What to Save and What to Go: How to Leave Things Behind When Downsizing

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I finally did it; I recently emptied my house of the things I previously couldn’t part with. From my closet alone there was a toy baseball from my eighth birthday party, a bag of stuffed animals I once cherished greatly, and, most importantly, boxes of books from college I saved just in case I needed them some day. After donating everything to a local charity, I felt refreshed and my space looked better.

When downsizing a home, space is at a premium. There isn’t room to put all of the things we love and admire, yet sometimes doing away with such things is more difficult than imagined. This article will focus on just that, and offer tips on how to more easily leave things behind.

Be Logical

If you are the average person, you have a lot of stuff that simply won't fit into a smaller space. A great starting point when seeding through that stuff is to categorize things into two groups: what is needed, and what you just want to bring. Though I’m not downsizing, my recent cleaning spree found two coffee makers. I don’t even drink coffee—I simply had them in case I had someone over who did. This made them wonderful items to eliminate first. Before your move, I advise going room by room and considering what will physically fit in your new place, and what can’t be lived without. Keep your “wants” as few as possible and it will make the transition much easier.

Forget Feelings

A couple of teddy bears sitting in a basket.

Emotion is often the reason we accumulate things, be it an object found in a clearance bin that reminded us of a childhood time, or a disliked birthday present which we fear offending the giver with if discarded. When downsizing a home, there physically isn’t room for things kept out of guilt, which makes it a wonderful time to donate such items for others to enjoy. Letting go of these feelings will also improve your state of mind, setting the stage for a new you, in your new scaled-down home.

Hoard Pictures—Not Things

If the thought of throwing away most of your possessions to move into a smaller house is stressful, here is a tip that may make you feel more at ease about the process. If mementos are too large or great in number to move with you, take a photo to keep and store them indefinitely. Though you won't physically have the objects themselves, photos are inexpensive and easy to store, making them a far more realistic option for your new downsized home. The idea may just do the trick to ease this period of transition.

Google It

A clean, minimalist kitchen with a vase of flowers on the counter.

My sisters love Pinterest and send me things at all hours of the day and night they find there. When recently emptying my house, I found images found under the “minimalist” label to be very inspiring. Typical American homes have lots of stuff and clutter—it's not in our nature to live with little. However, it can be very motivating to ditch it all after seeing images of beautiful minimalist homes.

Ask for Perspective

Finally, when attempting to rid a house of clutter, it can be difficult to see why something is unnecessary. With this in mind, my last suggestion is to find a friend, loved one, colleague, or even hired hand to offer a new perceptive. Not everything can be brought to your new smaller house, and frankly sometimes our reasons for wanting to keep things are just silly (I kept the baseball bat mentioned above for years because it was signed by those at my eighth birthday party, but now I don't remember who any of them are). Another person can help navigate your downsizing effort with common sense, and make clearing out a big home more fun as well.