Downsizing Tips: What Stays and What Goes

Maybe the thought has occurred that “one of these days” you may want to downsize and move to a smaller home, apartment, or senior living facility. The thought of getting rid of treasures you’ve accumulated over decades may seem daunting—even impossible. AARP offers these suggestions for ways to begin the downsizing process. Don’t try to tackle everything at once. Set goals for completing various items.  Remember that items you decide to get rid of may make wonderful charitable donations to organizations within your community.

The Big House

Consider making this decision as soon the kids are gone rather than when you’re ready to retire. Even if your home is already paid for, there are still significant costs in owning more space than you really need, including taxes, utilities, insurance and repairs. Plus, it will force you to downsize other belongings, too. You’ll also have an excuse for why the kids can’t move back in with you later!


 If your wardrobe has outgrown your closet and dresser, start by purging enough pieces so that everything will fit. Get rid of unwanted clothing at yard sales or online, or by donating items to charity. A rule of thumb might be: If you haven’t worn it in a year (season), get rid of it.

Kitchen Appliances and Gadgets

 Ask yourself: “When was the last time I plugged that in?” If it’s been more than six months since you’ve used the waffle iron or bread maker, it’s probably time to find that appliance a new home. While you’re in the kitchen, eliminate unused culinary gadgets and nonmatching tableware, including table linens.

Childhood Memorabilia

If your kids or other family members don’t want keepsakes from their own childhood (or yours) now, they’re not going to want them when you’re gone. Hold on to a few precious, symbolic mementos — those that truly spark memories and joy — and digitize images of the other things.


Filling a room with furniture is a common tendency. Doing so makes the room seem smaller and gives you more places to store and display more stuff. Start by eliminating a couple of pieces from a room and see how much more spacious it feels.


Consumer Reports advises organizing your important files into four categories: “papers that you need to keep for the calendar year or less; ones that can be destroyed when you no longer own the items they cover; tax records, which you should save for seven years; and papers to keep indefinitely.” You can access copies of many documents (e.g., bills, bank statements, user manuals, etc.) via online accounts. Consider storing digitized documents on a Web-based storage service or an external drive.


While holiday decor has some sentimental value, consider getting rid of the decorations you haven’t used in the past five years, particularly bulkier items such as outdoor decorations and holiday tableware you use just once a year.

By tackling one or two items at a time, the downsizing process can be manageable and, yes, even enjoyable! Also, note that this is not a Saturday afternoon project; it will most likely take several days. If you need a hand, or just some company while you sort, call over a friend or family member. Hey, what are grandkids for?