A guide to downsizing from people who’ve done it before

Nov 20, 2022
Downsizing tips from people with experience. Source: Getty

There’s plenty of advice about downsizing available online from experts in the field. But sometimes, the best advice comes from people who’ve actually lived and breathed the downsizing journey. No one is more equipped to offer first-hand advice than someone who has successfully made the move from their large family home to a smaller residence.

When Apartment Therapy asked its readers for their best advice on all things downsizing, we were listening. Read on to find out some clever tips from those who have been there, done that.

Declutter regularly

One thing I learned was to start to constantly do purges. Almost once a season I would go through various things I was holding onto and purge. Whether that meant donating clothes (which happened a lot), throwing out papers I had held onto for no good reason, or getting rid of things I thought at one point I could use but just never actually put into good use. I kept up the habit and it makes me feel very good. I love going through my drawers of clothing and not seeing heaps of clothing I’m never going to wear. I love not feeling like every nook and cranny of storage space I have is filled with pointless paperwork I’m never going to need again.” — Kds310

Keep track of how much you use things

“I’ve used all kinds of approaches to paring down, but one of my favourites is some variation on tracking use. For kitchen tools, I put them all into a box and gave away the ones that didn’t get retrieved from the box after a month. Did a similar thing for shoes and have even used coloured stickers on furniture items to indicate use/non-use.” — HappySingle

Measure everything before you move

“My best advice is to measure all the rooms and all your furniture. I didn’t lose that much square footage, but the layout was so different and the closets so much smaller that I had to get rid of so much more than I thought.” — MTMo

Some words of wisdom from someone who learned the hard way

“Rule #1: Keep the things you like best! Don’t keep them to use later or just when you have important guests, and have another set of stuff to use now — use the good stuff now.” — Pejibaye

Plan ahead, but stay flexible

“Before you move, you need to know where every item you keep will live, even if it’s just where to put the packed boxes while you make decisions. I ended up getting rid of some more furniture (and other stuff) since because it just didn’t work in the space. You’ll need to be in the space for a while to learn it. Sit in every corner. Move your table and bed and sofa around to find the best spot. I like flexible, dual-use pieces, things with wheels, folding things, things light enough that you can move them without help.” — Jean, Librarian

Put things in storage

“The biggest thing for me was to do a layout of my new space and plan out placement of furniture so I knew what I had space to bring along. Also, I made the decision to put things I couldn’t decide on into storage for 6 months. After that time away, it was easy to pick out what I really wanted to hold onto and what I hadn’t missed. Now I still have a smaller storage space with these things (mainly family heirlooms and such) that I get out when I’m in a bigger space.” — BeaInChicago

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