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How to Downsize Your Home: 12 Easy Tips


By Nick Gerhardt, The Family Handyman

Figure Out What You Need Versus Things You Want to Do


That elliptical machine has become an expensive clothes rack for a while now so why not just get rid of it. You might have the best intentions to one day use it again but chances are you won’t. As a general rule of thumb, take inventory of other sports gear or other items you haven’t used in six months or more and then get rid of them. Often times people keep items around they plan to use but actually don’t. If you don’t want to get rid of it right away, put it in storage and see what happens. That added monthly fee for a storage locker might persuade you one way or another.


Measure Furniture to see if it’ll fit in new Place


Downsizing means less space and while that concept might resonate, you might need visual evidence of what it will look like. Go ahead and take a look at the layout of your new place by using a handy site like planyourroom.com, which allows you to adjust the dimensions of a room and place common furniture options (which are also adjustable) into the room. You’ll find out quickly how many recliners you can fit into the living room. 


Determine Storage Space for New Place


In tandem with planning out a room, count the number of closets and cabinets you’ll have in your new residence. Compare it to what you have now and start making determinations on what’s going to have to go.


Take Inventory of What you Have


Making a move is always a good time to create a list of items you own. It’ll help with homeowner’s insurance and renter’s insurance if you ever need to make a claim. An inventory will also help for any future estate concerns.


Shred Some Paper


Paper piles up around the house quicker than you can blink. These days most bills can be paid online or through automatic withdrawal to reduce paper. But there’s still plenty of other paper documents that you keep around. You only need to keep seven years of tax records so go ahead and prepare a pile to send to the shredder.


Avoid Tackling House in One Pass


Trying to make decisions on what to keep throughout the whole house in one day isn’t feasible for a number of reasons. Just like cleaning the house, start small and work your way around the house. Parting with something has an emotional toll in some instances. Don’t overdo it.


Get Rid of Books


What is this obsession people have with books? What do you need it for after you've read it? Unless you want to keep a book for sentimental reasons or like to re-read one, moving a bunch of books is a pain. They're heavy and cumbersome. Eliminate some of them by selling them at a Half Price Books or online.


Digitize Whatever You Can


Photos are keepsakes but unless you're regularly thumbing through books of them, there's not much reason to keep a physical copy of them. Save yourself some additional moving items by digitizing those photos.Do the same with any movies or CDs you've got sitting around collecting dust. 


Frame Decisions as ‘Yes or No’


There is no maybe in downsizing. That maybe pile is probably going to follow you to your new, smaller place. Eliminate the maybe pile and make the hard decisions right away. Frame the decision as a need versus a want, if that helps. Just make sure you stick to a yes or no decision. This is especially important when helping older parents downsize.


Use the OHIO Rule


The OHIO rule stands for 'Only Handle it Once' and is a device that will save you time as you sort items into piles. The OHIO rule eliminates any hemming and hawing over placing an item in the garbage pile or into the donation pile. As you sort make sure each pile and box is labeled so they don’t get mixed up.


Target Recipients for Specialty Items


Those children’s books collected over the years aren’t likely going to sell anywhere so designate a special place for them to go. For someone who dedicated much of their life to music, find a local school for musical equipment and instrument donation. The impact of the loss of the items will decrease if they are going somewhere where they’ll be appreciated.


Throw a Packing Party


The Minimalists—Joshua Fields and Ryan Nicodermus—developed a novel approach to downsizing and called it a packing party. The idea was to pack everything as if to prepare for a move but what Nicodermus was actually doing was pare down his belongings to become a minimalist. He labeled each box and spent the next three weeks unpacking only the items he needed. He noticed 80 percent of his belongings remained in those boxes.

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