If you’ve lost your job or taken a pay cut, moving to a smaller place can be a solid way to live on a reduced budget. Single job seekers could share an apartment with a roommate, and families might opt for a place with less square footage or a smaller backyard. Living on less property can mean fewer property taxes, lower monthly mortgage payments and less upkeep-related expenses.
Yet downsizing is rarely an easy task, and it can be extra tough if there isn’t much time to prepare for the move. Before you break out in a sweat at the thought of what’s ahead, take a deep breath, says Cynthia Alexander, a professional organizer and founder of Dallas Organizing.
“Then trust yourself to make good, quick decisions and act on them,” Alexander says.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to get you through the downsizing process at lightning speed without breaking down.
Write Out a Plan
If you’ve sold your home and purchased a smaller place, or know that a roommate will be joining you at a new spot on a certain date, you’ll likely have a timeline in mind for when you need to move. Look at your calendar to see how many days or weeks are left before the moving date. Then make a list of what needs to be done before the big day. This might include selling furniture, storing valuables, and going through rooms to evaluate what you want to keep.
Once you have a list created, line up tasks with your timeline.
“This plan doesn’t have to be complicated,” says Al Wisnefske, a real estate broker and owner of Land & Legacy Group in West Bend, Wisconsin. If you have items you want to sell, start the process early on. You don’t want to get caught trying to get rid of a large sofa or refrigerator the day before the movers come.
Think Through Space Changes
“Measure furniture pieces to make sure they will fit your new space,” says Amy Trager, a professional organizer in Chicago. To save time, give this task to some family members or friends while others sort through the items in each room.
Also set aside a section of your home for belongings you can’t live without. “That needs to be a small area,” Alexander says. Think about how to accommodate the basics in less space. If you’ll be moving to a single room, for instance, your everyday needs will have to fit comfortably in the room.
Consider what you might not need to use in the new home.
“In reality, we all have things we don’t use and could live without,” Wisnefske says.
If you’re leaving a home and heading to an apartment, you might not need a lawn mower or snowblower in the new location. If your downsized house doesn’t include a large living room, you might not want oversized recliners in the smaller space.
If you transition to your new space before selling your current home, you could have an advantage when evaluating items.
“Keep the essentials and set up the new property just how you want it,” Wisnefske says.
Then add any other non-essential pieces that fit into the smaller space.
Downsize Stashes and Collections
Kitchens, closets and bathroom cabinets are all places that tend to accumulate miscellaneous items. As you sort through these spots, you might find two can openers, six pairs of the same jeans, or several bottles of a lotion you no longer use. Keep the can opener that’s in the best condition and the jeans that are the most comfortable. If the lotion is expired or open, get rid of it.
“Have a garbage bag or box in each area of the house to toss donations into as you pack,” Trager says.
As you come across items you no longer need, add them to the bin. Don’t worry about taking donations to a charity immediately; wait until you’ve gone through the house so you only have to make one trip. If you’re short on time, ask a friend to run the load to a secondhand place for you.
Be Reasonable When Selling
While it’s fairly easy to take a digital picture of a desk or chest that won’t fit into your next place and list the item online, keep your timeline in mind when selling. If you list items on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, but won’t be at home much when buyers come around, it may not be practical to put price tags on a long list of pieces.
If you do opt for selling online, it may be tough to get top dollar for all of your goods. To entice buyers and encourage them to act quickly, a lower price might be more practical. For furniture that is well worn or needs some repair, consider setting the items outside with a “Free” sign nearby. Passersby may jump at the chance to pick up the pieces, saving you the time of getting rid of them yourself.
Store Items Safely
If you’re moving from a place with a guest room to a home without an extra bedroom, you might want to store the bed and furniture for the room in a separate spot. This way, if you move to a larger home in the future, you’ll have the bedroom set ready to use. The same is true for other valuables, such as paintings, entryway shelving units, buffet sets or large dining room pieces. Holiday items and seasonal clothing can also be kept in a storage unit if you’re tight on space.
When choosing a storage space, look for an option that will keep the items in good condition. A storage unit with climate control, for instance, will help you avoid mold issues.
“Compare costs for storage and consider convenience versus cost,” Alexander says.
A spot near your new home can make it easy to access, especially for seasonal items you might want like Christmas decorations.