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Downsizing for a Move

The skills to sort, organize and downsize a home come easily to some and may be more challenging for others. When taking on a large project such as moving or remodeling, these 4 basic steps to help streamline the process and gain control of unwieldy possessions.


Create a space plan first. The most important aspect of planning is to understand what your next space will look like. When you focus on what you will need for your new living environment it becomes easier to decide what you will bring with you. Too often, people try and pack up everything they own yet once they arrive at a new, smaller home, there is just no where to put everything. Moving day becomes a hassle and for many, the result is additional fees for more moving and storage.

Set aside time to work on your downsizing project. If you have a large amount of belonging to organize, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the task.  Schedule specific days and set aside reasonable amounts of time to work your way through all the “stuff.”  Your work will be most effective if you avoid all distractions, work through one room at a time and always complete one project before moving on to the next room. If you have weeks or months to work through a home, plan your downsizing projects in 2 or 3 hour increments. Once the clock runs out, you can stop working, or, if you are enjoying the momentum, keep going and finish the entire project sooner. For those working on a tight timetable, seek downsizing assistance from friends, family and other professionals.

Stay organized.  Designate a container, closet or corner of a room to house markers, labels, post-it notes, garbage bags, cleaning supplies and packing materials.  Take “before” pictures of the areas you will work on so you can celebrate your progress with “after” pictures.


When sorting your belongings, use the OHIO rule “Only Handle It Once. This means allocating each item you touch to its final resting place. Typically all your possessions should be sorted into one of the following categories:

  • items you will move with you
  • items you will donate
  • items you will gift to others
  • items you will toss
  • items you will sell

By using the OHIO rule, it means making a single and absolute decision about each item so you avoid shuffling it from one category to another. Clearly label bags, boxes and piles so there is no confusion about which items are “staying” and which items are “going.”


Possessions that will move with you should fit into your space plan. You can pack them in a box or leave them where they are to be packed by your professional Allied Agent at a later date. Things you plan to donate should be inventoried if necessary for tax purposes then bagged or boxed. Contact your local agencies for drop of locations or pick up schedules. Item to be gifted to neighbors, friends and family should be clearly labeled and shipped as soon as possible.  If you are gifting large items that require transport, it may be best to include those items as an additional stop along the way to your whole house delivery.   Ask your moving agent for an estimate.

There are several methods for selling items prior to a move.  You may opt to run your own garage sale, although for some this is a labor intensive process. If you have a fairly large quantity of items you believe have value, contact an estate sale specialist. Estate sales typically generate more revenue than garage sales and all the cleaning, sorting, pricing and advertising is done by a professional.  If you have just a few items of value, it may make sense to go through a service like Sell it on Ebay. If you are completely unsure of an item’s value, but suspect it is worth quite a bit, you may choose to have a professional appraisal. Often times the appraiser can help you locate the right buyer.

Canned goods and cleaning supplies should be used up prior to your move. To keep clutter to a minimum and reduce your moving costs, don’t add any new items to your home until after you move. The remainders of your possessions are most likely destined for a dumpster or a professional removal service like 1-800-Got-Junk.  For hazardous waste items such as paint, motor oil, computers and print cartridges, contact your local EPA office or waste management organization for drop off procedures.

Be Realistic

Throughout the “discard” process maintain sensible expectations. Almost everyone believes they own the next valuable antique that will be featured on “Antique Roadshow”, but for many of us that simply is not the case. Don’t be offended if a family member does not want the silver tea service because they simply don’t like it or don’t have room for it. Not every man’s trash is treasured! Be realistic about what you own and try to make the most of it either financially or charitably.

When you take the time to manage the “purging” process yourself, you have an opportunity to discard your possessions in a way that can be meaningful to you. Choose to work with clubs, charities and organizations that serve a cause you care about.  Gift family heirlooms to those you know will truly appreciate the history behind them.