Is Downsizing Right for You?

Computer art of an elderly couple packing items into boxes labeled “kitchen” and “bedroom.”

Let’s face it—people have a lot of stuff. Whether they’re homeowners or renters, Americans accumulate thousands of dollars of new things every year, often without getting rid of other items. And because we have so much stuff, we tend to need large houses to hold it all.

But what happens when the kids move away or you decide that you’re tired of climbing up and down stairs every day? In these situations, it may make sense to start the process of downsizing.

What Does Downsizing Mean?

Downsizing, in the homeownership sense, is the practice of moving from a larger house to a smaller one. In many cases, it involves selling the existing house and using the equity to buy a smaller home, but renters can downsize too.

Who Chooses To Downsize?

People downsize for many different reasons. The most common downsizers are empty nesters. Because their children have moved out and they no longer need as much space, they often choose to sell their larger home and move to a smaller one. Sometimes this is due to physical needs, like reducing the number of stairs or the amount of property to take care of.

Sometimes people may downsize because they can no longer afford their current living conditions. They may need to move from a larger home to an apartment, or they may simply want to get out of an expensive neighborhood. Sometimes downsizing is just a good financial decision, when the housing market is in a good place and you can make a large profit from selling your home.

How Big of a Home Do I Need?

Computer art of a two-story home and a one-story home balancing each other out on a scale

The question of how big a home someone needs is highly subjective because it takes so many factors into account. Some families need large homes due to the number of children or relatives living with them. Other people may need to move into a smaller house because, for whatever reason, they live alone. Common questions to ask when thinking about downsizing include:

  • Will I miss the additional space?
  • Can I afford to stay in my current home?
  • How often do I use this room?
  • How many people come to visit?
  • What will I do with my belongings if I lose the closet space?
  • Can this room be used for something else?
  • Can I take care of the yard/house/driveway, or do I need help?

Ultimately, the decision to downsize or not depends on what the answers to those questions are. But if downsizing appeals to you, the following tips can make the process go smoothly.

How To Downsize Your Home

If you’ve made the decision to downsize and want to start the process, you’ll need to go through the standard steps of any good moving checklist, with the added caveat that you’ll likely need to be selective about what’s coming with you. That means being realistic and thorough before you begin the packing process.

Take an Inventory

Most moving checklists include an inventory of some kind. Go through each room and list the items that you absolutely know will be coming with you. This usually includes important papers, heirlooms, and necessary furniture. But for any item that may give you a moment’s pause, there’s an additional step.

Divide Your Belongings Into Categories

A photograph of two piles of clothes next to each other: one labeled “keep,” the other labeled “donate.”

Anything that might be questionable should be placed into one of four piles: keep, donate, sell, and throw away. Once you’ve sorted your items into these categories, go through the piles once again and try to put a few more items into one of the “get rid of” piles. Here are a few additional tips that will help you cut down on clutter:

  • There’s no sense in carrying paperwork from years ago. Instead, scan your important documents and keep them backed up electronically, then shred the original documents.
  • In many cases, downsizing often means not having the space for extra furniture. Decide how much furniture you actually need to live comfortably and get rid of the rest. 
    • If you only have guests over every once in a while, consider trading out your extra chairs or couches for folding chairs to save space.
  • If you have large items that hold sentimental value, consider putting them into self storage. Or you may have a family member that also has an attachment to that item and has more space in their home.

Donate or Sell Everything That Must Go

Anything that you plan on getting rid of that isn’t being thrown away should go into a pile for donation or sale. Donating items is great because it rids you of belongings while benefiting others. Charities accept all kinds of gently used goods, and in many cases, these donations can be tax deductible.

On the other hand, selling anything you don’t plan on keeping offers the opportunity to make money. This extra money can be used to buy new, better furniture or items, or it can help offset the costs of your move. The problem with selling belongings is the time and (sometimes) expense of preparing them for sale. It can interfere with the rest of your packing process if you need to plan a yard or estate sale.

Whether you decide to donate or sell, do so as quickly as possible so you can get back to the process of downsizing and your move.

How Self Storage Helps You Downsize

Self storage units can help downsize in many ways. In addition to offering a staging area for items you may want to sell, they can also help facilitate your move. You can store extra items for as long as you need to, even if that’s on a semi-permanent basis.

Because self storage units often come with no annual contracts, you can rent them on a month-to-month basis. They’re perfect if you only need self storage for a month or two. You can even choose a small space to start with and upgrade as necessary. You can rent a large unit for your whole home and then downsize that when you need to.

Storage Unit Sizes

Storage units come in many different sizes, from small units for closet-sized needs to spaces that can hold the contents of an entire home. If you only need space for a few odds and ends, a small storage unit will probably do the trick, but if you need to store everything in your house while waiting for your new home to be ready, you’ll need a much larger unit.

Storage Unit Types

The kind of storage unit you rent matters, especially if the items you plan on storing need protection from the elements. Climate-controlled storage units are often indoors and are heated and cooled as the seasons change. These controls keep the inside of the unit at a steady temperature, perfect for items that may crack or warp due to extremes in heat or cold.

Other amenities exist as well. For those storage needs that don’t require protection from the elements, drive-up storage allows for easy loading and unloading directly from the vehicle.

How To Find Affordable Self Storage

If you choose to rent self storage, it’s important to find a storage unit that fits your budget. The best way to find affordable storage is to search for your nearest storage facility and compare prices and amenities. 

Before you decide to rent a unit, pay close attention to the facility’s rules and requirements. Avoid storage companies that require paying for storage for a whole year in advance. Be sure to tour the facility and ask plenty of questions about business hours, access hours, and who to call if problems arise.

Find Affordable Self Storage Nearby

Having trouble finding affordable, convenient storage? We can help. With more than 60 locations across the United States, we help our neighbors store their belongings for a variety of needs, from personal storage to business use. Our friendly storage professionals can even recommend moving and packing supplies to help make your downsizing journey go even more smoothly.
To get started, find a Universal Storage Group-managed storage location near you. If you already know what size you need, you can reserve space online to save time and money. For help with downsizing your home, reserve a storage unit online today!

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