How to Downsize for a Move – A Guide to Decluttering

August 31, 2021 / Posted in How-to
Gemma Collins

Gemma is an NJ local that has explored all the US states, making her the perfect person to write about moving.

Getting your home ready for a move doesn’t mean packing everything you have. It’s usually much more than that. People tend to throw out too much or too little when they move, but when should you stop decluttering? Read some tips on how to downsize for a move without losing track of the essentials.

two small notepads with writing on them to help prepare for long-distance moving
Learn how to downsize a home efficiently and with ease

How to Downsize for a Move Before the Moving Process Starts

It’s commonly known that relocation has to be planned and arranged weeks, and even months, in advance. Without the planning phase, relocating from a small town to a big city could be more stressful. However, in relocating to a big city, downsizing might be the only option you have.

If you want to get a job before relocating, ensure you’re up to speed with the rent requirements, size of your new apartment, and location. Once you pick all that, see how your current living situation matches the future one, and start planning what you wish to bring and what to get rid of (and how.)

Plan for Packing Day a Month or Two Ahead

While relocating at the last minute is possible and very common, it doesn’t always help with important decisions, such as decluttering. This is why, if it’s at all possible, you should start preparing early – around a month before relocating should be enough. If there’s more you have to do, such as tying up some loose ends at the old neighborhood, you can take two months, as well.

The question is, “How do you prepare for a downsize move so early” and a lot of it has to do with doing everything one step at a time. For example, you can take a week or two for simple mental preparations. Living in a smaller home after a while can certainly seem like a battle lost, but if you give yourself time to make a list of benefits of downsizing, you’ll slowly get used to the fact.


Make Lists of Items You Can and Can’t Do Without

When you plan on relocating to another city alone, getting a smaller place to live should be suitable for you. It also makes sense why not everything you own can come with you to the next location. Whether you’re relocating to a living area with less square footage alone or with your significant other, you’ll both have to do some thinking and consider which thing is essential and which is free to go.

Planning can feel like a lot of work, but it can determine the quality of your relocation. This is why lists are a good idea for any organization; when you encounter an item you like, put it on a ‘keep’ list. When you see something that doesn’t inspire that much, put it on the ‘throw away’ list. It can be that simple.

If you can’t see the benefits of downsizing for a move, maybe the video below can help you get the information you need. You may also know all of it already, but it’s good to have a reminder on why you intend on downsizing in the first place.

Get With the Times and Create Digital Copies of Essential Documents

If you’re one of those people who never throw out bills and receipts, you indeed by now have a basket full of paperwork that no longer has a purpose. So, one of the tips on how to move to another state by decluttering successfully is to throw out unnecessary paperwork.

However, don’t forget to separate the most important documents from the unimportant ones first. Documents you should definitely keep when decluttering are:

  • Birth certificates,
  • Marriage licenses,
  • Adoption papers,
  • Passports and IDs (not all are made of paper, but they’re vital documents,)
  • Health records (especially of chronically ill family members,)
  • Mortgage papers and house deeds,
  • Tax returns and documents,
  • Pension plans and papers,
  • Social security cards,
  • Green card,
  • Wills and powers of attorney,
  • Vehicle titles and loan documents,
  • Insurance policy documentation.

Additionally, you can keep your utility bills for a month, just until the next one arrives. In some cases, you can keep them for longer, such as if you wish to contest a bill or prove to someone you have utilities in your name. Shopping receipts can also be kept only while the store’s return policy is valid.

However, if you pay your bills and shop by card, all transactions are digitally documented on your bank statement. This way, you won’t have to keep any papers on you, and will automatically not only save storage space for other important things at home, but you’ll save on relocation costs, too.

Ask Providers to Send You Bills via Email

If you’re now thinking – “Great, that’s all good, but my providers and my bank still send me paper mail and bills each month,” then you should ask around a bit. Most banks and insurance companies have switched to sending monthly statements via email, and some providers can do it, too. It’s nothing a short phone call can’t solve, but a big deal for future ways of life. Additionally, you can keep track of your finances on your laptop or phone since many apps and programs for planning and keeping track of expenses exist out there.

some receipts next to a laptop for digitizing before cross-country moving
Separate the vital documents into special storage, and digitize everything else that can be

Downsizing Your Closet Doesn’t Mean an Empty Wardrobe

Many people think the solution of how to downsize when moving is to pack only the most essential clothes and shoes. However, you’ll be delighted to know that that’s not entirely true. So, if you plan on relocating while pregnant, do not worry about getting rid of things you’d like to wear after the baby arrives; and if you are relocating for the first time, you won’t have to feel like you’re doing something wrong by not throwing out most of it.

The best way to fit your clothing into a smaller closet is to keep putting clothes inside it. Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, just as you wouldn’t pack three glasses into a box that can fit six, you shouldn’t only hang three items on the hangers when you could put six comfortably. Ensure that the number of clothing items fits the closet’s capacity. Anything more that has to be crammed to fit may require a second thought.

The Best Ways to Create New Space for Storage

If you have a closet that only provides hanger space, why not add shelves? You can purchase removable shelving units from any store online or by taking a short trip to Target or IKEA. Designate an area of the closet space for clothes on hangers and the other area for shelves where you’d keep foldable clothes.

Put your shoes in their original boxes and store them on the closet floor; get a drawer unit or a separate storage box for underwear and socks. Look up some storage ideas for your closet, and mix and match the layout to make it fit your closet area. Anything that doesn’t fit, you can consider throwing or giving away.

a colorful closet full of storing areas for clothes, shoes, and accessories
Create the ideal storage space for your closet and make sure you don't have more clothes than what can fit inside

Make Your Furniture Fit the New Home Perfectly

Suppose you have a large sofa that fits your home perfectly, and you love it more than any other furniture item in the house. In that case, you’ll likely wish to bring it to the new place, too. Cross-country movers can haul it without damaging it because they’re experienced and know how to provide packing services and transport items safely. While all of that’s happening, you come to realize that the sofa is simply too large for your other living room, and you end up having to put it in a storage unit or give it away.

To avoid this scenario, ensure you are familiar with the room and doorway dimensions. Your old home can fit the sofa, but the new place may not, which is why it’s vital to know these things. You may be relocating to the suburbs where rooms are relatively large, and you only wish to declutter, but how do you downsize things? You can do that by bringing one or two large furniture items, not more, and by picking out new, multipurpose furniture.

Invest Your Money In Some Multifunctional Furnishings

Beds with drawers underneath them and other multipurpose furnishings are super convenient, and they make cross-country moving way easier. You can plan on moving out of state on a budget when you have these types of furniture in your house; with multifunctional furnishings, even relocating with pets to a smaller place will be made easier.

Other examples of multifunctional furniture that’s excellent for smaller homes are foldable dining tables, convertible sofas, bunk beds, desks with drawers and shelves, wall-mounted desks and dining tables, and the almighty Murphy beds. A lot of storage can be created with these furnishings, so you won’t feel like you’ve had to throw out too much when you begin to use it.

a colorful bunk bed in a room with a green rug
Bunk beds are an excellent room-saving solution, and the whole family can use them

It’s Best to Donate, Sell, or Recycle Whatever You Don’t Pack

There’s no better time to be charitable than when you plan to move out. Just before you leave, you can gather everything you intend to get rid of and check the condition of the stuff. Depending on the shape your item is in, you could give it a second life by giving it to a friend or a family member. If no one wants them, you can donate unwanted items to a nearby charity, too.

When you wonder, “How do I start decluttering to move,” the first thing on your mind should be finding a different use for the stuff you don’t need anymore. Maybe your mom likes the ottoman from your bedroom, or a neighbor always admires the barstools in the kitchen. If you can say goodbye to them, it’s best to give them to someone. However, if this isn’t the case for you, why not just organize a garage sale and earn some more money for your relocation budget?

Items You Can Donate

You can reduce relocation depression by doing good deeds, and what’s a better act than donating? The things you wish to give away to charity or some other organization should fulfill specific criteria, though, such as:

  • They should be in good to perfect condition,
  • They do not need repairs,
  • Charity shops and organizations generally require them.

These things could be anything from large furnishings to small kitchenware and clothing. If you do not feel like selling something, it’s good to check with a local charity if they require anything.

Things You Can Recycle

If there aren’t things you need for your first apartment, or if you find stuff that’s past its due, it’s a good idea to recycle it. You can find out more about the local recycling centers and if the waste management company that takes your trash handles recyclables, too. Things you can and can’t recycle are:

  • Paper and cardboard products; you cannot recycle paper products that have been contaminated by bodily fluids (napkins, tissue paper, wrapping paper and alike,)
  • Glass kitchenware and wine bottles; you cannot recycle ceramics, crystal, glass from mirrors and light bulbs,
  • Most plastics, like plastic bags and all plastics labeled with numbers 1-7; you cannot recycle plastic kitchenware and foam containers,
  • Most aluminum and metals, apart from paint and oil cans; ensure to wash out any food containers first.

Bulky furnishings can be taken to a recycling center depending on the materials. Check out and ask about the regulations before you do this.

a pile of clothes for donation before long-distance moving
Get rid of unwanted stuff consciously and with care

The Benefits of Decluttering – Cheaper Long-Distance Movers

As we mentioned, hiring a long-distance moving company is beneficial for transporting furnishings and bulky stuff because of how well movers manage them. The cost of an interstate relocation is significantly lower when you declutter because your inventory list determines the price. The things you wish to bring will be packed with care and protected by moving insurance during the trip.

Long-distance moving services could mean a lot if you also wish to ship your car across the country since movers often work as an auto transport company and provide car transportation, too. All this would cost you a lot of money and nerves, but if you hire movers, you’ll mostly have to worry about the inventory list-making part.

one of the cross-country movers in a long-distance moving company preparing a car for shipping
Movers also work as a car shipping company, and they can provide all the essential services

Use Downsizing as an Opportunity to Boost Creativity

It may seem scary to reduce your living area and furnish a small home after decluttering. While it’s likely the cheapest way to move out of state, it’s a way of life that you have to adapt to overtime. It’s similar to relocating to a small town – you have to find other ways to have fun and replace old habits, but ultimately with lower costs. An added benefit of living tiny is a boost in creativity; you’ll learn how to decorate and store things better, and you might end up spending more time outside. Every move has a silver lining and turns out for the better.

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