When your children move out or if you have lost a spouse or are simply ready to downsize, the empty rooms in our home — along with the burden of lawn upkeep and home maintenance — may become too much. The thought of living in a smaller, cozier space is an attractive one — until the paralyzing fear of where to begin sets in.
With planning and a few easy steps, the process of downsizing your home can be cathartic and rewarding on a financial and an emotional level.
Consider your new space
As you begin the process of downsizing, visit a few smaller properties to give you an idea of how much space your new home may have. It is always helpful to visit staged models or rental properties, as a visit provides design cues created by professionals. Also, print out model floor plans as examples of layout and wall space as you consider which pieces of furniture to keep. Even if you are planning on relocating to a different city, you can still visit models in your current area to provide you with the new scale to help you plan. A two-bedroom home with 1,100 square feet in Alexandria will be similar to a 1,100-square-foot unit in Naples, Fla.AD
Set a timeline for your move, only you can decide when is the right time. The next part is where you will need help: interview real estate agents, asking the agent about what items need to be completed in your home to place on the market. Learn the average number of days homes in your community are on the market. While you are preparing your own home for sale, identify where you would like to live and start touring the area.
Gleaning as much knowledge as you can from real estate experts will give you a realistic understanding of how long it will take to sell your house and how quickly you will have to buy or rent a new one. By asking the right questions and with proper planning, you can easily slash your downsizing timeline to one to three months from the average of six months.
Sort, keep or donateAD
Allow yourself time to go through items with the assistance of friends, family or a professional. Purchase a pack of assorted color circle stickers and mark the larger furniture pieces you would like to keep. Label the “keep” items with the same color sticker. Next, go from room to room, creating piles of items you would like to share with family and friends, donate to charity as well as a “keep” pile of items you want to take to your new living space.
Be logical and even a bit ruthless in your decision-making. For example, if you are headed to Florida, do you really need three winter coats and four pairs of boots? Consider the new climate and your new lifestyle. Keep one of each, and share the others.
A checklist for sorting:
- Purchase an organizing carrying file. Collect important documents; Passport, ID/insurance cards, Social Security card, titles/deeds, tax returns, birth certificates, medical records, will, power of attorney, etc.
- Digitize your family photos, diplomas, award certificates and old family videotapes, 35mm films.
- Were you a collector? Keep your favorite few pieces. Digitize the remaining collection and place on a thumb drive, in the cloud or have images printed into a coffee top flip book. Or purchase a digital picture frame, turning your collection into a rotating slide show you can enjoy every day. That way, you can continue to enjoy your collection in your new space.
- Do not keep multiples: crockpots, coffee makers, frying pans, sets of china, linen and serving pieces.
- Shred old documents and paperwork.
- Use the holidays as a time to share keepsakes with friends and family members, share with them stories that made the item special. Ask your children to drive for the next family gathering, so they can haul away the items from their old bedroom and create an opportunity for them to select from the “share” and “donate” piles.
- Discard outdated medication.
A prelude to packing
Now that you have sorted through your items and color-coded what you are keeping, selling and donating, it is time to interview moving companies as well as auction/appraisal firms to help you sell the items you are not taking with you and select organizations to donate the items the auction firms cannot sell.AD
Remember that keeping items in storage or paying to move an item into your new space will incur multiple layers of expense. For example, that large armoire will incur special packing fees, transportation and unpacking charges to your new destination. Do you really need the piece — which may end up being too big or the wrong color for your new space — when you could have purchased the perfect new piece for the same cost?
Most of the time, people feel a sense of relief when they sell the old and start with new. Not only do they have an updated look, but more important, they have items that properly fit their much smaller space at the same cost of moving the old.
After you have sorted and packed your belongings, the next step is simply to set your move date and begin to enjoy your new life!
Anne Nouri is a Realtor, Auctioneer and Appraiser with Sorelle Realty and Prime Auction Solutions, licensed in VA, MD & DC assisting sellers. families and law firms with the sale/purchase of real estate, personal property as well as appraisal reports for insurance, estate and donation needs. 703-889-8949 Anne@PrimeAuctionSolutions.com