A person holds a small cutout of a house in their hands. In the background, various tools, blueprints, and a laptop are sitting on top of a large wooden table.

Everything You Need to Know About Downsizing Your Home

Downsizing involves moving into a smaller space and reducing the number of material goods in your home. 

There are many reasons for wanting to downsize. It could be that you’re conscious of your impact on the environment, or you want to decrease your expenses so you can save more for retirement. You might be a senior who wants a smaller and cozier home that is easy to care for.

Most importantly, the exercise of downsizing your material possessions forces you to think about what matters in your life. It helps you step away from the material-focused consumer culture prevalent in America today.

These motivations and others like them are the driving factors behind the trend of moving into a tiny home or converting a space into a barndominium or other multi-use home. 

If you purchase or build a smaller home, you need to downsize before and after you move. 

Before You Move

Downsizing starts several months before you move. During that time, you can engage in a decluttering effort that will help you choose those items that you want and need in your new tiny home or barndominium

Pre-move downsizing involves the Three Ds: Declutter, Digitize, and Donate. Here is a closer look at each of these steps. 

Declutter

The first step is to declutter your home of everything that you don’t need in your life. This process can be straightforward if you lay down well-defined ground rules and don’t make exceptions.

There are many decluttering methods and philosophies that you can try. The best policy is to choose the one that best fits your needs and helps you reach your downsizing goals.

Here are some popular downsizing options: 

  • Categorize your possessions: Categorizing your clutter can help you see which items are necessary, which ones bring enjoyment, and which ones are merely taking up space. You can make a category for books, sentimental items, gadgets, kitchen utensils, or any other designations that make sense to you. 
  • Remove items daily: This strategy involves throwing out, selling, recycling, or donating at least one item per day until you reach your decluttering goal. If you have lots of items in your home, you can speed up the process by doing this with two or more items daily. This exercise forces you to decide if you need a possession or not. 
  • Reduce your wardrobe: If you have a lot of clothes, you can hang the items that you wear in a separate closet or fold them in a designated drawer. After two or three months, those clothing items that are still in the original closet or drawer haven’t been used and are candidates for donation.

The method or strategy that you use depends on your specific downsizing needs and goals. Another advantage of starting as early as possible before a move is that you can try different methods and decide which one fits best for your downsizing needs. 

Digitize

If you are like most people, papers and documents take up a lot of space on shelves, desks, file cabinets, or binders. One option for reducing this clutter is to digitize. Putting all your vital information on disk, hard drive, or in the cloud can reduce your storage needs. 

This step is especially easy for documents that you can already access online, as well as any tax-related documents that are older than seven years. 

If you feel the specific document might be important in the future, consider scanning it and storing it in digital form, then getting rid of the physical copy. You should then back up the digital files on a drive and in the cloud as well. 

For the documents you absolutely cannot lose, such as your academic degree, birth certificate, or notarized legal papers, put the physical copies in a safe or in another secure area in your home.

Donate

If you don’t want to throw away items, consider donating them to a charity. There are many options, and some may even come to your home in a truck to pick up your donations. 

Some charities resell items to fund their activities, while others sell things at low prices to people who would not otherwise be able to afford them. You can find an organization that you would like to support and put your possessions to use rather than simply throwing them away. 

Donating is also a more environmentally friendly option because you won’t be creating excess waste. 

After You Move

If you can downsize before you leave your old home, then things will be easier when you arrive in your new place. However, there will still be more to do if you want to fully embrace the downsized lifestyle. 

Measure Your Space

To downsize properly, you need to have a clear plan for your new home. The first step is to measure so that you know exactly what you can fit without overcrowding. This process includes knowing the dimensions and square footage of each room and the house as a whole. The more data you have, the easier it will be to place furniture, appliances, and other items. 

The dimensions of a tiny home or barndominium may mean you’ll need to purchase new furniture or modify existing items so that they fit properly. 

Designate a Place for Everything

If you create a plan for organizing your new spaces, you’ll be able to avoid clutter in the future. You can start simply by placing smaller items in boxes and trays and building shelves or compartments for larger possessions. You could also try color-coding or labeling items so that you can return them to their designated place after use. This step may or may not be necessary depending on your personal preferences, but it could be worthwhile if you are worried about things not getting put back correctly. 

Also, you should remember that decluttering is an ongoing process. Over time, other possessions may lose their usefulness. You should keep a list of places to recycle, donate, or dispose of things you no longer need. 

Invest in External storage

Sometimes, even after your best efforts to declutter, you find that you still have more than your new home can hold. Perhaps you have equipment that is necessary for your career or heirloom items that you do not wish to part with. 

Instead of foregoing your tiny-home plans, you can rely on external storage space. There are multiple options for this type of arrangement. Depending on your plans, you can choose to purchase or rent a storage unit

Investing in external storage should not interfere with your downsizing philosophy. The items you place there should be necessary or of great sentimental value. The storage area should not serve as a catch-all for the items that you no longer need in your home.