Maybe you’ve been planning on downsizing for months or years, maybe it’s only a couple months before your move-out date and you’re looking for a way to get started or maybe you’re just starting to think about downsizing. This guide will serve as a checklist for going through your home and downsizing as well as provide useful resources in industries that can help with different aspects of moving or downsizing. From auctioning off some of your belongings to finally getting around to scanning your photos, going through these steps will help anyone who is downsizing or thinking about it:
- Give yourself plenty of time for this process. It’s not controversial to say that you don’t want to be running around at the last minute, but budget extra time knowing that other things may crop up. Starting to downsize six months before a move is ideal. Anything under two months risks you rushing to get everything done.
- Declutter the obvious things One of the biggest traps people fall into is to make packing the first step and think that downsizing will be easier on the back end. Instead, go through the house and throw as much away as possible before you even think about packing. Getting rid of things you obviously won’t be taking will also make it easier and less stressful to make the tougher decisions down the road.
- Don’t just throw things away. The first option should be reaching out to friends and loved ones to see if anyone has interest in taking your old things. Donate what’s left over to a better cause like Goodwill, the Salvation Army or Big Brothers Big Sisters. If you’re thinking of selling anything from furniture to jewelry to household trinkets as you downsize, consider a service like MaxSold. They will come to your house, itemize the belongings you wish to sell, run an auction and then organize a day where the auction winners will stop by your house and pick up their purchases. The whole process takes only a couple weeks from start to finish. Lastly, before you think about throwing anything away, see if it can be recycled. For questions about what can be recycled, contact your town government or Earth 911.
- Keep your new space in mind when downsizing from your old home. Picture the layout of the bedrooms, family rooms, garage and storage spaces. You may find that you’re getting rid of too much or not enough and have to make adjustments. It’s much better to have this in mind before downsizing to avoid starting over after you’ve moved in. Take measurements of the new space as you are going through your household items. There might not be enough physical space in your new home to bring the couch with you. That makes it an easy decision to donate or give away. In general, avoid making decisions based on sentiment, and stick to practicality. If there are any questions, get an outside opinion. Find someone who will be objective about the item in question and whether it will actually be of use.
- Digitize your photos and videos. You can save a tremendous amount of space storing your photos, slides, film reels and video tapes on a computer, rather than in boxes, albums and carousels. This is one of the only opportunities to save a lot of space without sacrificing enjoyment. While moving or downsizing might seem like the last time to add something to the to-do list, creating something that can be in the family for generations is worthwhile. One big thing to keep in mind through this process: it’s not always best to digitize everything. Sometimes, the most meaningful projects can be just the old family scrapbook, a couple hundred photos and slides, and a few video tapes or film reels.
It’s OK to throw away old photos and videos! Find a service that will transfer to digital for you, or tackle the project yourself. Be mindful of the time for this. Budget two to three minutes per image to scan, crop and retitle. If you plan to only scan parts of your collection, assume anywhere between five to 20 hours for getting organized before scanning. If you are outsourcing, the projects generally take four to six weeks or longer, depending on the size of your collection. If you can’t bring yourself to throw the physical images away after scanning, there are space-saving options for photo storage: for under $100 you can find archival, acid-free boxes to put your photos, slides and negatives in that will keep them safe and tightly packed.
- Take pictures of things you want to remember but can’t take with you. Some things are going to be harder to throw away than others, and that’s part of the process. If something is really special, it’s worth snapping a quick picture for memory’s sake. Taking pictures of painted bedrooms, children’s artwork and the family dining room will keep the image and associated memories alive forever, long after the move-out date.
- Budget money for some outside help if necessary. You can avoid some of the stress by hiring a professional organizer from NAPO (the National Association of Professional Organizers) or a specialist from NASMM, the National Association of Senior Move Managers. These experts have generally spent years helping people move, downsize or get organized and can be a great source of knowledge and motivation.
Author bio: Jennifer Niloff is a lifelong scrapbooker who turned her passion into the nation’s leading photo-organizing business, EverPresent. Established in 2012, her company now employs over 40 professionals and serves clients nationwide. Jennifer writes on topics ranging from photo-scanning best practices to digital photo organizing to using photo books and edited slideshows as the best methods to share your important family photos and videos with loved ones.