How to Prepare to Downsize

emptynestI know from personal experience that downsizing takes time. (After 18 years with 4 children in the home, it took my family two years!)  More than half of boomers will look to downsize, either by purchasing a smaller home or purchasing a home of equal size with reduced expenses. If downsizing seems daunting, remember this: if the home will be placed on the market, you’ll likely have to cut clutter nonetheless. Here are seven ways to pare down the possessions.

1. Plan backwards.  Start downsizing three months prior to the target move date. Taking on every room at once is too much, if not impossible, to handle. Sort through one room or closet or area at a time is best.

2. Stick to the OHIO rule. “Only handle it once.”  No “maybe” piles!  Ask yourself if you would replace the item if it disappeared.  If not, this process will feel much less like a trashing of beloved possessions.

3. More isn’t always better.  Don’t save things “just in case.”  Do you really need two blenders?  Don’t be afraid to purge. The same applies to clothes.  Don’t keep items that no longer fit…, but “might one day.” Chances are, you’ll want new ones if that happens.

4. Reduce collections. Cutting a collection can be upsetting for anyone. Approach the process as gently—and practically—as possible. Decide which items are favored more than others, or limit the amount based on display space—a bookshelf can only hold so many books, for example.  Give to a younger family member who can carry on or appreciates the collection.

5. Cash for your castoffs. Remember the three month rule.  If you’re planning to sell an item, start early.  You don’t want to be stuck with items you no longer want come moving day.

6. Auction houses. If you have valuable items, like antiques, furniture, silver, or artwork, contact an auction house rather than an antique dealer.  Gather a large lot so appraisers can assess items in one visit.  An estate sales group can help facilitate the sale or auction of high-end items, too.

7. Donate. Using charitable organizations can make parting with possessions much more meaningful by understanding the items are being given to those in need. In many areas, A Wider Circle or the Salvation Army can to transport big-ticket items like furniture or appliances. House wares in good condition can be donated to Goodwill or a local charity.