How to downsize your home in 10 simple steps

a couple who have worked out how to downsize your home successfully

If you want to learn the best way how to downsize your home but don’t know where to start, this guide is the perfect place to begin. Everything you will need to consider is right here in this blog.

From big decisions and decluttering tips all the way up to the big move, following this step-by-step guide will mean you won’t miss anything!

The stress of downsizing

It is normal to feel overwhelmed if you are downsizing your home, after all, there is a lot to consider. Your reason for downsizing may be different to the next person: you may be moving to a big city or trying to sell your house due to increasing mortgage rates. Whatever the situation, feeling like you don’t know where to start is not unusual.

It’s a well-known fact that moving is one of the most stressful processes. Add downsizing your home and what do with all your things into the mix, and that stress increases exponentially. As well as having to adapt to your new chapter in life, you are almost definitely going to have excess belongings which you cannot take with you.

Downsizing 101: moving to a smaller home in 10 steps

While you might be familiar with moving house and have a good grasp on what it’s like to move from one place to another, downsizing calls for extra attention. For instance, you’ll have to decide what to do with the things you can’t take with you, and your future needs should be front and centre – especially if you want to avoid moving again.

a couple packing before downsizing their home

Step 1 – Making the big decisions first

The best way to begin your downsizing journey is to go into each room and make the big decisions (we will go into more detail on what we mean by big decisions below).

How much space you need

All of your kids might have flown the nest or you might be preparing for a new stage of your life by moving somewhere cheaper or safer. Whichever way you sway, it’s absolutely essential that you future-proof your move.

This means thinking about what you can realistically do without – for example, it’s nice to have a separate kitchen and dining room, but if you’ve never used those spaces previously, do you really need them?

Here’s a handy trick to work out how much space you need before moving to a smaller home: measure the space you actually use in your current home versus the total space you actually have. With this information, you can downsize into a new home about that size.

White goods

Does your new place have a washing machine, tumble dryer and fridge freezer? If not, then you may have to consider taking yours with you, selling it or getting it removed and disposed of.

Heavy or bulky furniture

Is it worth it for you to move your large and heavy appliances and furniture? It can be expensive to move large and heavy appliances and furniture, especially if it’s over long distances.

Heirlooms and sentimental items

Have you got any large sentimental items? If so, decide what to do with them. You can take them with you, give them to family or friends, donate or sell them.


Are you going to need a car at your new place? If moving to a big city consider walking, cycling or public transport. If you do require a car and have multiple cars, can you downsize to one vehicle or fewer vehicles?

Organising the move

Considering hiring a moving company? If you come to the decision that you need a moving company then decide what your budget is and start finding quotes so you know roughly how much it will cost you.

If you don’t have a lot of items or you are only a very short distance away, you can move your things in your or a friend’s car. Depending on the size of the vehicle, you may even be able to move your sofa with a car. However, do some research on this before trying!

Making successful decisions when downsizing

These are all big questions and none of them are an easy decision. Careful consideration needs to be taken at every stage and you need to think of all the possible scenarios before making these choices.

These decisions are especially important if you are moving to a small apartment or condo. If you are moving to a smaller family home, you have a little more breathing space. However, you still need to take a step back when thinking about these things.

Step 2 – Develop, declutter & organise

Starting early is essential and makes the process of downsizing far easier and less stressful. You might not be at the stage of packing your items into boxes.

However, you don’t need to wait until the last few weeks leading up to your move before you start to declutter and organise things. Whichever way you choose how to downsize your home, be it hiring a moving company or going down the DIY route, less stuff in your house means less stuff to worry about on moving day.

The four-pile sorting system

A common question when downsizing is what to do with your excess stuff when you downsize. After all, you may be sifting through years of items that have built up. Once you have decided what’s staying and what’s going, what is the best way to get rid of those things?

This is where the four-pile sorting system comes in handy. One of our favourite tips on downsizing to a smaller home, this simple organisation system helps massively with making the decluttering process much easier. As you are decluttering simply create four separate piles.

Pile 1 – Giveaways: These items will go to friends or family for free, or you can list them online as free and someone will come and get them

Pile 2 – Donations: Anything you or your family doesn’t want can go to the donation centre. For some items such as furniture, these will need the fire labels attached. So, check with charities first on what they are willing to take.

Pile 3 – Sale items: This pile is optional but if you are wanting some extra money then these are items which you are selling. The best places to sell used furniture and homeware are eBay, Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree.

Pile 4 – Disposal: These are the items you are disposing of. If they are large appliances or furniture you may require a waste clearance service to help you. If they are smaller items, you can take them to the tip yourself.

A good strategy for this is to create the four piles in separate rooms or each corner of a large room.  You want to keep them separate so you don’t get items mixed up. When you come across possessions which are applicable to one of these piles put them in.

Step 3 – Start in the small places

Once you have got the big decisions out of the way you can start thinking about the smaller things. You need to begin downsizing your home room by room. The four-pile system is the perfect method for the whole decluttering process. However, when it comes to the downsizing of the physical rooms the perfect strategy is to start small. Small places that tend to accumulate junk are:

  • Sheds and garages
  • Spare rooms
  • Closets
  • Rarely used kitchen cabinets
  • Linen closets
  • Bathroom cabinets or shelves
  • Junk drawers
  • Attics
  • Kids bedrooms
  • Basements

Working in smaller spaces in your home means you’ll be less likely to get “burnt out” by the process. Areas such as the ones listed above can be completed within a day. Getting them done one at a time can help with the motivation of downsizing.

Step 4 – Downsizing your furniture collection

If your new home is not furnished, then you are going to need new furniture if don’t already have some. Although, what furniture will fit in your smaller home? You need to measure the space in your new home and see if the furniture will fit.

You will need to consider access too. If you have small hallways and awkward turns you may not be able to fit some of your larger furniture items in. So, make sure to measure these as well.

If you are downsizing to an apartment or condo the chances are you are going to have to get rid of some furniture. If you are struggling to part with things and make that decision, then cast your mind back to our previous advice. What is a necessity? If you can’t live without it or you would need to replace it, then this should be something you should take with you.

If you don’t need it, then you should put it in one of your four piles (you can use this for large items too, but you don’t have to move them to the pile of course!).

Once you have made those decisions and narrowed them down, you can start either giving away or selling your surplus furniture. You can offer them to friends and family or list them online to sell or giveaway – just make sure you have the shipping costs sussed out before your listings go live.

an older couple who are downsizing their home

Step 5 – Begin on your kitchen items

Your kitchen contains items that you use every day. When downsizing your kitchen, you should approach it with the same method as the other rooms.

Instead of focusing on what to get rid of, focus on the essentials that you require in your day-to-day life. This could be your expensive air fryer, your best pots and pans or your trusty coffee maker. If your kitchen moving pile is disproportionate, don’t be concerned – your kitchen contains a lot of essential items so it’s normal for there to be more. Especially if you love to cook!

Kitchens are where a lot of your everyday essentials are kept and moving to a smaller kitchen means you won’t have as much room to keep all of it, so you may have to get rid of some things which take up a lot of room. This can be things like glasses, mugs, plates and bowls. Often people have a lot more of these things than they actually need.

Step 6 – The bedrooms and living space

You’ve now made the tough decisions about what large furniture and appliances you’ll keep, gift or sell and you’ve done all the major decluttering. It’s now time to tackle all your other essentials.

Such as clothing, games, books etc. Use the four-pile method – you may have gathered some of these things over the years and you no longer need them. Choose the things that you really need and the things that mean something to you. Anything else will just take up limited space in your new place and become clutter.

Step 7 – Packing your items

If you are not hiring a professional to pack your items, then you must make sure you pack them carefully and load your chosen vehicle correctly.

There is a lot to do when it comes to packing everything and preparing it for moving. Too much for this blog, however, not to worry! Here are some short packing tips on downsizing to a smaller house.

  • Use boxes to pack smaller items, label the boxes by room and if they contain fragile items make sure this is clear to anyone who sees them.
  • Use towels, newspaper and packing paper to protect fragile items, make sure to fill voids to ensure minimal movement and secure boxes with tape.
  • For larger pieces of furniture and appliances, wrap these in blankets when packing, making sure to prepare appliances such as fridges, freezers and washing machines with extra care prior to moving.

Step 8 – Loading the van

Make sure to put heavy items at the bottom such as furniture and appliances, ensuring these are secured using straps so there is no movement during transit. Lighter items can go on top or in smaller available spaces. Make sure that they are secure and can’t move either. By filling gaps, you are minimising movement and the chance of any breaks.

Step 9 – The big move

We’ve covered the arrangements you should make before downsizing, but what should you do on the day of moving to a smaller home?

First up, having a checklist at hand during the move is advisable, and if you can go digital this will make your life a whole lot easier. You’ll want to organise items by room and unpack them in this order and this includes an accessible bag with all your moving essentials from chargers and snacks to your overnight bag and medication.

If you need to, enlist the help of friends, family and neighbours to get unpacked, making sure to take breaks when you need to. When you’ve moved all of your belongings into the correct rooms, you can get to assembling essential furniture items such as your bed and seating. The rest of your belongings can be gradually unpacked by priority.

Once you’ve done all of the physical labour, you can then move on to administrative tasks. Make sure you’ve moved your address for all of your correspondence and share the news that you’ve moved if you haven’t already.

Step 10 – Invite family and friends

Et voila! You’re settled into your new, smaller home. All that’s left now is to invite your loved ones so they can celebrate this new chapter with you.

Final words of wisdom: Why do we struggle with downsizing?

Downsizing is a tough experience for anyone because you end up coming across all the things of your past, especially if you have lived somewhere for a long time. You’ll see things that you haven’t seen for years, and they will bring back a sense of nostalgia, happy memories or maybe even sad ones. Decluttering sentimental items can be a very mentally challenging process but with a good method and strong motivation, it’s definitely possible for anyone!

Paper keepsakes, projects, certificates and other paper milestones can be difficult to decide what to take and what to leave. Obviously, some documents need to be taken with you. However, one technique to declutter things like this is to pull out only the important and most memorable papers or pieces. This may include artwork, photos and all sorts of cards. Once you’ve got all your most important pieces you can then discard the rest.

If you’re still struggling, then ask yourself which items bring joy to you. If you can’t say it honestly brings a lot of joy to your life, then you can let it go. You will soon forget about it! This can be a difficult method to follow but it can be really helpful in combatting some of those bad emotional feelings which come with downsizing.

Allow VanaMango to lighten the load

Phew! That was a lot of information on how to downsize your home, but this means when it comes to the big (or should we say “small”) move you’ll be able to handle it like a pro.

If you’re looking for a helping hand why not check out our moving checklist or get your hands on a free no-obligation quote for your move? We’re happy to help!