Downsizing 101: 5 Tips to Get Started

By Toll Brothers 4 minute read

Last updated on November 27th, 2019

If you are getting ready to downsize your home, you’ll want to set some ground rules to get started. Once you have the basics covered, learn how to finalize your downsizing master checklist.

First, commit the time. Downsizing is not a one-day affair. To effectively downsize, you will want to take time before, during, and after your move to make sure you are keeping exactly what you need, and nothing you don’t. Dedicate a set amount of time each day, or each week, leading up to your move date. You will be surprised how much you can get done in 30 minutes a day.

Second, plan to keep only about one-third to one-half of your stuff. That means getting rid of a lot of things that are currently residing in your home. If you can think in terms of percentages, it becomes easier to envision the change room-by-room.

Third, keep your focus. A walk down memory lane can be full of distractions. Keep your eye on the prize and be productive.

Lastly, think positively about the big picture. For you, downsizing means freedom. The more you see your goal of downsizing as an effort toward improvement, the more you’ll feel the relief of letting go. Beyond your own experience, you can help others. When you donate your stuff or hand down items to family and friends, you will feel pride knowing your possessions could be of value in another home.

Let’s take a look at five tips to keep you on task during the downsizing process.

Make Lists Room-by-Room

Before you bust open the trash bags, take a moment in each room to inventory the things you absolutely want to KEEP. These are items for which there is no question they have a place. By making this list, you can start the next stage of the process knowing your key possessions are safe.

When it comes time to purge that room, you can set your safe items aside, and focus on the items you CAN live without to start making cuts.

Start with the Easy Stuff

The best way to get motivated is to make an impact right away. When you can see your progress, it is a great incentive to keep going.

  • Furniture – If it won’t fit in your new space, it has no place there. As an added bonus, you’ll instantly feel the progress when you let go of some bigger items.
  • Exercise equipment – These items can take up a lot of space, so unless it is your daily go-to for exercise, consider cutting it out.
  • Obsolete technology and accessories – Just because it was a big investment once upon a time doesn’t mean it’s worth something today. Let go of the VCR and VHS tapes, stereo equipment, old cameras, tube TVs, cables, and turntables that you are no longer using.
  • Damaged or unused items – When something is broken, ripped, or covered in dust, you likely not need it anymore. If you plan to fix it, set a goal to do it before you move so that you are not moving something that does not function.

Let Go of Your “What Ifs”

What if I finally throw that fondue party? What if the cable company needs a record of my 2004 statement?

If you’re like the rest of us, you are likely holding onto things you don’t—and more importantly won’t—need. If you haven’t used it in a year or more, and you’re saving it in case you might need it down the road, it’s time to say goodbye.

In particular, be mindful of paperwork, which has a way of haunting you. Paperwork is easy to put aside “just in case” and before you know it, you have boxes of papers that will take a lot of time to get through.

Consider whether you just need it for a record, or do you require originals (like birth certificates, passport, and marriage license). If originals are not necessary, scan it, file it away, and shred it.

Put the Past Behind You—Or Make it Digital

With connections to many great memories, keepsakes can be the toughest to let go. You may not have touched it in years, but every time you see it, your heart smiles.

Consider, then, whether you need the physical object. Does it have a monetary value or an heirloom quality? If so, you may not want to let it go. For many things, however, a likeness will provide you the same memory, without taking up precious real estate in your home. Snap some pics to save your memories, while also saving your space.

When in Doubt, Imagine Where it Will Live in Your New Home

Sometimes you are just torn about letting something go. Maybe it’s special to you. Maybe you’d like to try to sell it later. Ultimately you need to make the decision. Imagine someone carrying that item into your new home. Where do you want them to put it? It is much easier to keep something when it has a place in your old home, but if there is no place for it in the new one, it’s time to move on.

Start looking for your dream home today, at, or stop by our blog to learn more about the essentials to choosing the right home, our active lifestyle communities, and everything you need to consider when buying a new luxury home.

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Toll Brothers, an award-winning FORTUNE 500 company founded in 1967, is the nation's leading builder of luxury homes. Embracing an unwavering commitment to quality and customer service, Toll Brothers currently builds in 24 states nationwide, and is a publicly owned company with its common stock listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: TOL). 2021 marks the 10th year Toll Brothers has been named to FORTUNE magazine’s World’s Most Admired Companies® list. Toll Brothers also has been honored as national Builder of the Year by BUILDER magazine, and was twice named national Builder of the Year by Professional Builder magazine.

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