Many of us are just now trying to downsize after years of holding on to whatever came along. Various cables, wicker baskets, that chair the cats ruined but is still sort of cozy. It can be hard to break away from our possessions, and often we don’t even know where to start, but eventually, for some reason or another -- whether we’re moving into a smaller space or simply in desperate need of less -- it’s time to downsize. If you find it all daunting, you’re not alone, but hopefully these six pointers can put you on the right path.
Inspiration comes before action. Your downsizing approach should start with establishing how you want your living space to look and feel. If you need some external stimuli, try looking at pictures of interiors on the internet. Pinterest and Instagram are loaded with such content, and even if some of it is fanciful, it might be the kick you need to get up and get moving.
If you’re about to move, talk to the landlord or property management company about scheduling at least one extra visit to the space so you can get a better feel for the space and its potential. Take ample pictures and videos so you’ll have plenty to work with when you’re thinking up ways to maximize your new living space. According to Utopia Management, an established property management company with over 30 offices on the West Coast, second tours are requested by about 30% of tenants and are almost always accommodated. If a property manager won’t give a second visit and has taken down the live listing with photographs, request copies of the photos they have on file to help your spatial reference.
When you’re trying to determine what you need to get rid of, it might be easier to first decide what you want to keep. The goal is downsizing, not trimming, and there’s a good chance the things you need are vastly outweighed by the things you don’t. Once you’ve selected the essentials, things become clearer.
What do you use every day, or often enough that your routine would be disrupted by its absence? Don’t get rid of necessary objects like your television and dresser, because you’ll just end up getting another one later. But maybe you have a second, smaller dresser, something that made sense in a bigger house but won’t be needed in a studio apartment. Maybe your TV should stay, but those old DVDs? They might be director’s cuts and box sets, but do you use them? Do you even own a DVD player? If you own a DVD player, do you use it?
Look in your kitchen. Check every drawer and cabinet. How many of these utensils and appliances do you use regularly? How many sets of dishware do you have? If you’re living alone or with a partner, admit it: you don’t need more than one of most things, so duplicate items should be prime candidates for expulsion.
This may sound like a trite organizational hack, but don’t be discouraged. Once you’ve figured out what stays and what goes, it’s helpful to consolidate your unwanted items. Once that’s done, your problem will be much easier to grasp because it will all be in one place.
Feel free to pile things up in a corner somewhere, but ideally you’ll want bags or plastic bins. Bins are preferable since they allow for better sorting of items, are often translucent, and often can be themselves included in the list of things you don’t really need. You’re downsizing, right? Why hang onto all those bins?
One man’s trash is another man’s useful trash. Don’t underestimate the value of some of the junk you’ve collected. Your old DVDs? Somewhere out there, perhaps even in your neighborhood, someone is convinced DVDs are superior to Blu-Rays, and that person is willing to pay money for your copy of Apocalypse Now Redux. Maybe they also need a little dresser. You know, to store their DVDs.
We’re living in a golden age of pedestrian markets. Never has it been so easy to buy and sell used goods without the need for a middle man. With apps and websites like OfferUp, Craigslist, NextDoor, and Facebook Marketplace, it’s silly not to at least try and monetize your junk.
Start by thinking big: what large items do you need gone? Furniture moves quickly in the online peer-to-peer bazaar, even if it’s used. That means dressers, chairs, bed frames, and extraneous lamps. Next, consider your electronic appliances and entertainment products. You might have an old game console, smartphone, or sound system you just haven’t touched in years, but even old electronics are known to sell. Lastly, you may have some collectible possessions, like old toys or books, which, in the right marketplace, could earn you some serious cash, or at least a surprising amount. When in doubt, check out eBay, typically a good gauge of the value of collectibles.
When you feel you’ve exhausted the limits of your liquidatable junk, you’ll probably still have more laying around, certifiably valueless objects like cute coffee mugs, spoons, beat-up cables, plastic sunglasses, worn clothes, and electronics that are so useless and obsolete that absolutely no one is searching for them on OfferUp. Or perhaps you skipped tip #3, not wanting to deal with the hassle of peddling your old stuff and not hungry enough for the meager cash it might net you. In either case, it may be time to bag it up and make a trip to the thrift store.
Depending on where you live, there should be at least one large thrift shop whose revenue is funneled to a nonprofit or charity program, and they’ll be happy to take your stuff, no questions asked. Even if it’s all thrown into one garbage bag without even the barest of organization, they probably won’t mind. After all, they’re getting it for free.