How to Downsize Your Home in 10 Steps or Less

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Downsizing your home is a daunting task—but these 10 tips and tricks can help you complete the transition with minimal clutter and stress. 
There are countless reasons you may decide to downsize to a smaller home. Maybe you feel drawn to more modern, minimalist designs sweeping the home improvement scene—or maybe you’ve just gravitated toward the meaning of the age-old adage, “less is more.” 
Breaking down your downsizing journey into bite-size pieces can help you stay on track. Here to help is Jerry, the super app that helps you save on home insurance. No matter the timeline you're on, here’s how to downsize your home with easy tips and tricks.
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Downsizing 101

Whether you’re downsizing to get rid of extra space, make your home more manageable as an empty-nester, or in the hopes of hopping aboard the trend of choosing a tiny home, downsizing can be a fulfilling decision at any phase of life. 
That being said, downsizing is also a process—a journey, even—that requires careful planning, lots of time, and may also require you to make some difficult decisions. 
To avoid the overwhelm of taking on your entire house (and all the memories, trinkets, and trash that comes with it), try breaking down the process into these 10 simple steps below. 

Step 1: Declutter

The first—and arguably easiest—place to begin is by getting rid of glaringly obvious items in your home that you no longer use. Think old books, outgrown clothing, broken decorations, lidless Tupperware, and that exercise machine you keep telling yourself you’ll use eventually.
As you start to remove some of these items from your home, think about your overall goals for downsizing. Ask yourself: what lifestyle am I hoping to adopt or accomplish by downsizing? 
Having a general understanding of your motivation and purpose for downsizing can help you start to make decisions about what to keep and what to part with. 
Decluttering is an essential part of the downsizing process, but it can quickly start to feel overwhelming.
Maybe some decisions are easy, but when it comes to items with sentimental value, you may have a harder time letting go, regardless of whether you feel you “need” them. That’s where an organization system comes in handy. 

Step 2: Stick to a system

As expressed by American rock band MGMT in “Kids,” take only what you need from it
But determining what you need versus what you don’t need is often easier said than done. A good rule of thumb is that if you haven’t used or worn an item in the past year, it’s probably time to get rid of it. 
That being said, there are various more formal organization systems you can adopt for the purpose of downsizing your home. Several we like include:
  • The one-a-day: Get rid of one item in your home every day or get rid of as many items as corresponds with the day of the month (if it’s the 5th of the month, get rid of five items; on the 6th, get rid of six items; and so on). 
  • The closet-hanger: Great for shopaholics! After wearing an item or outfit, place it back on its hanger and turn the hanger away from you. If the hanger is still facing away after six months (or a year), it’s probably time to get rid of or donate that item. 
  • KonMari: Popularized by Japanese organizing consultant Marie Kondo, this method breaks down items in your home by type (clothes, books/papers, sentimental, etc.) and moves through each category by holding each individual item in your hands, thanking it, and releasing it.
  • Four boxes: Sort your items into boxes (or piles, areas—whatever works for you!) based on four simple options: keep, donate, sell, and throw away (or recycle). Restricting your options can help you make more finite decisions about the items in your home. 
Whatever method you choose, your system should work for you. If you find yourself saying “maybe” to a lot of the items in your home, then the four-box method might help you make more solid decisions. 
Alternatively, if you have strong attachments to your belongings, following Marie Kondo’s method may help provide a sense of closure with items you feel connected to but no longer need. 
The point of decluttering is to make conscious decisions about what you need and don’t need. Having an organization system in place can encourage you to release the items that no longer serve you.
Pro Tip If you find yourself repeatedly running into “maybes” or having a hard time letting go, try renting a storage locker and see what happens. If nothing else, the added monthly cost of a storage locker may coax you into making a decision one way or the other. 

Step 3: Donation, yard sale, or dumpster

As you start purging your home of items you no longer want or need, you can also start thinking about what to do with them: the most common options are donating, selling, or throwing them away.  
  • Donate: Clothing, books, duplicate kitchenware, furniture, shoes, and bags can all be donated to charities like Goodwill and Salvation Army. 
  • Yard Sale: Hosting a yard sale is an easy way to make a few extra bucks while also passing along items you no longer need to someone who does. Alternatively, you can list items on eBay, Craigslist, or Facebook Marketplace. 
  • Dumpster: Even if you’re gung-ho on recycling, some items will inevitably wind up in the trash. Don’t be afraid to throw things away—and if you’ve got a lot to get rid of, consider renting a dumpster for easy disposal. 
A fourth, oft-overlooked option is to gift some of your items to others. Family heirlooms, pictures, trinkets, and other sentimental objects make for thoughtful gifts to the right person—but don’t just pawn your trash onto others.  

Step 4: Digitize when possible

Another way to remove clutter? Digitize! 
Papers, receipts, and documents can really pile up over the years—but that doesn’t mean you have to lug an entire filing cabinet to your new home.
Get rid of papers and documents that you can already access online (like utility statements), along with any tax information that’s older than seven years. 
When it comes to documents you do need, scan what you can into digital files (and make sure you back them up on a separate flash drive to be safe). 
Of course, you’ll want to keep some papers—like birth certificates and your social security card—so it’s still important to plan space for your physical documents in your new home. But by digitizing what you can, you’ll avoid accumulating clutter in your new, smaller space. 

Step 5: Maximize your storage

In speaking of minimizing clutter—maximizing your storage is essential! Avoid relying on your basement or attic to home sentimental items you rarely use. They likely won’t be able to make the trip with you to a new, smaller space anyway.
Here are some other tips for making the most of your storage space:
  • Find built-in options: This may mean choosing a home with lots of built-in shelves and storage, or it may mean making smart purchases—such as buying an ottoman that doubles as a storage container.
  • Use your walls: Installing shelving is simple and can create new spaces for you to comfortably home pictures, knick-knacks, spice jars, and more—without cluttering your counter space.
  • Use the extra areas in your home: Closets and crawl spaces are great for storage. So is under your bed! Consider investing in bins or vacuum-sealed bags to organize and free up more space.

Step 6: Measure your new space

In addition to maximizing your storage, it can also be helpful to know how much new space you’ll be working with once you move.
If you’ve already got a new home picked out, knowing the square footage and shape of its rooms can make the planning process easier—and motivate you to declutter faster.
But even if you’re not totally there in the downsizing process, you can still focus on getting rid of items you know you won’t need or that probably won’t fit (especially when it comes to furniture).
Rather than trying to squeeze your current life into a new, smaller space, consider downsizing as an opportunity to rebrand and redesign. Out with the old, in with the new! 

Step 7: Pack carefully

Downsizing to a smaller home is also a great opportunity to take a personal inventory of your belongings and to pack them each with care.
Personal inventories are helpful especially if you are working with movers and plan on entrusting them with your valuables down the line. Estimating the value of your belongings can also make filing a renters insurance or homeowners insurance claim easier. 
Jewelry is often commonly lost or stolen during moves—so keep any invaluable items stored safely with you or in a lockbox for the duration of the move. 

Step 8: Consider your lifestyle goals

You’ve probably asked yourself tons of questions leading up to your downsizing journey. Along the way, more will arise—and while understanding your general motivations and goals can help give you the initial push you need to get started, it shouldn’t stop there! 
Don’t be afraid to dig deeper and ask yourself more pointed questions about your downsizing goals, such as:
  • Why am I downsizing? What am I hoping to gain from downsizing?
  • What opportunities will downsizing create for me?
  • What will I miss the most about my current home? How can I honor this? 
  • What am I most excited about for my new home? What’s the first thing I want to do once I’ve moved in? 
Downsizing will require lifestyle changes to maintain—so getting at the crux of what you like and don’t like about your current lifestyle can help you stay focused throughout the downsizing process. 

Step 9: Take your time

As we’ve mentioned, downsizing is a journey—and journeys take time. The more time you give yourself, the easier the downsizing process will feel (and the less likely you’ll be overwhelmed at each step). 
If you’re looking for a more set-in-stone timeline to follow, we’d recommend starting with decluttering at least three months prior to your move. Of course, the sooner you start, the more time you have to figure things out!

Step 10: Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

As the pressures of moving pile on, don’t feel the need to burden them on your own! 
Ask friends, family members, or co-workers for help along the way. If you know a Type A colleague that loves to organize, ask for their help with decluttering or setting up a system, or invite them over to help (and then cook them dinner as a thank-you afterward). 
If you have a friend that’s much stronger than you, consider enlisting them on moving day (and offer to repay them for their help).
Knowing your strengths and weaknesses will help you pinpoint areas in the process where you might need more assistance—and you should never be afraid to ask for help when you need it. 

Finding home insurance that fits your new space

Another perk of downsizing your home? Downsizing the cost of home insurance! 
If you’re looking for a policy that fits your space (and your budget), Jerry can help you find the right coverage in less than a minute. A licensed broker, Jerry makes it effortless to shop for the best deals on insurance coverage.
Shop and compare rates side-by-side, manage your policy, and even swap insurance plans—all from your phone. Jerry will even send you new quotes each time your policy comes up for renewal, so you can keep getting the coverage you need at the right price.
Jerry was wonderful! I used it for my auto and renters policies. I trusted it so much that I signed up my homeowners insurance under Jerry as well. All of the agents are amazingly nice and knowledgeable.” —Mary Y.
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FAQ

The best way to downsize without regrets is to know your personal goals for downsizing and choose an organizational system that works for you. 
Your reasons for downsizing are the motivation that gets you started, and following a system keeps you on track to meet those goals without hesitations or regrets.

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