Christmas is just around the corner! While I feel like I should be doing a post detailing tips for Christmas decorating, I hardly feel prepared because 1. I haven’t started my own decorating, 2. I’m not one to over-decorate for seasonal occasions (I think commercial venues have the green light there, but for residential, I prefer to keep it simple. I suppose there are a few nuggets of information there…), and 3. I’ve been busy helping my in-laws downsize from a pretty good sized house to an apartment. And so I wanted to share with you what we’ve learned while it’s still fresh!

My in-laws, Marybeth and Larry, are collectors of anything with sentimental value, so I think this downsize was difficult for them at first, but they did it! We did a few things that helped to make it a smooth move.


MAKE A PLAN. As with all interior design, a plan is crucial, and it’s importance cannot be overstated when downsizing. Look into hiring someone who stages houses, an interior designer, or a professional organizer to help make a plan. It might be more affordable than you think, especially from those who are just getting started and needing some experience. For Marybeth and Larry, I drew up their new place in my rendering software after getting the measurements of the place and, using the dimensions of their existing furniture, figured out what they could keep and what they would have to let go.

Marybeth and Larry’s living room bird’s-eye-view.

Marybeth and Larry’s living room bird’s-eye-view.

Their living room in the rendering program.

Their living room in the rendering program.

If that’s not something you want to do, graph paper and a pencil would work. Draw out a bird’s-eye-view of the new place on graph paper: usually 1/4’’ = 1’. Take note of placement and dimensions of windows, doorways and heat registers. Then take inventory of what furniture you have and their measurements. From there it’s a matter of seeing how best to furnish the new place on paper, and prioritizing what to keep and what to let go. It’s much easier to try things on paper than to haul furniture to the new place and find it doesn’t work. Play around with it—try something you previously had in the bedroom in the living room, for example. Be open to changes.

MEASURE DOORWAYS AND STAIRWELLS. Maybe on paper that sectional would fit in the new place but would not fit up the stairwell or through the doorway. Measure first and avoid headache later.

SELL, DONATE OR TOSS. Now that you have a plan, it’s time to sell, donate or throw away what you can’t take with you.

  1. Go through your closets and consider how long it’s been since you’ve worn an item. If it’s been a year, it’s time to let it go.

  2. If you have multiples of something (especially common in kitchen items), sell or donate the multiples.

  3. Think about if an item is something you want or need. Remember that it’s just stuff: memories attached to items will not disappear if you end up letting go of them.

  4. Consider the quality of an item. If you have two dressers and only have room for one in the new place, let go of the one of lesser quality.

  5. You could send an e-mail or group text message to family members with photos of items you’re letting go of to give them an opportunity to claim something before you sell.

  6. You can sell furniture as well as just about any item in good condition online: Marybeth used Facebook Marketplace and other local Facebook buy/sell groups. There are many other online sites like Craigslist, E-Bay, OfferUp, Poshmark, etc. Consider having a garage sale if time allows. Or simply donate items in good condition to Goodwill, St. Vinnie’s, or other charity organizations.

CONSIDER HIRING MOVERS. If budget allows, hiring movers will eliminate the physical strain and mental stress of getting what you’ve kept from point A to point B.

CONSIDER VERTICAL SPACE FOR STORAGE. When relocated, in closets hang two rods instead of one if you’re one who hangs most of your clothing. Install shelving to the ceiling and store things in square bins (there is some wasted space with round bins).

USE DOUBLE DUTY FURNITURE. Furniture with a dual purpose is ideal in smaller spaces (for example, use an ottoman with storage).

I talked to Marybeth to get her perspective on the downsizing experience. Here’s what she had to say. My questions are italicized.

  • You did it! Have you found downsizing to be something you’d consider an improvement or regrettable change in your life?

An improvement. It’s just a simpler life. We’ve kept our best, favorite things only, and so we enjoy them more than we used to because we see them more. If you have a lot of stuff you don’t even really get to enjoy your best things.

  • When selling items, did you find that certain items sold faster than others? Do you have any tips about selling?

I couldn’t find a rhyme or reason to what sold and what didn’t sell as fast. The main thing is to price items low and sell items that are in somewhat decent condition. Post good, clear pictures without clutter behind and around the item.

  • What was the hardest part of downsizing for you? What advice would you give someone about to downsize?

Photo courtesy of Marybeth: view from her easel.

Photo courtesy of Marybeth: view from her easel.

The hardest part was getting rid of some sentimental things that we didn’t have room for. It helped to give some of those things to family members that we knew cared about it, too. My advice is to find a place in a location that helps you to live the life you want to live. For us, finding a place that has made our life kind of exciting and fun again has been important. We’re in walking distance to parks and shops now, and the view from the room where I paint my art inspires me and that helps me to keep painting! Don’t just go to any place. Also, I highly recommend making a plan or hiring someone to help form a plan because I wouldn’t have known what to keep. We came into this place knowing what would fit and where it would go and that made things a lot simpler!

  • What do you like about “living smaller”? What do you dislike?

I like how easy it is to clean up! Everything’s got a place, and there’s less to clean: one bathroom, a small kitchen. We don’t really dislike too much about it! I suppose Larry would like a carport or something, but other than that we’re happy!

  • When letting go of stuff, what did you tell yourself to help you to detach from items that held sentimental value? Did you find you regretted it or felt liberated after letting items go?

I just would tell myself that these are just things and I have enough. I felt liberated by letting go of stuff. I found getting rid of things to be a freeing experience, really. You don’t need as much as you think you do!

Thank you, Marybeth! I hope this helps anyone about to downsize or considering downsizing. If you have any other tips or ideas to add please let us know in the comments!

Joelle Somero8 Comments