Key insights

  • Downsizing your family home can be an emotionally complex process; be sure not to rush it
  • Whether you’re overly sentimental or tend to throw away everything in sight, it’s important to pair up with your opposite to keep yourself in check
  • Part of downsizing is letting go. Even if your loved ones can’t take some items with sentimental value, you can still ensure they go to a loving home

Whether you’re downsizing to an active 55+ community or laid back one-level living, making the decision to leave your home after years (or even decades) can be emotional.

We’ve compiled insights from downsizing experts, as well as local resources that you can leverage to navigate the process of downsizing.

Give yourself time

Downsizing experts Linda Hetzer and Janet Hulstrand agree that the main regret from those who have downsized was that they felt too rushed. If you’re planning to sell your home in upcoming months or even a year from now, consider starting the process of downsizing now.

Set aside one weekend a month to tackle a different room or area in your home, knowing that any storage spaces (where you may keep everything from report cards to rarely used heirlooms) may take the longest to tackle.

If you need an easy win, the bathroom and family room tend to house the least emotional clutter. Be gone, years of shampoo samples! We won’t miss you, M*A*S*H re-runs on VHS!

Pair up with a “keeper” or “tosser”

Most of us tend to fit into two categories when it comes to de-cluttering:

  • Keepers are overly sentimental, and they tend to keep too many items that they’ve emotionally connected with
  • Tossers are overly-practical, and they tend to toss away too many things without considering the emotional value they may have to others

You probably know which type of de-clutterer you are. So as you downsize the rooms with the highest number of emotionally valuable items, be sure to pair yourself with your natural opposite.

Remember, you both bring value the process. Keepers may slow things down but they ensure that nothing too important is tossed out. Tossers keep you on task but may toss out Granny’s priceless candlesticks because they seem unfashionable.

Create five piles — no exceptions!

As you move from room to room, it’s important that you separate items into five distinct categories:

  1. Keep: Items to keep and bring with you to your new space
  2. Gift: Items you can’t keep, but hope remain in the family
  3. Sell: Items with value that can be sold to consignment stores, on Craigslist or eBay
  4. Donate: Items with value that should be donated
  5. Discard: Items with no value that should be thrown away

Have the hard conversations early

It’s important to know in advance that your children or heirs apparent may not want to keep the items you’ve designated in Category 2. To ensure you find the right home for these objects, ask your children, grandchildren or other friends early on if they’d like them.

If you can’t find anyone to take something that bears a lot of meaning to you, consider that donating the items may be better for everyone involved. While it may seem odd to give away the trunk your grandfather traveled over with from Ireland, it’s surely better for it to be cherished by a stranger than to be stuffed in an attic corner by a family member who sees no use for it.

And keep in mind that if you are struggling to find a home for priceless local art, you’re not alone. The Minnesota Historical Society was just featured in The New York Times for their work in archiving Minnesota artwork donated by downsizing baby boomers.

If you are overwhelmed by the number of items you plan to donate, consider hiring a company like Empty the Nest. This local organization takes everything you leave behind — from furniture to non-perishable food — and repurposes it to ensure those belongings avoid the landfill.

Ready to sell?

Getting rid of your cherished belongings is the first difficult step of downsizing. If you’re ready to sell your longtime family home, be sure to work with a local expert who understands that the process may be emotionally complex.

Get in touch today to get started on the downsizing or home selling process.