6 Expert-Approved Tips That Will Help You Downsize Before Moving

published Nov 28, 2020
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Two friends moving, packing boxes
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Moving is a hassle, to put it bluntly. But moving with boxes and boxes full of excess stuff you know you won’t ever use again? Now that’s just unnecessary.

Before you start packing, you’ll want to start purging. Here are six expert-backed steps to help you start downsizing ahead of a move.

Step 1: Make time

Moving is completely exhausting and, after house- or apartment-hunting, signing all the paperwork, and getting everything lined up to move, you might be tempted to just throw your entire house into a box, figuratively speaking, and deal with it when you unpack at the new place. This is a bad idea because it means you have to deal with your unwanted belongings twice. Instead, carve out some time to downsize ahead of your move—in the simplest terms, decide what to keep, what to sell, and what to donate. “Never move anything you don’t need to,” says Laura Smith, owner of All Star Cleaning Services in Fort Collins, Colorado. “All purging should be done before packing.”

Step 2: Divide and conquer

Instead of frantically running around to different rooms of your house, tossing this shirt and that kitchen pot into the donation pile, work through your belongings by category. You’ll be able to downsize more effectively when you’re dealing with just one group of similar items at a time, Smith says. “With clothing, pull every single thing out of your closet and every single drawer at once,” she says. “It is easy to lose sight of volume until it is all in front of you.”

Step 3: Consider your lifestyle

If you’re downsizing, you’re probably making some sort of lifestyle change. This means it’s time to re-evaluate the “new you,” which extends to your belongings. “If you used to entertain often but don’t anticipate that happening in the future, you could probably let go of many of your entertaining items,” says Robyn Reynolds, a Los Angeles-based professional organizer who owns Organize2Harmonize.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

Step 4: Deal with furniture

Yes, your furniture looks great in your current home. But moving means a totally new layout, with wildly different room shapes and sizes. The furniture (and other decor) that works in your existing house may not work in your new house, plain and simple, Reynolds says. Do some measuring and some research ahead of time so that you can make thoughtful choices about selling or donating your existing furniture, then finding new items.

Step 5: Make a plan

If you’re going to donate all of your unwanted items to a nonprofit, you can skip this step and head straight to the drop-off/donation center. But if you’re on the fence about exactly what to do with your old stuff, it’s important to make a plan—and make one early. Organizing a garage sale doesn’t happen overnight, and selling items on Facebook Marketplace, Nextdoor, and Craigslist can take a while, so be sure to get started as soon as possible.

Another pandemic-inspired idea? Throw a reverse housewarming party on Zoom, says Laura McHolm, co-founder of NorthStar Moving. “Set aside your unwanted items and share them with friends and family on Zoom to see if someone else would like them,” she says. “This is a great way to reunite with friends, find your unwanted things a good home, and declutter for your move all at the same time.”

Step 6: Keep it going

In an ideal world, you will have gone through every single item in your house, deftly deciding what to keep, sell, or donate. But that’s probably just not possible, and that’s OK. Once you get all moved into your new home, keep the downsizing spirit alive by constantly evaluating what you brought with you. “Any boxes not unpacked within the first week go to the basement or garage,” Smith says. “If I don’t get to them by the end of the month, they probably shouldn’t have made it through the pre-packing purge and can go straight to Goodwill.”