Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Tossing out a lifetime’s worth of stuff is time-consuming and emotionally exhausting. If you’re facing a house full of things, here are few places to start paring down.
> Family Heirlooms: The china cabinet that’s been in your family for three generations. The family piano, where your children learned to play their first chords. The mahogany dining room table you got for your wedding and that has presided over every holiday dinner since. These items have too big a place in your heart to be donated or sold, but they’re also too big to go with you. Now is an ideal time to pass them on to your children, nieces and nephews, or other beneficiaries. It might feel too soon for the heirlooms to start changing hands, but this way, they can stay in the family where they belong.
> Large, Unused Items: Spare bedroom furniture, couches that no one else in the family wants, bookshelves you can’t take with you…all of these items tend to work best in an estate sale or garage sale. Determine which items of furniture you’ll have room for, and earmark the rest for sale. These tend to sell faster than smaller knickknacks (and bring in more money), which can help you out in the moving process.
> Clothes that Don’t Fit or You Don’t Wear: Clothes and shoes have a way of taking up more space than anything else in a smaller home. Go through your closet and choose only the clothes you’ve worn in the past year. Get rid of things that are out of style, no longer fit, won’t work in your new climate, or that you simply don’t need. Donating them is a great way to ensure they don’t go to waste. (You can also do this in your kitchen. If you haven’t used it in the past year, chances are you don’t really need it.)
> Seasonal Items: You don’t want to get rid of your holiday decorations just yet, but you also don’t have the closet space to keep them on hand. It might be a good idea to get a storage space for items like these. Because you will still use them, you don’t want to throw them away, but because you only need them one month out of the year, you don’t need constant access.
You should also look ahead to your future. In some instances, a downsizing move is only a temporary thing—an apartment while you go to school in another city, a military move for a few years, moving in with a family member while you care for them during a time of need. In other cases, it’s a permanent solution—a retirement condo or a long-term transition overseas.
Consider your future when getting rid of items. If you’ll someday be back in a full-size home, it might be worthwhile to put your entire house in storage. If you won’t, holding onto these items will only be a drain on your budget.