Real People Share Their Strategy for Downsizing (& It’s Advice Anyone Could Use)

updated Jul 17, 2020
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(Image credit: Carson Vaughan)

Need to ditch some of your stuff soon because you’re moving to a smaller home? Or have you recently looked around your home and thought “What is all this stuff?” Whatever your motivation for wanting to declutter, you might find some useful inspiration with this advice — all from people who had to downsize their stuff when they moved into their current home. Their words resonate because many of us — probably most of us — have all had to deal with stuff at some point.

(Image credit: Reagen Taylor)

Start early.

Interior designer Allison Crawford downsized from a 2400 square foot home to the current 1000 square foot home we toured.

“My former home was in a family-oriented, quiet neighborhood. It was beautiful and great for hosting friends, but I felt a little out of place in the neighborhood. I chose to downsize so I could move downtown and enjoy the single life. Now I can walk to nightlife, restaurants, a trail that circles the lake and more. There’s much more foot traffic in this neighborhood, so it feels more lively. I can still host a few friends for cocktails and appetizers, but now we have dinner out on the town instead of staying in the house. It’s an opportunity to connect and meet new people in the city,” says Allison.

Her strategy for downsizing:

I started early so I didn’t have to rush. I downsized my wardrobe in three stages so I could reflect on what items I really wanted to keep without feeling like I needed to make rash decisions. I did the same thing with my office — anything that wasn’t essential to my business didn’t make the move. I have to admit that I do have a storage unit so I could keep some of my favorite furniture and art that don’t fit in the new space. Luckily, the new owner of the house bought it partially furnished, so I only had to sell a few items.

(Image credit: Carson Vaughan)

Give your stuff to a good home.

Melissa and Carson downsized pretty dramatically from a 900+ square food house with a fenced-in yard to a 120 square foot tiny house on wheels!

“We renovated our tiny home with plans to travel the lower 48 states for a year or more. We knew when we purchased our travel trailer that we’d have to get rid of almost everything and really pare our belongings down to just the essentials. While I know that downsizing for any tiny space is hard, it’s exacerbated when you travel because it’s in your best interest to carry zero extra baggage around,” says Mel.

Their downsizing strategy:

We started downsizing about a year before we started our trip. We began with trips to Goodwill, dropping off boxes and bags of clothes, odds and ends — all the household “junk” that piles up and you can immediately categorize as unnecessary.

From there, we went the garage sale route. While it was a bit more time intensive, we loved our stuff and wanted it to go to a good home. Garage sales were a good way to part with our junk while making money and making people happy. We held 2-3 garage sales over the spring and summer to get rid of furniture, household items, etc. In the last six months, we took some time each weekend to walk around the house and browse our closets. If we didn’t feel strongly about something, we put it in the Goodwill box. Finally, when push came to shove, we did opt to put a few nicer furniture items — hand-me-downs from family, sentimental pieces — into storage. And the rest we gave away through house parties! We’d regularly invite friends over for drinks and ask them “do you want this?” We got rid of most of our plants that way, and end tables, lamps, etc. It was sort of fun because it gave us an excuse to stay in touch. We were dying to know, for instance, whether or not our lime tree ever produced a lime.

(Image credit: Emma Fiala)

Give up anything (and everything) you don’t use often.

Pelin (who’s behind the style, beauty and business blog The Dapper Post) and Tim went from a two-bedroom, 1400 square foot house in the suburbs to a 900 square foot Downtown Minneapolis apartment.

“There are multiple reasons we downsized — first was that we really wanted to get back to Downtown Minneapolis. We lived in the same apartment building we do now between 2008-2014, and moved to the suburbs thinking we could do with another room to turn into my office while I was writing my dissertation.

Aaaand we didn’t like it much. We didn’t have as many places we could walk to, and we love going out to eat. We mostly live as pedestrians if we can, and the suburbs were not very conducive to that. The rent is higher in downtown, but we also thought that we didn’t need the second room after I graduated and started working outside home. The extra room had become a storage unit, where we collected things we didn’t need or use. So we liked the idea of going back to a one-bedroom — to cut the clutter, and not to pay rent for a room we didn’t need,” says Pelin.

Their strategy for downsizing:

It was HARD. And overwhelming at times. Granted, we didn’t downsize from a standalone house, but I tend to — ahem — collect things. The first thing we had to do was to get rid of some of my clothes — at the time I had half a walk-in closet and a rolling rack in the office. So I started from there. A lot went to consignment and charity. We also assessed the furniture we didn’t use — we had a dining room set that got used probably four times over four years. We had to give up some of our other furniture as well. It was kind of elimination of what we didn’t use. And it was mostly my stuff — Tim is very minimalist, and he doesn’t buy anything he wouldn’t use or need right away. For me, in that sense, it was mostly trying to give up anything and everything I didn’t use often, period. It took us about two months to get it all squared and ready to move.

Read more about the benefits of downsizing: