10 Super-Smart Downsizing Tips From Our Readers

updated Apr 30, 2019
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(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

We’ve written a lot about downsizing over the years, sharing tips from experts and house tours, but sometimes the best ideas actually come from you, our readers. From how you let go of your things to the unexpected pros and cons of moving to a smaller space, you’ve shared it all with us. So, for those of you moving or looking to go the minimalist route, here’s a roundup of our readers’ best advice on downsizing, straight from the comments.

Track how often you use your things

“I’ve used all kinds of approaches to paring down, but one of my favorites is some variation on tracking use. For kitchen tools, I put them all into a box and gave away the ones that didn’t get retrieved from the box after a month. Did a similar thing for shoes and have even used colored stickers on furniture items to indicate use/non-use. It’s been very enlightening and freeing. I love when my stuff goes to someone who is enthusiastic and has a real use for it.” — HappySingle

Make sure everything is doubly useful

“Downsizing does mean using pieces that do double duty. For instance wine racks that can double as towel racks, drawer space under the bed and of course using your wall space to the max. Most of all it’s really an exercise is knowing what you really need and what you don’t need.” — rackofwine

Purge things you don’t need regularly

I haven’t ever really had to downsize in the traditional sense. I have however lived in Paris, (2 apartments) Chicago, (3 apartments) New York, and (2 apartments) Barcelona, over the course of 10 years. So its been kind of a constant switch of more or less space. One thing I learned probably around my second apartment in New York, was to start to constantly do purges. Almost once a season I would go through various things I was holding onto and purge. Whether that meant donating clothes (which happened a lot), throwing out papers I had held onto for no good reason, or getting rid of things I thought at one point I could use but just never actually put into good use. I kept up the habit and it makes me feel VERY Good. I love going through my drawers of clothing and not seeing heaps of clothing Im never going to wear. I love not feeling like every nook and cranny of storage space I have is filled with pointless paperwork Im never going to need again.” — Kds310

Measure everything in advance

“I went from 1200 square feet to about 950. My best advice is to measure all the rooms and all your furniture. I didn’t lose that much square footage, but the layout was so different and the closets so much smaller than I had to get rid of so much more than I thought.” — MTMo

(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

Take it a few things at a time

“I have an easy suggestion for you! Pick 5 books you love and put them in a keep pile. Then pick 5 books you can let go. Then 5 books to keep and so on until you’ve gone through all your books. At some point, you may realize that you have all your most beloved books and can let the others have a new life with someone else… or you can sit with half your books for awhile and start the process over again. We stopped counting after we sent over 2000 books to new homes and the local Friends of the Library asked me nicely to not bring anymore to them!” — Collina Verde

Actually use the things you love

“Rule #1: keep the things you like best! Don’t keep them to use later or just when you have important guests, and have another set of stuff to use now — use the good stuff now. (These words of wisdom from a person in her late 60s who learned the hard way.)” — Pejibaye

Don’t be afraid to get a little unconventional

“Don’t forget that you can use the inside of your oven AND the drawers in your fridge for extra storage if needed… I actually used to keep my spatulas etc in the fridge when I lived in an apartment that had one – ONE drawer.” — KN14606

One small addition can make all the difference

“I have a very small kitchen I’ve been diy re-doing, trying to add storage and also eliminate unnecessary items. One of the best investments I’ve made was a $50 wall pot rack I got from Fingerhut. Our ceiling is too low to accommodate an overhead rack, but we are able to store 3 pots, a steamer, 3 frying pans (large, medium, small), lids, a breadboard and knife, and with some extra hooks, measuring cups and spoons and a few other utensils.” — ChickieD

Plan ahead, but stay flexible

“Before you move, you need to know where every item you keep will live, even if it’s just where to put the packed boxes while you make decisions. I ended up getting rid of some more furniture (and other stuff) since because it just didn’t work in the space. You’ll need to be in the space for a while to learn it. Sit in every corner. Move your table and bed and sofa around to find the best spot. I like flexible, dual-use pieces, things with wheels, folding things, things light enough that you can move them without help.” — Jean, Librarian

Find the best way for you to use your space

“The biggest thing for me was to do a layout of my new space and plan out placement of furniture so I knew what I had space to bring along. Also, I made the decision to put things I couldn’t decide on into storage for 6 months. After that time away, it was easy to pick out what I really wanted to hold onto and what I hadn’t missed. Now I still have a smaller storage space with these things (mainly family heirlooms and such) that I get out when I’m in a bigger space. Plus think outside the box. I have a ton of books, so I use my huge tall antique bookcase as a divider between living “room” and “bedroom” and keep them all with me easily in my tiny 275 sq feet. I also knew I didn’t sit at a table to eat, so I have an armchair in the dining area of my kitchen by the window that I can use as another space to read and relax. I keep folding wooden chairs behind it for when I do use the kitchen table.” — BeaInChicago

And of course, there’s always this hilarious benefit…

“Less space to hide = easier to find the cats.” — mooninfog