welcome my friend!
Thanks for the tips. I have used several of them successfully…adding shelves in closets, reusing an armoire for kitchen storage, and brutally thinning out my closet. Baskets and more baskets are lifesavers. They look good and can be used in every room. I also got several ideas from Pinterest, especially with bathroom storage. A simple shelf over the door offered room for extra storage accessible with one simple low step that i keep under the bed nearby.
Great idea about the over the door storage! I will surely pass that one on to my mom.
It’s quite an ordeal but will be worth it in the end.
Have a great weekend my friend.
Such a timely post Lynn. My dad has way too much stuff and we need to have a sale soon. I understand fully the need to declutter but it is so hard on them. I think it is much harder on them then it is on us at our age. They seem to want to hold onto things as they get older. Good luck with your downsizing.
Thanks Mary…sounds like we are in the same place. Luckily my mom is very pragmatic and sees the need to shed some stuff…it would have been so very difficult otherwise. I feel for you.
Have a great weekend my friend.
Dear Lynn, thank you for those tips. I love my life momentos, particularly photos,. That was a good idea, digitizing. In your few steps, you are concise and clear. I have been to several seminars but it has been difficult to retain the information. My daughters have given me permission to get rid of their things. Thank you for your helpful tips! I will let you know.
Good Morning Jan,
I am so very happy that some of those tips were useful to you. After having just gone through the process (and having a crash course in the process), I was excited to share all my findings with all my lovely readers.
It sounds like you are in the right moment to begin the process at a measured pace. Good luck with it and if you come up with any suggestions, I would love for you to share them so that the rest of my reader family can benefit from your findings.
Have a lovely day my friend.
Thank you for the the declutter ideas as my Husband and I will be downsizing sooner rather than later and will use some of your suggestions.
We are right there with you…as soon as we sell our ‘now too big’ home. For what its worth, my parents wish they had done it sooner! Good luck with your downsize my friend.
Great tips on a sore subject! I would suggest a further step with digitizing those photos: replace all the individual frames with a digital photo frame. Hundreds of photos in a fraction of the space and always on display. Your parents are lucky to have you. Thanks for sharing!
I agree those digital frames are surely the way to go. My parents have one digital frame…may look to get them another one for their bedroom as well.
Thanks for piping in with your suggestions!
I would need to de-clutter and downsize my house, which is why I’ve decided to start looking for a storage unit where my other belongings could be placed. Thank you for sharing here as well the importance of buying a be riser since this will help maximize my home’s space. I also agree with you that it would be smarter to donate some of the items.
Hi Rachel, I am so glad you found this useful! Good luck with your declutter and downsize! It is quite the undertaking.
If I were to downsize, I would make sure to rent a storage unit where the other belongings will be placed. Thank you for sharing here as well the importance of donating some of the items. I also agree with you that it would be a great idea to throw some of the unnecessary items.
Hi Lynn, I enjoyed reading your post about downsizing. When I started downsizing about 7 years before we moved into our condo, I realized I needed to start early (rule #1). Some days I just didn’t feel like going through stuff and by starting early, I was able to choose the time to tackle everything in the house.
I also read a magazine article (I’m afraid I can’t remember which magazine nor the author but it was before Marie Kondo’s book became popular) that indicated the reason we can’t get rid of some items is because of the sentiment behind them. The solution was to take a photo of the item. That way, you still have the memory of it but it’s no longer tucked away in a box that hasn’t been opened for years. My husband was in the army for 33 years so he had many mementos, plaques, etc. of his career. One snowy winter’s day, he unpacked them, took photos of them and kept five that he just couldn’t part with.
We also purchased a flat bed scanner and scanned all of our 35 mm slides, photos and documents we wanted to keep. (This took a few winters to complete. We took our time as we went down memory lane because we had the time.) And by the time we moved, we had no photo albums and no filing cabinet to move.
Finally, in our new place, we added an extra shelf in the hall closet where we store our winter hats, gloves, scarves. We also have a shelf above the door in the closet for extra storage.
Keep doing what you’re doing, Lynn, you’re an inspiration for me.
Hi Mary, What great suggestions! I will incorporate them into my post. I’m a firm believer in crowd-sourcing ideas and am thrilled that this site serves that purpose for us. I know those winters of going down memory lane were wonderful! We need to make more time to do those things.
And thanks for your kind comments. I do love this little job of mine! And getting emails like yours are fuel to my tank.
Many wishes for a wonderful day!