Downsizing 101 - Practical Steps for a Smooth Move

A home move is looming, and you are downsizing significantly.  From a practical standpoint, there are many issues to tackle in preparation for moving day.  A step-by-step strategy will help with the practical issues of moving.  Most people find the emotional issues associated with moving—especially when downsizing—to be much more challenging.  Here are my tips for addressing both practical and emotional concerns as you anticipate your next big move.

Step One:  Direct Conversations with your Spouse and Family

Start this process immediately upon deciding that you will be moving.  One of your pre-move steps that will greatly increase your chances of a smooth transition is having honest and direct conversations with your spouse and your family (or support system).  This is the time to:

  • Acknowledge and address your specific concerns regarding the moving process.
  • Discuss family heirlooms and other gifts to family.  When your children don’t want your “stuff,” you may have other family members who would be honored to keep family heirlooms within the family.  Speak with grandkids, nieces, nephews, cousins and other family members with whom you have a close relationship. 
  • Assess the roles you and your spouse will assume during the move.  Don’t make assumptions; honestly discuss your individual strengths and weaknesses, and clearly define each other’s specific areas of responsibility.
  • Identify responsibilities neither you, nor your spouse, is interested in, or able to, take on.  Research and evaluate the services for which you’ll need to hire professionals.
  • Conduct interviews and get estimates for services.  Often family members can assist with this process; it’s a great way to help you out especially if they don’t live close by; the younger generation are tech-savvy and can make quick work of researching Realtors, home inspectors, moving companies, storage options, charitable groups for donations, etc.
  • Obtain contracts to ensure clearly defined expectations from your service providers.
  • Create a list, including primary contact, phone number, email address and website for your transition team for quick and easy reference, and to share with your family or friends who may be assisting you with the process.

Knowing that you have a qualified, reliable support team in place to assist you throughout the home-selling and moving process can greatly reduce the anxiety associated with moving, and help to ensure you never get overwhelmed.

Step Two:  Reality Check -- Assess furnishing and décor needs in your new home

Start this process immediately upon signing a contract for your new home. 

  • Obtain the floor plan with dimensions for your new home, and make a space plan, which is simply a layout of each room showing what furnishings you will use in each area, and ensuring they will fit the new space.  You may need to measure tables, sofas, and other furnishings for accuracy.  These can be done on paper with scale measurements (one foot equals one inch), or if you are proficient using computer software or apps, this is a quick way to develop a space plan.
  • Determine which of your existing furnishings you will keep and where they will be used in your new home.
  • Consider current and future special needs and mobility issues.  (A recent study by the University of Vermont determined that use of walking aids, such as canes, walkers, wheelchairs and scooters, has increased by 50 percent during the past decade).  Perhaps you or your spouse don’t require any mobility aids at present, but consider how your proposed space plan might be impacted if you did need a mobility aid in the future, and plan accordingly.
  • Consider the comfort and practicality of your furnishings.  For example, if your bed is too high, or if you are having trouble getting in or out of a chair, consider replacing impractical furniture before you move. 

Step Three—Sorting your Stuff:  What to Keep, What to Donate and What to Give Away

For most people, this is the hardest, and most emotional step in the moving process.  You will be sorting through a lifetime of memories.  Don’t make the mistake of trying to rush through the process, or procrastinating because it is overwhelming. 

  • Give yourself adequate time for the sorting process.
  • If you have a hard time letting go of your things, and find that you hold on to “things” for the sake of memories, try the Marie Kondo method of sorting.  Choose either a category of items (such as clothing, family photos, books), or a specific area of your home (kitchen, closets, garage, etc.) to start the sorting process.  Stay focused; don’t move on from one category or area until you have completed what you’re working on.  As you sort, handle each item and acknowledge the memories associated with that item, understand that you don’t need to keep an item to keep your memories.  If you feel inclined, “thank” the item for its usefulness, and decide to pass give it away, donate it or toss it.
  • If you are a chronic procrastinator, or have physical issues that make this process difficult for you, consider hiring someone to assist you.  Often this “nudge” by a compassionate professional makes the process easier.

When you take these simple steps as early as possible in the moving process, your transition from your old home to your new home will be much smoother and less stressful for you and your family.