How to Downsize Without Freaking Out: A Guide to Simplifying Your Move

Check out these five neat and tidy tips to master the art of dejunking.

Let’s be real—moving is no fun. No matter if you do-it-yourself or hire professionals, the big day is going to be stressful and fraught with potential disasters. So, why not take every precaution to ensure a smooth transition from one home to another?

No matter what kind of home you are moving into, make sure to downsize. The truth is that everyone has more stuff than they think they do. Although it may sound as simple as just getting rid of unneeded clutter, downsizing entails a whole slew of methods and techniques.

Here are the main keystones to follow when attempting to downsize before a big move.

1. Tidying Up

OK—the first step should be a process of tidying up. While this may sound simple on the surface, try to take it seriously.

The thing about moving is that it offers the perfect chance to go through all of your belongings. Think of it as a sort of inventory. Collect all of your clothing, books, papers and other miscellaneous clutter. Now, as KonMari would say, determine which items “spark joy.”

Another way to go about this process is by making priority lists. Perhaps one pile is for items that you would consider absolutely irreplaceable, while the other is for things you could live without.

A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself whether you actually use a non-decorative item regularly. For example, that old cooler in the basement might appear useful, but is it?

This itemization of one’s life is extremely beneficial regardless of a move. Once you know exactly what you have in your house, life gets a lot easier.

2. Buy or Sell?

Step two in the process of deciding what to keep is deciding what to buy or sell. After deeming something “unnecessary”—such as a dresser or extra TV—decide whether it has the potential to turn a profit. Think of it this way: A pocketful of cash is a lot easier to move with than an old couch.

Clothing is often a huge contender for hoarding. This provides a great time for a good ole’ fashioned yard sale, trading all of those ill-fitting jeans or snow boots for cold hard cash.

Depending on the space, certain things make more sense to buy new. If your new living room has an odd shape, why try to wedge that old coffee table in there? Instead, use the money you got from Craigslist and buy yourself a new one.

Be careful—this practice can become addicting. Who doesn’t like money? Make sure you are only selling things that can be replaced. Also, keep the emphasis on downsizing in mind—do not buy more than you sell.

3. Double Trouble

A move is a great chance to take a hard look at all those backup mattresses or air conditioners. Doubles are very rarely necessary. As a general rule, if something is depreciating in value, get rid of it.

Living with roommates opens up a whole other can of worms. If you are moving in with new people, that inventory list is going to come in handy. No one needs two microwaves in the kitchen! Communicate with your potential roommates about who is supplying what. It should provide each of you with a good excuse to throw away certain items. If your new living partner has an epic coffee maker, there is no need to bring your old Keurig!

Getting out of the backup mindset is tough, but rest assured that once you start downsizing, you won’t want to stop.

4. Location, Location, Location

Now that you have a general idea of what you are moving with, it’s time to look into space. The most important question is obviously whether or not your new space is larger than your old one. Still, certain spaces are more adaptable than others. It can be helpful to make a chart to keep track of what you’re working with.

If your new home has a storage space, such as an attic or garage, that is important to keep in mind when packing. If it doesn’t, does it have space for storage containers, such as shelf space or walk-in closets?

Downsizing should be a priority regardless of space. Try not to keep unnecessary items just because you have storage space for them. Sure, you could fit that extra frying pan in your closet, but do you need to?

5. Keep the Dream Alive

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, keep the momentum strong. Clutter collects faster than we’d expect. Now that you are comfortable and organized in your new home—surrounded by only the things that really matter—it will be easier to keep up.

Have you ever noticed how one dirty dish seems to multiply immediately while an empty sink stays clean? Messiness begets messiness.

Still, downsizing is a mindset. In other words, be mindful of every Amazon purchase or thrift store find. Be sure there is space for that new houseplant before you buy it.

The concept of throwing away our possesions is scary for a reason. We work hard to fill our homes, attaching our personalities to everything we own. Sadly, part of growing up is learning to let go and move on, and downsizing is no exception.


Just as a quick recap. Do these five things and in no time you will have more space than you know what to do with!

  1. Perform some heavy duty tidying up

  2. Decide whether to buy or sell

  3. Get rid of doubles

  4. Organize storage

  5. Stay mindful

Good luck, movers!