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12 Steps to Downsizing Success

Category: Home and Garden

This is Module 10 of our Retirement 101 Online Preparation Course. (See end for list of other Modules in the course).
June 4, 2013, updated March 2021 — Almost everybody talks about downsizing, but not that many folks ever get around to it. But those that do go through the wrenching process of downsizing tend to be very glad they did it. This article, one of the top reader-suggested poll topics from last week’s survey, will explore the downsizing process along with 12 tips for doing it painlessly. We’ll also visit some of the pluses and minuses of downsizing later on in the article.

1. Start now. As our friend Sandy told us, “Start earlier than…. early”. He had been given that advice, and now wished he had followed it (see separate article featuring his adventures in downsizing). It takes a long time to divest yourself of a lifetime of stuff. And as was the case with Sandy, sometimes the timetable gets moved up, leaving you scrambling madly. Your editor’s psychologist wife made this suggestion: “Downsizing might be more difficult than you thought. So give yourself some extra time to work it through!”

2. Understand the target. In other words, what is the size of your new home, and what can it accommodate? Will your great-grandfather’s tall case clock fit under your new ceilings? Do you have more rooms of furniture now than will fit in your new home? Knowing the dimensions and capacities of your new home will give you a good idea of what you should be de-acquisitioning.

3. Determine a timetable – and stick to it. Like most projects, a step by step approach with milestones along the way (clear out the attic by ?, get rid of the books by ?) is the best way to get a job done.

4. List what you have that you absolutely can’t part with. Then go through that and cut it down again. You will be surprised how many of your essentials are anything but. On the other hand, having a must-have list will give you comfort and direction. suitcase_fullsize

5. Determine how you are going to distribute your stuff to your loved ones. We’ve written about this before (see our checklist under Further Reading below). There are various approaches, like using a point system when you have many people interested in the same items. On the other hand, an awful lot of the clutter in most baby boomer homes is caused by the toys, clothes, and furniture you have saved for your kids. Unfortunately, they might not either be ready for it, or they don’t want what you have so carefully squirreled away in every corner of your attic.

6. Decide what will fit style-wise in your new place. One of the worst mistakes we’ve seen is when someone moves the furniture that was perfect in their new New England saltbox into a contemporary Florida apartment. There are plenty of other examples. For many people, starting over again with all new stuff that matches your new environment is a big kick.

7. Face reality about values. Most of your stuff, particularly furniture, isn’t worth very much on the used market – 10 cents on the dollar, maybe. It’s usually far better to liquidate it early than hang on for top dollar. (See Further References at end)

8. Make a decision on how to get rid of the stuff you are not taking. You might use a combination of methods – tag sale, consignment shop, donate to the Salvation Army. Craigslist can be good, but there are any number of scammers looking to take advantage of you – be careful, and use the email alias service they provide. In many towns there is an estate sale company who will quote you a price or % for getting rid of everything in your home, minus what you want to take with you. What doesn’t sell, they throw out or donate for you. Get references, of course, but this service could be well worth it. Some new services that might help are Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp (app), and Close5 (app).

9. Tread lightly with family history. This is very hard, but you do need to think about what to do, particularly if you have documents or artifacts with historical significance. For example, if you are the last person in the family holding memorabilia from a famous relative, and you know your kids have no interest, you have a quandary. Family albums are another tricky area. The more time you spend thinking about it, the more comfortable you will be with your decision.

10. Figure out how are you going to get your stuff to the new location. You can rent a truck, or hire movers. Maybe you can do such a good job at downsizing you can just ship the remainder by UPS. How much you have left to move (and what) will help you decide the right method. Often movers will give you a good quote if are flexible about delivery. Get references, quotes in writing, and know what services you are buying – there are plenty of shady movers out there.

11. Let it go! If you haven’t looked at it or used it in 2 years – out it goes!

12. Don’t leave downsizing to your surviving spouse or children. It’s just not fair. One couple we know jokingly say they have a pact – she has to go first, because he’s the pack rat. Give your kids a break – they have lives to live, and they won’t know what your intentions were about your precious stuff.

Downsizing has so many advantages it is hard to find a good reason not to do it. Here are some of the big ones:
Save money. Moving to a smaller, more energy efficient home will save you gobs of money in utilities, taxes, maintenance. Often it can make the difference between a struggling retirement and a comfortable one
You will save your spouse and/or heirs a mountain of work. In an extreme example, we have a friend whose parents wouldn’t move out of their home that was packed with generations of kids’ toys, papers, furniture, and knick-knacks. Long after the parents died, our guilt-ridden friends still spend their vacations trying to sort out the mess, actually moving much of the stuff into their homes (just when they should be the ones downsizing!) Do it now, it is just not fair to saddle someone else with your burden.
You’ll feel better. Stuff is just stuff. Most people feel liberated once they pare down. Lots of guilt is piled up in your attic, closets, and basement – let it go!

– The biggest disadvantage of downsizing is the work – it takes a lot of labor and angst to go through the process.
– You might lose something in the process, or wish you had kept something you didn’t. That’s normal, but on the whole you will be glad you have done what you have done!

Here are the links to all of the other Modules in our Retirement 101 Preparation Course:

Further reading:

Mission Impossible: Cleaning Out an Old Victorian
A Tale of 3 Downsizings
12 Steps to Downsizing Success
Downsizing Checklist and Tips
Topretirements Members Getting Ready for Big Moves
eDivvyup – a Web-based tool for dividing property
How to Run an Estate Sale
About Home Downsizing (eHow)
Downsizing Tips (Yahoo)
Downsizing Baby Boomers Looking to Sell Their Stuff (Smart Money)
Why Aunt Betty’s Silver Won’t Pay the Bills

Comments: Please share your tips and experiences for downsizing in the Comments section below. We all want to know how it worked for you!

Posted by Admin on June 3rd, 2013


  1. We started downsizing about 6 months ago for our expected retirement in 2 years. One unexpected emotion from this job has been a huge feeling of satisfaction as we watch piles disappear and the house become infinitely more liveable. The almost instant gratification is fantastic. I don’t know why we put off this job for so long. DH is a bit of a pack rat, and saturated with work, so I made a “date” of it. We spend an hour a week working side by side, organizing and eliminating. That doesn’t sound like much, but it has been impressive how much we have eliminated.

    Please also don’t forget your files. Having recently helped to get my parents estate closed, I would recommend keeping one file clearly marked for your executor, filled with cover pages from each account, which includes contact info and account numbers. I had to go through file after file of inactive accounts, get the company to even talk to me, just to find out the account had been closed years ago. And mark closed accounts as closed so they don’t have to be checked.

    by Julie — June 4, 2013

  2. Julie, EXCELLENT suggestion about keeping one file clearly marked for executor, or your power of attorney (while still alive–yes, sometimes you need one, and time then will be of the essence, even more so than when someone’s died). Another incredible advantage of starting downsizing early is that most of our homes are too cluttered with stuff–and in order to successfully stage and then sell your home, you’ll have to deal with it then, if not before, so start now! I am not near retirement yet (alas, altho my husband goes out in September), but when selling our last house for a local move, we had to rent a storage locker and move at least 1/3 of the items into the locker just to be able to successfully show our house–which then sold in two weeks! And from having recently had to clear our an aunt’s three-story plus basement home that had not been weeded in 65 years (and she was NOT a heavy consumer, but was a packrat), which was 400 miles away from our home, you do NOT want to do that to your kids. You will feel so free if you start now, as Julie has indicated! This weekend I get to clear out one whole room in our basement which has become “storage”, due to an upcoming contracting project—not looking forward to it, I’ll have to wear a dust mask, but I do know when it is cleared out I will feel such relief. And then will have to promise NOT to fill it up again after contractor is done!

    If you need help, you might want to go to the National Association of Senior Move Managers . Not everyone here locally who does this work is a member, and many people are not, but it might be a good place to start, especially if you already live in a larger urban area. When I used to work in marketing/admissions for a continuing care retirement community (CCRC), some of the local move managers were WONDERFUL resources for our prospective residents. And you don’t have to enter into a long relationship with one–some of them will just help you set goals and then leave you to it and just check in with you occasionally for followup. Good luck, all. Wish I could join you in less than 7 years…. 🙁

    by Paula — June 4, 2013

  3. […] write about the the top ideas in the coming weeks, starting with the one we just finished, “12 Steps to Successful Downsizing“. Many of these ideas don’t lend themselves to online surveys – but they are […]

    by » Downsizing, Renting, Affordability Dominate Your Survey and Poll Suggestions Topretirements — June 4, 2013

  4. […] our members to suggest future topics for this Blog. This article is a companion piece to “12 Steps to Successful Downsizing“, but here we will report on the experiences of 3 baby boomers who just went through the […]

    by » A Tale of 3 Downsizings Topretirements — June 4, 2013

  5. We started cleaning out closets and makin trips to Goodwill after the first of the year. We are down to 3 weeks until the movers come and are on a good pace to have everything done without panicking. Something’s have been easy such as heavy sweaters and the snowblower that we will no longer need in SC. Other things have been tougher to let go of. I am so glad we started early so we have not had to spend all day every day packing. We were. Able to visit family on the far side of the state over the weekend and have dinner with friends last night. I am sure we will find that we have not gotten rid of enough when we get to our new, smaller house but I guess e will deal with it then.

    by Kathy — June 4, 2013

  6. Once I determined the furniture that wasn’t going with me (and there were lots of items), I invited my three adult children to “shop” the house. After they took what they wanted (and don’t feel bad, they don’t want that much of our stuff), my son had a friend (early 20s) who had just bought a home, and no money to furnitsh it. That guy came over and took virtually everything I wasn’t taking. So, he got a lot of furniture for free (and he did the removal), and I got rid of stuff I wasn’t taking. Happy ending.

    by Jan Cullinane — June 5, 2013

  7. We retired last year and are in the midst of moving to SC. My ancestors settled in CT over 300 years ago and I’m the holder of the “stuff.” I started by talking to the kids, especially the women. No one wanted the stuff so I donated a lot of it to the local historical society. One daughter in law that is into genealogy took and digitized the things she wanted. (I am keeping the important originals for awhile,one briefcase.) I gave antique flower vases to the granddaughters with a stickers as to where it came from. I was disappointed the 200 year old china was not wanted by replacements or collectors and sold for $5.00 to an antique dealer. As I wade though things I send out an email once a week to the kids,Do you want ice skates?, Camping gear?, Sporting gear?, etc I give them a week to get back to me then it’s donated. My biggest dilemma is our piano which is used daily. I’m not sure it would survive a long road trip.

    by Lee Marie — June 5, 2013

  8. You bring up some very good points here. We already live in a small condo but we still have too much stuff. I like the idea of getting rid of the New England style furniture for our future move out west.

    by roberta — June 5, 2013

  9. When it comes to moving for retirement or anywhere for that matter….if you don’t love it, still use it or need it….don’t take it. That about says it all.

    by Artie — June 5, 2013

  10. Even if you’re not moving, or down-sizing, it’s good to get into the habit of getting rid of unnecessary paper.You don’t need to keep paper copies of bank statements, utility bills, or cancelled checks. All of this information is available online these days. Besides, when have you ever been asked for a utility bill from a year ago, or needed a bank statement from five years ago?
    The same is true of newspaper clippings — my husband has been addicted to these, clipping, (having me) file them, NEVER looking at them again. We had a file cabinet drawer devoted to these clips.

    by Pat Kennedy — June 5, 2013

  11. Marilyn, published author of Household Matters A-Z. Great information/suggestions. Another tip is to inventory,organize and record all your new information (household, personal, financial,benifits, final wishes) so in case of the unexpected family will know exactly where all your personal information and documents are kept. Your family will greatly appreciate your thoughtfullness and will make closing an estate so much less expensive and time consuming.

    by Marilyn Skovgard — June 5, 2013

  12. A common interpretation of ‘downsizing’ is having to move into a smaller place; however, I believe ‘downsizing’ means clearing out and getting rid of things in your current home. Minimizing what you have to free yourself up. It took awhile for us to learn the upkeep involved in having ‘stuff’ (like cleaning around it). It’s a great exercise for anyone to do every so many years and not just before retirement.

    by CJ Baskel — June 5, 2013

  13. Downsided from 4,000 sf to 2,100 rental. An estate sale company scheduled our sale 2 weeks prior to the mover arriving. That company backed out 9 days before the move. I suspect they had a more lucrative offer. I placed ads in the paper on Wednesday for garage sale on Friday. We had hundreds of people as well as opportunest, ebay resellers, collectors, & antiques dealers flock to our home. Furniture went out ever door. Rented for 6 months. We were planning on building. Changed our minds about the location. During that time almost all of our belonging stayed in boxes in the 3 car garage. We did buy a 2,700 sf home. After unpacking we realized we had needed very little of what we had in boxes. I’d say the renting was a valuable experience-in what is important to keep in retirement. Much was donated to the Hill Country Animal League store which funds spraying/neutering & adoption of homeless animals. We had donated to other organizations before, but this time we felt our donations were doing some good.

    by Linda B — June 5, 2013

  14. I am not retiring for at least 5 years, but I am on a mission to downsize and clear out stuff. It takes time because I do it in layers. The easy stuff first, then the second layer, etc. I am working on the third layer now, and I find that letting go of things in the previous layers has pumped up my detachment muscle so that I am releasing things I thought I would always want to keep. I am doing it alone and have way more things than one person needs, so it’s taking time. The luxury of time is mine because I have started so early.

    by Elaine — June 5, 2013

  15. Just before retirement time and our decision to relocate to Central Florida we began the downsizing process. We realized that our 3000 sq.ft. home had way too much stuff to retire with us in an 1100 square foot condominium. It took 5 garage sales and many hours of sorting and heaving. We had several large drawers with lose photos and paper memorablia. It gave us a chance to go through piece by piece and enjoy all those happy moments. My wife created binders and 12 binders of this kind of stuff relocated with us. Now it could be easier you can create pdf files with everying fitting in a very small space. We shipped a number of furniture pieces. If we did it now we would just get rid of the stuff and get replacements new or second hand here. There is lots of good stuff in excellent condition wherever you may relocate. It isn’t easy throwing away and giving away. But a few days later you will feel really good about it!!!

    by David M. Lane — June 5, 2013

  16. Pat: You would be surprised about when you need old paperwork. My spouse had early-onset Alzheimers, and I needed all sorts of paperwork including bank statements, utility and tax bills, etc. for a five year look-back period. I met others who had parents in the same boat, and the kids were paying $1/pg for years of bank statements and trying to reconstruct their parent’s expenses. (I’ve also gotten a hefty class-action settlement since I had retained the paperwork for an old purchase.) Based on my experience, I save everything for at least six years – although there are alternatives. It’s possible to scan everything and save it on a disk for each year, or to put each year’s stuff in boxes in a small rented storage location. I agree that there has to be some balance, or we’ll be overwhelmed by stuff.

    by Sharon — June 6, 2013

  17. Does anybody have a suggestion of how I can rid myself of collector plates and Boyds Bear collections? I know I can just donate the items to a local thrift shop, but wonder if there is somewhere online I can list them for sale other than Craig’s List. Thank you for any advice.

    by Susan N. — June 6, 2013

  18. With regard to “stuff”. Everyone needs to watch the George Carlin (now deceased) video on stuff. BRILLIANT BUT BRUTAL LANGUAGE. Get passed the language and listen to the genius of George. Garuanteed – you will love it.

    From one Irishman to another.


    by Robert — June 6, 2013

  19. Susan N. — If you think you have any collectible items, take a look at eBay but don’t rely on the prices being asked. There’s also a search for items sold and the prices they actually sold for which is, of course, a much more reliable guide.

    by Judith — June 6, 2013

  20. Here is a suggested checklist addition: Determine the equity in your home. This is especially important if you ‘bought in’ at the peak of the market around 2004. I’d downsize tomorrow if I could get a reasonable sales price for our home. For many folks, their current home could feel like something between a boat anchor and a nasty trap.

    by Dave E — June 7, 2013

  21. Susan, I can certainly empathize regarding collectibles. I have mine, my mom’s and some of my grandmothers! The market for many of them has collapsed with the bottom fell out of the stock market, housing market and all the other “markets.” I’ve done research on line for Boyd’s bears, dolls, plates even Lladro ceramics and people are either getting no bids/interest or are taking a much reduced price. I guess it would be a great time to collect if you had the space and desire to hand on to them. Deciding how to handle valuables without value is an individual issue. I for one would rather have a few bucks for them and think that they are making someone else happy than to stash them somewhere until they recover their value.

    by cherie — June 7, 2013

  22. […] This article is the second one we’ve written on those suggestions, following up on our “12 Steps to Downsizing Success” […]

    by » Best Places to Retire: Our Ideal Snowbird Pairings Topretirements — July 2, 2013

  23. I just finished a whole-house clean out of stuff we’re not using. Family members either live here or are too far away (nobody’s rich enough in my family to travel more than once every 5 years or so-if that)so I got rid of all that extra bedding that doesn’t fit our bed, big pans, etc plus a lot of memorabilia, too. I couldn’t agree more that we think family members will want our stuff but they their own stuff. When my mom passed I just took a couple of pieces of her jewelry. I heard a statement that really resonated with me…. our stuff is not us. The memories are already stored away in our hearts & heads – not in the closet or the basement. Just my opinion. It made it much easier to make intelligent choices of what to keep — or not!

    by Jeanne C — November 29, 2013

  24. Recently saw ads in the paper for a company that will sell things on Ebay for you if you are downsizing. I just asked my kids if they wanted stuff like the Lionel trains, my early Barbies or other collectables in the attic. They had absolutely no interest. I might have some grandkids or great-grandkids someday who would have appreciated inheriting antiques, but my own kids see the stuff that I’ve kept for them as just being clutter.

    Yes, the company takes a big chunk of the sales price, but I can hope that my stuff will end up in the hands of someone who will enjoy it. And it means a lot less stuff when I downsize into my retiremement condo!

    by Sharon1 — November 30, 2013

  25. :mrgreen: Hi to Everyone With STUFF,
    This blog really hits home. My husband and I inherited his mother’s home, and it had four floors of beautiful antiques, and many, many not so beautiful, but there it was, in all it’s glory. A sort of normal 2 story older style home with a basement and attic all stuffed full to the brim. Oh, and a garage also.
    So we sold our home in North Carolina and moved into Mother’s home. It was horrible. We moved from our place on Oak Island, NC by the Ocean back home to NY to this house. We hired a couple to hold sales at our home until much of the “stuff” was gone, or as much as anyone was going to buy. They received 40%, and believe me, they earned it. We did earn quite a lot of money but I would never do it again. It was not easy, fun, nor in any way inspiring. We had just gotten our home sold in NC before the CRASH OF 2008, and now, thinking we would sell this home, after a clean up, small rehab, the crash came and no one was buying any REAL ESTATE PERIOD. And the rest is history. We now live in a smaller ranch style house we purchased while we tried to sell the other home. Now we still have much of her JUNK around, and sine then my husband has been ill, and wow, I am still trying to get through all that stuff and, please, please, please, ladies, listen up and get rid of all that junk. It is like a being stuck and is definitely dragging you down.
    Yes, we all thought we had to have stuff, and even though it was beautiful, times HAVE CHANGED. Families are definitely not in the same area as it once was. We really do not need any of this stuff. We probably have inherited this “hang on to stuff” because of the old fashioned Depression, which our families lived through at one time or another. My daughter just puts stuff in garbage bags and offers it up to anyone who will tkae it, or she will throw it away. She will not clutter up her home. I digress.
    We each need to do it i our own way, but for some reason, we American’s thought we needed to collect “Things.” My Mother-in-Law had a collection of over 5000 FROGS. Her number, not mine. I like FROGS, but I had one in my garden! She had many different colletions,so it was very time consuming.
    LESS IS MORE”~ Truer words were never spoken, AS I LEARNED IN ART CLASS MANY YEARS AGO.
    I hope I didn’t ramble on toomuch. Love you all, Elizabeth~

    by Elizabeth — November 30, 2013

  26. Hi All,

    Elizabeth is so right. My Mom just passed away and her house was full. She had no collections but she was 79 years old and stuff just accumulates from Christmases, tag sales, birthdays, store sales…you name it! We had a realtor come to the house when it was full of everything and she wanted to put it on the market. I was horrified because I was going through everything and there were boxes everywhere! We were going to have some ‘pickers’ come in and sell the stuff and they would get 40% and we’d get 60%. Well, by the time I got back to them they were so busy and couldn’t even think of taking our stuff out of the house till September. This was July and we had to get rid of the stuff to sell the house. So by luck we found this charitable organization that came in and took everything except a stained mattress and a chair with torn material on it. It cost us $35 for them to do this. There were two guys and they spent 6 hours loading the stuff onto the truck. It was the hottest day of the summer too! We still had some stuff leftover so I called 1800 Got Junk. They took the mattresses and furniture that was unacceptable and plus a GIANT old chest freezer in the basement. That thing had to weigh 800 lbs and took 4 guys to remove it! My husband emptied out the whole basement by himself and he filled up an entire huge dumpster from the stuff from the basement and the outdoor shed. We have been filling up the giant garbage cans every week too as we still clean out things. The house is under contract now and the lady who is buying it said she’d take what we want to leave behind which is dishes, glasses, silverware, lamps and a couple of end tables. It has been hell cleaning out and hell throwing out stuff of a loved one. I dragged home a bunch of stuff and my downstairs family room looks like a bomb hit it. Agreed…clean out your stuff, downsize, throw it out, donate it, sell it, give it away…get rid of the mess! Oh, and the good thing is that Since I donated a whole house full of furniture, clothing and everything under the sun I was able to take a tax deduction. One of the guys who loaded up the truck said I could probably get up to $5K as a deduction. I did file that amount with the charity so the IRS can check it out. It’s on file!

    by Louise — December 1, 2013

  27. Elizabeth and Louise, your comments are so timely. I just got my 97-year-old mother moved out of her two-story home where she’d lived and collected stuff for 40+ years. I’m now tasked with doing something with all the stuff! It made me very aware of the burden my children would be stuck with when I pass away, so I’ve declared this year as clean out year. My kids don’t want my antiques. As you said, life has changed. I will probably take them to the antique liquidator in Seattle since I don’t want to hassle with craigslist or ebay and I don’t have any other ideas. I definitely want to lighten my load. I’d even sell the house if my husband would agree (he won’t; he has too many tools and huge need for space for art-making stuff). Anyway, you’ve touched a nerve. Thanks for posting.

    by Jane Alynn — December 1, 2013

  28. Elizabeth, Louise and Jane, Please keep in mind your local thrift stores. They rely on donations and the proceeds go back into your community in some way. I know that if you have a mountain of ‘stuff’ they will sometimes make arrangements to clear it all out for you for ‘zip’! Thrift stores benefit hospitals, animal shelters and a variety of churches who all do wonderful work helping those in our community. If you are having a difficult time finding someone to move the stuff and need the manual labor, you can usually hire workers from a local moving company to work on their days off to help clear the space for you. Good Luck All in clearing the clutter. 🙄

    by Jane — December 1, 2013

  29. 😀
    Thanks for the encouragement, and the information. We donated so much to The Salvation Army Thrift Store. My M_I_L was 91 when she passed, and I believe she had in her closets the first dress she ever owned, And she did lovely needlework, and it was everywhere. Everything was all over the place and I felt better just venting here on this site. Imagine how great I will feel when I finally get it all out. I thought I had to be very understanding and do it slowly because of it being my husband’s mother. I now see things very differently. Things would probably have worked out great if only he had hired someone to clear it out for a charity. I never thought of that because I really don’t think there is any place like that where we live. LIVE AND LEARN! (OR DON’T) :lol::lol::lol:

    by Elizabeth — December 1, 2013

  30. Hi All,

    I forgot to mention that the organization I donated 99% of Mom’s household gives most of the furniture, clothing, etc. to people that have come upon hard times. They will let the people pick out as many room of furniture as they need and deliver it for free and move it into the home. The guys who came out to my Mom’s house said they carried a whole house full of furniture up 4 flights of stairs! All that for free to help people out! I have also made numerous trips to Goodwill and gave some pots and pans to a neighbor of mine. I wish I had contacted Animal Welfare but like I said earlier, I was in a big hurry to get the stuff out so the house could be put on the market. This charitable organization took mattresses and TV’s too which are typically impossible to get rid of. Their criteria was no stains on the mattress and the TV needed to be working. I am so glad I found this organization because they help people in need and it makes me feel better that Mom’s stuff will be appreciated for a long time to come. I felt guilty at first but knew I had a whole house full myself and no way could I bring it all home! It’s STUFF and someone else can enjoy the STUFF. Yes, I saw George Carlin years ago when he did the ‘STUFF’ routine and it was hilarious! I too have been weeding out here and there and I barely make a dent in my closets. It is amazing how much we accumulate! The Hub has a whole garage full of tractors, many mechanics tool boxes on wheels, Rubbermaid cabinets full of stuff…He spent one whole day weeding out and it still looks like a bomb hit it…STUFF! And people are going to the malls this season, going crazy to get more STUFF! To think we lived in a single wide mobile home when we were first married and now have a 3 bedroom home filled from top to bottom! 🙄

    by Louise — December 2, 2013

  31. This phenomenon has spawned a new industry. In many areas, there are firms that specialize in cleaning out homes and disposing of the contents. IMHO, they are worth their weight in gold. Elder care lawyers and assisted living facilities probably can help you find them. Good luck, clearing out a loved one’s home is intellectually, physically, and emotionally exhausting. Give your kids the gift of not having to do it for you.

    by S. E. Warwick — December 2, 2013

  32. HI Louise,
    Wow, that’s amazing that your furniture was picked up and delivered 4 floors up.
    We offered things to the Salvation Army recently and had an appointment for them to come and pick up some really good tings we were offering but they later called and told us they couldn’t take it. They had never even looked at it, and in the past we did always deliver it to them. Now it is just a matter of us getting our stuff packaged and out the door. I guess I may have slowed myself just a bit. Things just seem to take me longer time is fling way too fast for everyone now. It is the Age of Aquarius, and I am truly ready for it.
    Best to all,

    by Elizabeth — December 3, 2013

  33. […] further reading: 12 Steps to Downsizing Success Downsizing Checklist and Tips Topretirements Members Getting Ready for Big Moves eDivvyup – a […]

    by » More Downsizing Advice from Here and There Topretirements — June 17, 2014

  34. Please remember to ask younger family members if they want any of the items you are going to dispose of. My uncle sold my grandmother’s bronze statues, antique furniture, art, and many items the grandchildren all wish they had. His response was that he did not think any of us would pay for the items. He was wrong and years later I wonder who is enjoying the bronze statues I spent years looking at lovingly. I would have paid the price established by an antique dealer with great pleasure.

    On another topic, when our home was badly flooded and we lost a huge amount of our possessions, we found ourselves feeling a sense of relief months later when the sting of loss was past. Since then our downsizing efforts have continued easily since we have been through the worst! I now know that many people who have lost their home and possessions due to floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, fires etc will eventually find the same sense of being unburdened by all those “things”.


    by Cecile Marie — June 18, 2014

  35. This is a very hard long process. I have more tools and equipment, and paperwork then I realized. My wife is clearing out years from the attic. She has already done the closets. If it is seasonal decorations it is going to the thrift store except for the little table top Christmas tree. We were advice to keep tax receipts and records back 7 years.(one box for each year) We were told this was a good time to write down a complete medical history on both of us, with family history. It was suggested to us to leave all appliances and to buy a new living room outfit after we relocate. Beds, dressers, a table and chairs and a computer desk along with household items can fill up a moving truck fast. My wife has marked off a 5ft x 5ft area for boxes If she hasn’t used something in 2 years, it is not going.

    by DeyErmand — September 16, 2015

  36. This may have been mentioned before but an alternative method of moving is PODS. They drop off these metal storage boxes big enough to walk into and you can self place your boxes and furniture inside and when it is full, you call them and they come and pick it up. I think you have choices if you want them to store it for you till you are ready for it or they will transport it to your new location. A friend of mine used them about 7 years ago. Then I saw a neighbor last week who sold his house and he had two PODS over at his house. I have heard horror stories on moving companies holding peoples possessions hostage and demanding more money than negotiated and items being stolen out of the moving vans. I have no experience with this company and there are others similar to PODS too. Might be something to look into if you are moving. No idea on what the costs are either.

    by Louise — September 17, 2015

  37. My elderly aunt used PODS a couple of times and liked them. I believe she used this company, not a spin-off. I may use them when I relocate. I’ve been decluttering for a long time in preparation for a future relocation (plus too much stuff drives me nuts), and am finally getting to the “sweet spot” of my possessions. I have read scores of books on downsizing, decluttering, simplifying, etc., and they have helped move me along. I am using the KonMari method now (got the book from the library), but you can Google it online and pretty much get the gist of it. Reading the whole book reinforces the method, so that’s helpful – although I must keep in mind she is a young Japanese woman whose references are different from mine; I can forgive this to learn the method. Basically hold or touch everything in your house to determine if it brings you joy; if not, let it go, including the spatula. If the spatula is out, look for one that brings you joy! Silly sounding, but it works! It doesn’t work on my horses, though, since they all bring me joy. I’m in process for selling them. Sigh.

    by Elaine C. — September 17, 2015

  38. This may have been suggested before but if not maybe buying a thumb drive to specifically hold pictures of all the things that you don’t want to get rid of, but do get rid of, could be helpful. You may not have the item anymore but like they say a picture is worth a million words. You could hold smaller items in your arms or have a child hold it or stand by it then take the picture. You can put the thumbdrive in a safe place so it will always be there when you yearn to ‘see’ the item again. You might even investigate jewelry type thumb drives and I have seen them on Etsy. You might even have an artist design one for you so you could wear it around your neck as a piece of jewelry. Or on a key chain. It would always be with you and if a time came up, you could plug it into a friends computer to ‘show’ them your prized possessions. Could be your horses too Elaine C.

    by Louise — September 17, 2015

  39. I have taken snapshots of some of the items my 93 year old aunt is disposing of so that she can still remember the item but not keep it in her house in preparation of a dramatic downsizing to come. She is not computer adept and can look at pictures when she wants and not just when someone is around to help her with a thumbdrive and a computer. Have suggested putting them on a thumbdrive and she is hesitant. But now I think I will do it in addition to the photographs as her vision is deteriorating and when someone can help her the pictures might be more clear on the computer screen.

    by Carol — September 18, 2015

  40. I’m thinking of using PODS when I relocate. I like the thought of putting my own locks on them and knowing, when I reopen them, no one but me has touched anything. I also like the fact that they store them (yes it’s a few hundred a month, but I only plan to be homeless for a month or two) until you’re ready to have them delivered.

    by Veloris — September 18, 2015

  41. We have started early. I’m not one for garage sales as prices need to be 10 cents on the dollar, so to speak. Instead, I we take box loads to Salvation Army which gives highest percentage of the dollar to the needy. Think about it, items all need to be clean, or laundered for either a garage sale or donation BUT I will get 10-20 times the value for donation that I would get at a garage sale. Example …sheets at my neighbors garage sale were 10 cents, my value for a sheet to Salvation Army will be 2-5 dollars for the sheet depending on quality….it’s a no brainier
    Another thing to remember, I have been told stories of tag switching, theft, and buyers that are demanding or clumping stuff together trying hard to negotiate bottom prices leaving one disheveled. One friend recently told me of her neighbor retreating inside her home in tears as the buyer upset her so. So ..I take the peaceful route and all us well

    by Carol murphy — August 22, 2016

  42. It takes a while to downsize. Over a couple of recent moves, I found places to donate professional clothes, Dress for Success, and books: public library, university libraries, Women’s Prison Book Project.

    by Elaine B — August 23, 2016

  43. This forum topic bites me so so so hard, because after emptying my parents’ home and bringing a lot of it to my own home, it turned me into a hoarder. I’ve watched the tv show about hoarders and see so much of myself in these people. I’m very highly educated and can’t believe I’ve become this. Reading this forum just now has given me great inspiration, however. I think I can begin now.

    by Judith — August 23, 2016

  44. Giving items from your downsizing is a good way to get tax value, as well as help others. Whatever deduction amount (often left blank by the charity on personal property receipts and filled in by the donor) on the receipt can be deducted on your federal income taxes, and possibly state, if you itemize deductions. Remember that the value in dollars of the deduction is ultimately not the amount of your deduction, but your federal tax rate times the amount of the deduction. For example, if your total deduction is $100.00 and your marginal federal tax rate is 20%, then your deduction will be worth $20 to you in taxes saved, but you must itemize deductions.

    Many organizations will pick up property, clothing, etc., from your home, saving you the time and effort of taking it to the organization. However, sometimes they may decline to accept property, especially furniture, if it isn’t in fairly decent condition.

    As Carol points out, this is usually better than the hassle of a yard sale. For more information, use a search engine and look for “tax deductions for personal property.” Tips from the IRS can be found at

    by Clyde R. — August 23, 2016

  45. We take stuff to our local nursing homes. They can always use good clothing for their patients & they love magazines like ‘Birds & Blooms” or any with lots of pictures (some patients can not longer read but they love the colorful pictures).

    by Sue M — August 23, 2016

  46. AARP has a pretty good article on downsizing with some new services like Craigslist that might help. Also, suggestions on how to give away to your friends.

    by Admin — August 4, 2018

  47. I’m thinking of picking out a set number of items to keep – 50, 25??? that bring me “Joy” and disposing somehow of the rest. Is this doable from a 5 bedroom house that loaded with inherited brick a brac?

    by Staci — August 15, 2018

  48. Staci, Take pictures of all the rooms in your home with all the stuff in them and then take pics of all the items, that way you can “visit” they stuff whenever you want. You can upload the photos to a site like Shutterfly and not worry about loosing the photos. Also If you have lots of brick a brac, maybe try clearing it out in phases. Get rid of the stuff you def dont want first, etc. It took about a year to clear out the house but I found the more I disposed of, the more I wanted to get rid of!

    by Jean — August 16, 2018

  49. Great idea, Jean. Even tho’ it’s hard to start, moving stuff on feels so freeing. It’s as though a weight of responsibility is lifting.

    by Laney Humphrey — August 16, 2018

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