5 ways to de-clutter when downsizing


Moving to a new home is always an exhausting process; when you’re downsizing into a smaller house, the job can seem almost overwhelming.

What should you keep and what should you throw away? According to the National Association of Professional Organizers, 65% of Americans feel like their home is disordered. Simply put, we’ve been so blessed with material possessions that they’ve turned into what seems more like a curse. 

You will never feel more cursed or more overwhelmed than when you’re trying to squeeze what was already too much stuff into a house that is so much smaller! Rather than throw a match to the house and start over fresh, we’ve put together a list of five simple ways that you can de-clutter when downsizing. These tips will help you to free up your life and make moving so much easier! 


1. Create a Sorting System.

I know you’re in a rush to start packing, but before you start wildly slinging boxes into the moving van, you need to sort through everything you own. This is where the sorting system comes into place. Before you touch any of your belongings, get three good-sized cardboard boxes and label them “keep”, “get rid of”, and “storage”. As you’re sorting through your items, you can decide what you want to do with each one, and then put it in the correct box. Once you put items in the “get rid of” box, you can either choose to donate the entire box or sort through it later. For items that are too big to fit into boxes, consider if you will actually need them and then label them “keep”, “get rid of” and “storage” using sticky notes. When sorting through furniture, think about what you’re actually going to need in your new home; if you’re downsizing to a two-bedroom house, you won’t need three mattresses.

2. Decide What to Do with Unnecessary Items.

When downsizing, you’re going to be faced with lots of items that you simply won’t have room for any longer, but it doesn’t mean that these items are worthless. Rather than taking everything you can’t house and pitching it into the dumpster, make a plan about what you will do with your unnecessary items. If you have enough valuable stuff to make it worth your time, consider having a garage sale or listing items on sites such as CraigsList. If you’re not sure anyone would buy your items or if you simply don’t feel like taking the time and energy with trying to sell your stuff, you can donate to organizations such as the Salvation Army or Goodwill. You can also list your items on local Freecycles or other freebie sites. De-cluttering is a lot easier when you know that your items are going to someone who can use them!

3. Rehome Special Items.

What are you supposed to do with family heirlooms and sentimental treasures? You don’t want to risk giving them to strangers and your new house won’t have room for them. Thankfully, rehoming presents are another option. When you rehome an item, you find it a new owner who will be able to both use it and appreciate its special memories. For instance, I was able to rehome several old stuffed animals to a younger family member to enjoy. But remember that when you rehome something, that means that it no longer belongs to you! Don’t make the mistake of treating your family and friends like free storage units who will keep your stuff until you need it again; instead, simply appreciate having someone else who can care for what once was yours.

4. Follow the One Year Rule.

I know how it goes, when you start sorting through your stuff, every piece of it seems valuable and useful. It’s hard to throw anything away because you think “I might need this some day”. This is where the “one year rule” comes into play. When you’re trying to decide if you should pitch an item or if you need to keep it for future use, ask yourself if you have used it in the last year. If you haven’t used something in at least a year, you probably won’t ever use it and it’s not worth taking to your new home – it’s time to kiss it goodbye.

5. De-clutter Room by Room.

Have you ever started sorting through stuff, only to look at the mess around you and thrown up your hands in defeat? I know that I have! Too often I’ve spent hours sorting through clothing and junk, only to toss it all back into a pile and go get some chocolate to console myself. The prospect of moving is frightening enough; don’t wear yourself out by looking at the entire house and feeling defeated before you even start. Instead of looking at the big picture, take it one room at a time. If a room starts to seem impossible to accomplish, focus on de-cluttering one three-by-three foot square at a time.

De-cluttering when you’re downsizing to a smaller home can seem overwhelming but, by using the tips listed in this article, you can get to work and look forward to an easier, less stressful move!