7 Ways to Make Downsizing Easier

This is a guest post by Michele O’Connor and Carol Preibis from Ahh The Simple Life.

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Home sweet smaller home: the cozy living-dining room Michele O’Connor created for herself and her husband just five months ago, when they downsized from their four-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath Colonial to a one-bedroom, one-bath condo with loft.

Downsizing is stressful. I’d love to help make it easier for you by sharing some ideas based on what I learned from downsizing myself recently.

1. Know where you’re going

Don’t downsize the way my husband and I did!

We sold our house, put most of our things into storage (read: expensive), lived in two different apartments, and finally found our new home after an exhaustive (and sometimes exhausting) two-year search.

Since my passion is decorating, I really couldn’t get rid of many things until I knew where we’d be living next. Hopefully, you’ll know where you’re going before you have to pack!

2. Get rid of (sell, give away) everything you don’t really need/want

Doing this probably will be a huge project; but by doing so, you’ll have fewer things to pack and move and then more space in your new, smaller home.

You can get cash for your unused things at a local consignment store. The Salvation Army will pick up items you want to donate.

3. Choose a reputable moving company

Moving is stressful enough. The best moving companies are both caring and careful. Check online reviews and Better Business Bureau ratings and call references. The local moving company we hired, Expert Moving & Storage did everything they could to help make our move easier for us.

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A portion of my husband’s closet. Before moving day, I planned exactly where everything was going to go in the entire condo.

4. Allow yourself enough time to plan ahead at your new home

The more you can plan ahead where you’re going to put your furniture, clothes, and everything else, the less frazzled you’ll be when you move to your new home. Before our moving day, I knew exactly where every piece of furniture would go and where everything else would be stored.

5. Schedule time to relax and recoup during your transition

Realize that moving is a huge challenge, so actually schedule downtime; you’ll need it to stay healthy and on top of things. This is something I should have done and surely wish I had!

6. Acclimate slowly

You’ll need to get used to a lot of new things: surroundings, neighbourhood, school, shopping, etc. Because of that, realize it will take some significant time before you are comfortable in your new home. We’ve been in our new condo for about five months; it’s finally feeling like home.

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Having a smaller home allows me more time for creative activities, like designing this indoor “winter garden.”

7. Keep your eye on the prize

You had good reasons you wanted to downsize to a smaller home: less work, fewer responsibilities, improved finances, and/or more leisure time. Reminding yourself of the positive reasons you’re doing this will help you get through the days and weeks of effort required until – finally - you’re happy in your new home! I wish you every happiness there!

 

Have you downsized recently, or are you planning to downsize? What do you think are the biggest challenges downsizers face? Please share your thoughts with our readers.

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About The Author:

Michele O’Connor and Carol Preibis are co-publishers of Ahh The Simple Life, dedicated to the art of simple living. Carol loves to write about food and voluntary simplicity. Michele loves to write about everything to do with the home. They both have a fervent desire to help others (and themselves) to find a simpler way to live in this complex world.

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10 Responses to 7 Ways to Make Downsizing Easier

  1. Stephanie V. April 16, 2014 at 7:33 pm #

    Hi Tohami,

    Thank you for this helpful guest post, and for the wonderful interviews and advice you share on your blog.

    About two years ago we needed to downsize quickly due to my being laid off and our landlord announcing he would be selling the canyon house we were renting if we didn’t care to buy it. I had gotten bitten by the minimalist bug about a year earlier, and my husband & I had begun to pare down our stuff, as we finally admitted how much we had come to resent all the time & $$ we were spending on house & property maintenance. We didn’t want to buy the place and thus we were faced with two choices: The exhausting prospect of hauling a ton of stuff as we had done in seven previous moves, or–bite the bullet and get rid of it all with a quickness.

    We found a great apt. (with minimal storage space) in a convenient part of town, enabling us to walk everywhere and take advantage of an organic farmer’s market just around the corner. We sold a ton of stuff to interested friends (all hoarders BTW), and sent loads and loads off to the thrift store. We had to do this severe, lightning-fast downsize + move in a mere 30 days, which was especially trying for my husband who was in the process of reinventing himself and was emotionally tied to two careers he was disengaging from, though at rather a snail’s pace. Unloading these artifacts in one fell swoop was too much for him, so we rented a storage unit for the items he needed more time to deal with. Since then we have been able to go from a large, to medium, to the smallest unit they have, and by August we will be out of the storage unit altogether. We are continuing to downsize our possessions as we plan to move out of state when we retire, and we want that future experience to be as unburdened and liberated from needless stuff as possible.

    With this downsizing our expenses dropped more than $6,000 a year, and I also found a great p/t job within walking distance of our home. It has also made pursuing my other career as a writer/editor easier and more fulfilling. A smaller, more convenient location + much less stuff = a lot more time for one another and the things that are truly meaningful to us.

    If I may, Tohami, I would like to share a decluttering tip with your readers. You never know if life is going to throw a curve ball and “force” you to deal with having too-much-stuff all at once, which is not only physically exhausting but severely challenging emotionally. Although we were already committed to decluttering, we were, frankly, piddling and meandering our way through the process. Having to do it all in just a few short weeks left us no choice but to make rapid-fire decisions about what to do with every last item we had, from the big stuff down to the paper clips. As trying as it was, we are both grateful for the experience and wouldn’t trade it for anything, but it would have been so much easier if we hadn’t slipped into a “there’ll be plenty of time tomorrow to deal with this” attitude and had downsized more proactively rather than in “crisis” mode. Looking back, we realize we had deceived ourselves into thinking we had all the time in the world, when in reality, we did not, and what’s even more important, we do not. We’re doing our best now to “seize the day” before we discover again to our chagrin, that the day has seized us.

    Thanks again, Tohami for all your good work and for letting me share my experience.
    Stephanie V.

    • Michele O'Connor April 18, 2014 at 11:20 pm #

      Stephanie, I admire your ability to divest yourself of so much so quickly! Possessions really can be a burden and a drag on one’s life. Congratulations to you and your husband on your new life! It sounds wonderful!

  2. Mickey@EuroAmerican Home April 16, 2014 at 8:06 pm #

    All great tips, Michele.

    We are in the process of figuring out downsizing and moving to a more urban, walkable area. One tip I read has to do with packing. As you pack your things (after you’ve eliminated all of the unnecessary clutter), put them in logical order. Pack your bathroom necessities in one box, your bathroom non-necessities in another box, and so on. Stick a sheet of paper on the side of each box and write the contents on it. Do it with different colors for different rooms.

    I’ve also read some tips about efficient packing that didn’t really make sense logically (such as putting your breakables inside sweaters). I would rather pack them as they go together, so that I don’t drive myself crazy when the time comes to pull them out.

    I’m curious how you transported plants. I have about 20 pots that I would love to keep alive during a move.

    • Michele O'Connor April 18, 2014 at 5:16 pm #

      Thanks, Mickey; glad you liked the tips. As for plants, I would move them myself rather than entrust them to a moving company. You could try this: put each of them in a clear plastic trash bag and tie the top. Then, pack them tightly into big boxes without lids. If the pots are breakable, put a bit of padding between them. Hope that’s helpful.

  3. Carol Preibis April 17, 2014 at 12:18 am #

    Hello Mohamed, Michele and I wish to thank you for sharing Michele’s post with your readers. We truly appreciate it, and hope that your readers will find it to be helpful.
    Kind Regards,
    Carol Preibis and Michele O’Connor
    at Ahh The Simple Life http://www.ahhthesimplelife.com

  4. Christy King April 17, 2014 at 5:33 am #

    We’re planning to downsize significantly sometime in the next year or so. That gives us plenty of time to carefully go through everything we own to see what we want to keep now instead of while we’re trying to pack up. We’ve been selling relatively valuable stuff and donating the rest. Because we’re simplifying gradually, we never have to devote a whole weekend to a project or feel rushed.

    We’re looking forward to having very little stuff and a small house that even we housework-haters might be able to keep clean without too much whining!

    • Michele O'Connor April 21, 2014 at 2:09 am #

      Christy, I can attest to the fact that it’s so much easier to keep a smaller home clean than a bigger one. When we lived in a three-story Victorian with a laundry in the basement, I could never get the whole place clean at any one time. Now, I feel I can keep our entire condo clean most of the time. I think you’ll love it when you downsize, and I wish you the best.

  5. Moni April 22, 2014 at 12:16 am #

    3-4 years ago I had an epiphany that by 2014-2015 my eldest would be of an age to leave home and the other two within 1-3 years following. This meant there would be the opportunity to not only downsize but also to take advantage of any opportunities that came our way once we didn’t have dependants. I have been decluttering the last 3-4 years and am glad that I’ve been doing it gradually in advance, especially now as we are redecorating preparing the house for sale which will lead to a ‘size down’ house and once the girls leave home, we can downsize further.

    • Michele O'Connor April 23, 2014 at 3:12 am #

      Hi Moni, It’s great that you’ve been able to get rid of your excess stuff over a long period of time; I’m sure that way you’ll retain just exactly what you really want and need. Decluttering is the first and most important step in preparing a house for sale. The fewer the items in any room, the easier it is for prospective buyers to imagine their things there.

  6. Moni April 23, 2014 at 8:25 am #

    Hi Michele – a few months ago we got two Real Estate agents thru to get an opinion on what we needed to do to optimise and expediate a sale when we put it on the market, and what we could do to to stand out in the market (our area is less than 10 years old and the same developer is building the new subdivision 100 metres down the road) – interesting exercise – anyway, both agents said something to the effect of “great, you’ve already put most of your stuff in storage” to which I replied “no this is it” to which I got a “wow, that’s so unusual” reaction. They usually have to convince most people to store half to 3/4 of their stuff of their stuff in an off site lock up storage facility. And often are rather surprised and sometimes offended to hear so.
    One of the agents asked to also see in the ceiling storage/attic area (they need to check these areas prior to listing to clarify the method of construction (and probably check there isnt anything up there that needs disclosing to potential buyers ie a hydroponic type business) the agent reassured us that we werent to be embarressed if it was full or messy, he’s seen it all. He was very surprised it was almost empty and only held suitcases and seasonal equipment. As we’d put in lighting and a solid floor, suddenly it had become a selling feature and would be part of the tour.

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