How to Downsize

Downsizing, or intentionally reducing the space you live in, is a major lifestyle change but can be a smart financial and minimalist move. Downsizing requires planning, decision-making, and effort, but the rewards can be worth it. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to downsize your life and home successfully.

Why Downsize

There are many potential benefits to downsizing your home and possessions:

Save Money

A smaller home means reduced housing expenses. With a lower mortgage or rent payment, lowered utility and maintenance costs, and lower property taxes, you can save significantly each month. Downsizing also reduces your possessions and costs associated with storage and maintenance.

Reduce Clutter

Too much clutter is mentally and physically draining. Living in a smaller space forces you to reduce belongings and focus on only the essentials, creating a decluttered environment which can provide mental clarity.

Gain Financial Freedom

The money saved from a smaller home can be invested or used to pay off debts. With a lower cost of living, you can potentially retire earlier or pursue other goals.

Focus on Experiences

With fewer possessions to worry about, you can focus more on experiences that bring joy – travel, hobbies, time with loved ones. A decluttered life allows you to invest in memories over material things.

Increase Mobility

A smaller home makes moving easier if needed for a new job, to be closer to family, or to “snowbird” by having a second home in a different climate. Without as much stuff, relocating becomes much simpler.

Help the Environment

Using fewer resources from a smaller living space means less energy consumption, lower emissions from heating/cooling, and less waste. Downsizing reduces your environmental footprint.

Minimalist Lifestyle

For some, downsizing serves the greater purpose of embracing a minimalist lifestyle – focusing on essentials, living simply, pursuing freedom over possessions. It’s both philosophical and practical.

Plan Your Downsize

To make your downsizing project manageable, it’s essential to create a plan rather than just winging it. This will prevent being overwhelmed.

Set a Downsizing Goal

Be specific on how much you aim to downsize. Is it downsizing just by rooms, or by a certain square footage? Set a tangible target so you know when you’ve reached an optimal size.

Choose a Downsize Deadline

Give yourself a timeframe for the downsizing project, such as 3-6 months. This prevents the task from dragging on indefinitely. Also schedule regular decluttering sessions.

Involve Family in Planning

If downsizing affects others in your household, make it a collaborative process. Discuss goals, challenges, pros and cons together. Listen to input from all sides.

Research Smaller Home Options

Spend time looking at your downsizing options – smaller homes or apartments in your area or other locations that appeal to you. Narrow it down to a few possibilities.

Create a Room-by-Room Decluttering Plan

Develop a systematic decluttering plan for sorting through every single room – closet, furniture, shelves, storage areas. This prevents feeling overwhelmed.

Consult Downsizing Checklists

Use comprehensive downsizing checklists to ensure you don’t miss any key steps. Checklists help you methodically purge items room-by-room.

Enlist Help If Needed

Consider hiring a professional downsizing service, organizer or estate sale company if you need assistance sorting, selling items, or relocating to your new home.

Declutter Room-by-Room

Decluttering is the essential first step before downsizing to a smaller home. You won’t know how much space you need until you sort through your current belongings and reduce.

Living Spaces

Go through all living areas with the mindset of “do I need/love this?” Purge furniture that’s too big or in poor condition. Donate unused decorative items.


Minimize dishes, cookware, appliances and pantry items. If you don’t use it regularly, donate it. Look for space-saving options like nesting bowls.


Limit clothes to only those worn regularly in the past year. Consider storing off-season clothing elsewhere. Convert extra bedrooms if possible.

Home Office

Shred/recycle old documents. If you can go paperless, do so. Store items offsite or digitally if possible. Convert office to multi-use space.

Storage Areas

Go through every single closet, cabinet, drawer, garage shelf. Toss or donate anything not essential. Give items to family if useful.


Be selective of keepsakes. Keep a few most meaningful items. Take photos of others then donate the physical items to declutter.

Outdoor Spaces

Hold a garage sale for furniture, tools, sporting goods. Donate to Habitat for Humanity. Compost waste and recycle everything possible.

Choose Your New Home

Once you’ve decluttered and have a target size in mind, it’s time to choose your new smaller home.

Smaller House

Look for a 1-2 bedroom house with only the essential rooms. Opt for multipurpose spaces and minimal hallways/entryways to reduce square footage.


A rental apartment or condo can reduce costs and maintenance. Look for open floor plans to reduce walls and doors. Seek natural light and balcony space.

Tiny Home

Tiny homes under 500 sq ft are an ultimate space saver, but require paring down significantly. Ensure it still has essentials like a full bathroom.

Accessory Dwelling Unit

Turn a garage or basement into an ADU on your existing property for rental income to offset costs. ADUs share utilities.

Shared Housing

Split costs by sharing a home with housemates. A bonus is built-in community and shared chores. Screen housemates carefully for compatibility.

Cohousing Community

These communities with private homes cluster around shared spaces like a common house for meals. This creates community.

Make the Move

Once you’ve decluttered and found your dream downsized home, it’s time for the big move. Proper planning prevents problems.

Choose Movers Strategically

For a long-distance move, hire professional movers. For a local move, consider renting a truck and moving yourself with help. Know your abilities.

Create a Moving Timeline

Make a calendar of everything that must happen on moving day. Schedule movers, utility shut offs, cleaning services. Avoid last-minute scrambling.

Use a Color-Coded Labeling System

Label boxes by room and contents using colored stickers. This keeps items organized for the unpacking process. Use color codes on furniture too.

Pack an Essentials Box

Set aside a box of items you’ll need immediately – toilet paper, soap, trash bags, basic tools, clothes, snacks, etc. Unpack this first.

Clean the Old Place Thoroughly

Leave your old home clean for the next residents. Clean carpets, walls, appliances, windows and every nook and cranny. Make it move-in ready.

Change Your Address Promptly

Submit a change of address to the post office and update accounts online and in person. Confirm services are active at your new address.

Unpack Slowly with a Plan

Don’t rush to unpack everything at once. Prioritize necessities like kitchen, bathroom and bedroom first. Unpack thoughtfully with items going to optimal places.

Adjust to the New Lifestyle

It will take some time to adjust to living with less in your new, downsized space. Adapt with these tips:

Take It Room by Room

Set up and organize one room at a time. Starting with necessities like kitchen and bedroom. No need to unpack everything at once.

Let Go of Buyer’s Remorse

It’s normal to occasionally second-guess your decision during the adjustment phase. Stick with your downsizing purpose and visualize the benefits.

Establish New Home Routines

With a smaller space, you may need new habits like doing laundry more often or parking on the street. Adjust habits to match your home.

Continue Decluttering

You’ll likely find items to declutter after living in the new space. Prune out things you overlooked or no longer need after settling in.

Feel Your Feelings

Downsizing is an emotional process tied to memories and identity. Let yourself fully feel and process any grief, sadness, relief, joy or other emotions.

Focus on What Matters

Remember, stuff is just stuff. What makes a home is the people, emotions, laughter, memories and stories within it, not the size or possessions.

Frequently Asked Questions About Downsizing

Q: How much smaller should I downsize to?

A: Aim to cut your space by about 30-50% if possible to reap the most rewards. Even just going from 4 bedrooms to 2 can make a dramatic lifestyle difference.

Q: Should I downsize before retirement?

A: It’s smart to downsize a few years before retirement if possible. This gives you time to declutter, sell your larger home, and adjust to your new home before retiring.

Q: Where should I move when downsizing?

A: Consider locations with lower costs of living that still have amenities important to you. Moving closer to family is also a common downsizing move.

Q: How long does the downsizing process take?

A: Plan for the decluttering, home selling, and buying process to take about 6 months to a year for a smooth transition. Rushing it creates stress.

Q: Should I sell or donate my stuff when downsizing?

A: Sell higher value furniture, vehicles, jewelry and other items. Donate quality used goods to charity. Hold garage sales for mid-range items.

Q: How do I declutter sentimental items?

A: Take photos of sentimental items like trophies or kids’ artwork. Keep a few very cherished items. Donate the rest to bless other families.


Downsizing requires effort but can gain you freedom – financial, mental and lifestyle. Declutter thoughtfully, choose your ideal smaller home, move in an organized fashion, and take small steps to settle into your new, freer lifestyle. The rewards of simpler living make it worthwhile.