There are many reasons to downsize to a smaller home. Perhaps the kids have all flown the nest, or you are moving closer to the city centre where your budget only stretches to a smaller home. Or maybe you simply believe that smaller might be better.
Whatever the reason, sorting through a lifetime’s possessions to squeeze them into a smaller home is a daunting and emotional task. The beauty of downsizing, however, is that it simplifies your lifestyle in an increasingly busy world – less maintenance, less to clean and more time on your hands. And usually a smaller mortgage, to boot.
Four years ago, Donna Donaldson downsized from a six-bedroom house to her mother’s two-bedroom cottage, while looking for a new house to buy. The process of culling her possessions led to the setting up of her decluttering and downsizing business, Organize It.
“The rule of thumb is, do I use it, do I need it, do I love it?” Donaldson advises anyone embarking on the downsizing journey. “If any item in your home doesn’t come under any of those categories, get rid of it.”
Before you start looking for your smaller home, do your homework and compare home loans using a comparison site such as RateCity. There are many competitive offers by lenders at the moment, so take your time to find the right option for you.
Once you’ve found your new home, make sure you know what you can and can’t take with you before you start culling your possessions – measure every room in your new home to assess what you have space for. Is there enough wall space for your artworks and bookshelves? Will you have to halve your book collection? Will your two-door fridge fit in the new kitchen?
Plan of attack
While sorting through one room at a time makes sense, where do you start? Donaldson suggests tackling your “biggest nightmare” first. “Which room is giving you the most stress? That’s where you start,” she says.
For some people, that may be the kitchen with its many cupboards filled to the brim with food, Tupperware, kitchen utensils, cleaning products and countless other items. Conquering the hardest room first will give you the confidence to breeze through the rest of the house.
Yes, no, maybe
One of Donaldson’s tricks is to use post-it notes to mark big pieces of furniture into three possibilities – staying, going or maybe. “It makes it easier when sorting through a room,” she says.
With smaller items, divide them into separate piles – keep, throw, sell or donate to charity – as you sort through them.
If you do not have enough space in your new home for family heirlooms of sentimental value, Donaldson suggests giving to your children early or to other family members. That way you can still enjoy them when you visit.
Once you move into your new home, try to maintain the organised skills you develop during the downsizing process. Consider custom-made storage solutions to use every space effectively, beginning with “empty” space under stairs, behind doors, in corners or on walls.