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What To Take And What To Leave Behind When Downsizing

Over the years all of us have accumulated an enormous amount of stuff — some of it is near and dear to our heart and the rest, well, we might classify it as just cumbersome stuff. But somehow when we downsize from, say, a 3,600 square foot home to a 1,700 square foot home, as one reader who telephoned me is doing, figuring out what to take and what to leave behind can be a painful process.

Joanne O’Donnell, designer and owner of Chic Home Interiors says she gives her clients a lifestyle questionnaire so that she can learn what is important to her clients. This allows her the opportunity to help her clients make the best decisions about what things they will really need and want in their newly-downsized home.

‘How can that furniture be used in that new house considering the way that person lives,’ says O’Donnell.

‘Anything you haven’t used in a year get rid of it,’ says O’Donnell

‘What do you not like or not care about? You want to purge — give away or sell things that you don’t like,’ says O’Donnell.

Five Tips for making the move lighter and more efficient

  1. Get rid of items that you haven’t used in a year.

    This can be a really challenging task for packrats. If you’ve lived in a home for a good number of years, then it’s likely that you have a lot of stuff that you probably haven’t used and won’t use jammed away in the garage, basement, attics, and under beds! If you’re selling your home, lightening the load will help your home appear less cluttered and more appealing to potential buyers. Also, when you move you won’t have as much hassle if you can part with items that haven’t served a purpose in the last 365 days.

    ‘Packrats are a species unto themselves and you have to deal with them gently,’ says O’Donnell. She says this is an opportunity to de-clutter and if people really find ‘they need the item, they’ll buy it again.’ But she adds, ‘I will bet that they will not buy it again.’

  2. Study the configuration of the new house and determine how your existing furniture will work in it.

    This can be a real eye-opener for many homeowners. Sometimes what they have just won’t work due to room sizes, placement of doors, windows, etc. They sometimes run out and buy new furniture without properly measuring it and then end up stuck with a piece that might be quite lovely but completely wrong for their new home.

  3. Make a list of your cherished items.

    Everyone has those items that you simply can’t bear to part with. O’Donnell says make a list and set those items aside so that they don’t get lost in the move. Identifying the items beforehand and knowing their significance will help you to see exactly how many things are in the must-keep category. This can also help you to let go of other things that aren’t as necessary and will likely end up as clutter in your new home.

  4. Bring only items that support the theme of your new home.

    When moving, often people want to take everything whether or not it fits the theme and feel of their new environment. It’s a good idea to get clear about how you want your new home to look before you start unloading or packing up the entire contents of your current home. Taking only the items that will support your theme will end up creating a lighter load when moving but also will provide you with more space to add appropriate pieces that you might find from your new community.

  5. Package boxes using color-coded system.

    Marking your moving boxes using a color-coded and numbered-box system and tracking the content in a three-ring binder will make the downsize move a breeze.

    ‘Every box from the living room would be red and every box from the kitchen would be green, etc. And you put the color-coding on all four sides, always in the same corner,’ says O’Donnell. She adds that you should keep a list of the number of boxes for each room and a general idea of the contents in it.

But, O’Donnell cautions, don’t be tempted to take a box that is half full with items from one room and combine it with items from another room. It’ll mess up your system and create chaos at the new location. If a box isn’t completely filled, fill it with newspapers and start with a fresh box for another room.

For more details about homestaging and moving tips, visit

Written by Phoebe Chongchua for www.RealtyTimescom. Copyright