Downsizing to a smaller home: How to pare down your possessions

April 21, 2016

Downsizing can be a daunting task

Moving is ranked third of the most stressful life events. Just finding and closing on a new home can be draining, and then there’s the moving itself. Particularly when it’s time to move to a smaller home better fitting your needs, packing and moving your belongings can be a daunting endeavor.

Really purge – don’t keep a storage unit

In March of 2016, I was hosting an open house and speaking with a couple who had recently moved from a 5,000 sq. foot home in Elm Grove to a 2,400 sq. foot condo. They said they were happy with their new lifestyle but that the move wasn’t completely over. They still had a storage unit filled with things from their previous home. Furniture, boxes, clothing, odds and ends, all the “stuff” we accrue when making a home and raising a family. After decades in a house, one has many memories—and far too many possessions. When it’s time to move, home owners can feel overwhelmed by the task of condensing their belongings. The classic question many ask is, “What do we do with all this stuff?”

Think about your future space

The first step is to decide where you would like to live and the amount of space with which you are comfortable. Generally, people moving from a 3,000 to 6,000 sq. ft. home choose a smaller property in the 2,500-3,000 sq ft. range. In addition to space and architecture, considerations to weigh when looking at properties are: how much maintenance will this property require? Is the area conducive to the lifestyle desired (e.g., an urban area with vibrant nightlife or a suburban walkable neighborhood)? And would you prefer a condominium as opposed to a single family home?

Clear the clutter early. Ask “does this possession bring me happiness?”

As you zero in on the type and location of your future home, it’s time to start clearing the clutter. Don’t wait until you are packing for the movers. This is a big, sometimes emotional task, and it takes time. The best advice is to embrace the mantra, “does this possession bring me happiness?” First grade paintings from your child certainly do. A box of Little League t-shirts from the 1996 playoffs probably does not. If it makes you smile, keep it, and if not, let it go—either donating it, selling it or even just pitching it in the trash. Piece by piece, you will see your home begin to clear. (And when you’re taking a break, have a read through Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which talks about the art of decluttering and organizing.)

Start in a room you don’t often use

The best place to start is in a room you don’t often use. Clear flat surfaces first, like tables, desks and dressers. Use a three bin system: one for things to keep, one for trash, and one for items to give to charity or sell. Methodically move through the room, inspecting drawers, clearing under the guest bed, and emptying the closet that seems more like a storage unit. If there are items you have trouble giving up, consider giving them to friends or family.

You’ll be show-ready, organized and ready to move to your smaller place

While condensing your possessions takes time, every homebuyer knows that sometimes time is not on your side. When the perfect new home presents itself, you may need to act fast. This is where you can rely on a real estate professional to manage the laborious, important work of listing and showing your home and guiding you in purchasing your new property. They can also offer more tips and simple changes to make sure your home is in prime condition for potential buyers.

Moving can be daunting, but if you start early and take your time, figuring out what to do with all your belongings is entirely doable. And even if you don’t move right away, you’ll be clutter-free and prepared when the perfect home comes to the market.


Article by Paula Hienz First Weber Brookfield


First Weber sells real estate throughout Wisconsin: Metro Milwaukee and Southeastern WI, South Central Wisconsin, Southwest Wisconsin, Central Wisconsin, Northeast Wisconsin and Wisconsin’s great Northwoods. You can start searching for Wisconsin real estate and Wisconsin real estate agents at

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