Streamline Your Space: Downsizing Tips

how to organize and downsize your house

Downsizing your home can be a stressful and daunting task, especially if you're moving to a smaller space. However, with proper planning and organisation, the process can become much more manageable. Here are some essential steps to help you get started:

Firstly, it's important to take inventory of your belongings and separate the items you need from those you can part with. Go through your items room by room and decide what to keep, donate, sell, or discard. This can be done using a sorting system, such as the Three-Box Method or the Four-Pile Sorting System.

Next, create a plan to get rid of unwanted items. You can donate them, sell them, pass them down to loved ones, or recycle or throw them away if they are in poor condition. For sentimental or seasonal items, consider renting a storage unit.

When downsizing, it's also helpful to go digital whenever possible. Convert old photos, documents, and records into digital files to free up space. Measure your furniture and new space to ensure everything will fit, and avoid buying new items until you know what space you're working with.

Finally, give yourself plenty of time to downsize and don't be afraid to ask for help. Family, friends, or professional services can assist in making the process smoother and less overwhelming.

Characteristics Values
Starting point Take inventory of your belongings, categorise them and separate the aspirational items from the ones you need.
Sorting system Four-pile system: giveaways, donations, sale items, trash pickup or dump. Three-box method: keep, get rid of, put in storage.
Where to start Start in small spaces: outdoor sheds, garages, out-of-the-way kitchen cabinets, bathroom cabinets, attics, crawl spaces, smaller sections in basements.
Furniture Measure your furniture and the space in your new home to see if and how it will fit.
Kitchen items Don't focus on what to eliminate, instead, go through your drawers and pull out the pieces you can't live without.
Bedrooms and living spaces Use the KonMari method: only keep items that "spark joy".
Paperwork Go digital: scan records and receipts and store them digitally, then shred and throw away the physical copies.
Storage Make the most of your storage spaces by using built-in storage options, open wall space and hidden storage spaces.
Sentimental items Take a picture, write a description, pass it on to a family member, donate it or turn it into something useful.


Categorise your belongings

Categorising your belongings is a crucial step in the downsizing process. It will help you to decide what to keep, what to discard, and what to do with the things you no longer need. Here are some tips to help you categorise your belongings effectively:

Identify Categories

Start by identifying broad categories that your belongings fall into. These could include clothing, kitchen supplies, garage tools, linen closet items, books, furniture, and decorative items. You can also create subcategories within these broader groups. For example, within clothing, you might have categories for shoes, jackets, and accessories.

Create a Sorting System

Implement a sorting system to help you decide what to do with each item. The Three-Box Method is a popular approach, where you label boxes as "Keep," "Get Rid Of," and "Put In Storage." Alternatively, you could use a four-pile sorting system: "Giveaways," "Donations," "Sale Items," and "Trash." Having a clear system will make it easier to decide the fate of each item and ensure that you don't become overwhelmed.

Focus on One Category at a Time

Tackle one category at a time to avoid feeling overwhelmed. For example, you might start with clothing one day and kitchen supplies the next. This focused approach will help you make more thoughtful decisions and ensure you don't get burnt out from trying to sort through everything at once.

Consider Sentimental Items

Sentimental items can be tricky to categorise. Ask yourself whether the item truly brings you joy and if you have space for it in your new home. If it's a small item with significant sentimental value, consider keeping it. For larger items, you might need to decide whether the memories are worth the space they'll take up. You could also consider taking photos of items before letting them go, preserving the memories without the physical object.

Be Practical

When deciding what to keep, be practical. Consider how often you use an item, when you last used it, and whether it's easily replaceable. If you haven't used something in over a year and it's not particularly meaningful to you, it might be time to let it go.

Don't Be Afraid to Let Go

Downsizing is about simplifying your life and creating a less cluttered space. It's important to be ruthless when categorising and be willing to part with items you no longer need or use. Remember, just because you're getting rid of something doesn't mean it's worthless; someone else might find value in it.


Sort items into piles

Sorting your items into distinct piles is a crucial step in the decluttering process. This step will help you decide what to keep, what to get rid of, and what to store elsewhere. Here are some tips to help you sort your items effectively:

The Four-Pile Sorting System

This system involves creating four separate piles for your items:

  • Giveaways: These are items that you will give to friends and family.
  • Donations: Items that are still useful but that you no longer need can be donated to a local charity or thrift shop.
  • Sale Items: If you're looking to make some extra cash, you can sell certain items online, at a yard sale, or through user-driven markets such as Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.
  • Trash: Some items will be too worn or damaged to donate or sell. These items should be thrown away and can be picked up by a hauling service or taken to a dumpster.

The Three-Box Method

Another approach is to use three boxes or bins labelled "Keep," "Get Rid Of," and "Put In Storage."

  • Keep: Items that are useful in your daily life and are in good condition should be kept.
  • Get Rid Of: Items you no longer have a use for can be donated, passed down to family members, or thrown away if they are worn or broken.
  • Put In Storage: Sentimental or seasonal items that you want to keep but won't have room for in your new home can be placed in a storage unit or pod.

Additional Tips

  • Clear out the "4 Ps": Photos, paperwork, perishables, and prescriptions are often the most tedious items to sort through. Consider packing these into boxes and moving them to a storage unit or another location to sort through later.
  • Pick Your Favourites: If you're moving, choose the furniture and large items that will fit in your new space. If you're downsizing due to a death or passing, select valuable or sentimental items to keep.
  • Use Colour-Coded Tape: Painter's tape in multiple colours can be used to mark special items that are going to different people or locations.
  • Create a Spreadsheet: For large or complicated estates, creating a spreadsheet to list all the items, their destination, and how they will get there can be helpful.

Remember to be selective and only keep or move items that you truly need, love, and use.


Clear out the 4 Ps: photos, paperwork, perishables, and prescriptions

Clearing out the 4 Ps—photos, paperwork, perishables, and prescriptions—is a crucial step in the downsizing process. It can be tedious and time-consuming, but it is essential to stay organized and efficient.


Sorting through photos can be a daunting task, especially if you have a large collection. The key is to be selective and only keep the most important or meaningful photos. Go through your collection and set aside the photos you want to keep. You can then digitize these photos to save space and ensure they are safely stored. If you have the time, it can be helpful to create a photo album or scrapbook with your favourite photos, allowing you to easily access and enjoy your memories.


Paper clutter can quickly accumulate, and it is important to go through it and decide what to keep, shred, or recycle. Start by sorting your paperwork into categories, such as financial documents, medical records, and miscellaneous papers. Then, go through each category and decide what to keep. It is recommended to store important documents in a safe place, such as a fireproof box or a climate-controlled storage unit. For added security, you can also scan and digitize these documents, ensuring you have a backup copy.


When downsizing, it is essential to go through your pantry, fridge, and any other areas where you store food and beverages. Check expiration dates and throw away any items that are past their prime. This is also a good opportunity to assess your shopping habits and make a note of items you tend to waste. When it comes to non-food perishables, such as cleaning supplies or personal care products, consider donating unopened items to a local charity or shelter.


Medications should be handled with care, and it is important to properly dispose of any expired or unused prescriptions. Many communities have drug take-back programs or collection sites where you can safely dispose of medications. You can also consult your pharmacist for advice on proper medication disposal. Additionally, this is a good time to assess your current prescriptions and ensure you have enough refills to last you through the transition to your new home.

Clearing out the 4 Ps is a detailed process, but it is an important step in preparing for your move and setting up your new home.

Daily Home Organization: Time Commitment

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Pick your favourite items

Picking your favourite items is an important step in the downsizing process. It can be an emotional and messy process, so it's a good idea to have a plan.

First, decide which furniture and large items you want to take with you. Use painter's tape to mark these items, and consider using different colours of tape for items going to different locations or people. If you're downsizing to a smaller home, it's a good idea to have a floor plan and take measurements to ensure that everything fits.

Next, decide on your most valuable and sentimental items. If you're downsizing due to a death, this is the time to choose items to keep and relocate. Again, use painter's tape to mark these items. For large or complicated estates, create a spreadsheet to list all the items and their eventual location.

Finally, be selective about what you pack. Only pack things you will love and use. Don't create clutter in your new space.


Make the most of your storage space

Making the most of your storage space is essential when downsizing your home. Here are some strategies to maximize your storage areas and efficiently organize your belongings:

Built-in Storage Options

Create built-in storage solutions whenever possible. Opt for multifunctional furniture pieces such as storage ottomans, platform beds with drawers, entertainment centers, wardrobes, bookshelves, and baskets. These items are excellent for hiding and minimizing clutter while keeping your essentials close at hand. Traditional shelving units are also a great, straightforward option for storage.

Utilize Wall Space

Take advantage of your wall space by installing floating shelves. These are perfect for displaying knick-knacks and adding extra storage in spaces like your kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom. Floating shelves are a great way to keep your frequently used items within reach while also serving as a decorative element.

Hidden Storage Spaces

Make use of hidden storage spaces in your home, such as the area under the stairs, closets, crawl spaces, and attics. These areas are ideal for storing seasonal items, sentimental pieces, or anything you don't need regular access to. Install floating shelves or cubbies in these spaces, and stack clear plastic bins to maximize organization and easily find what you need.

Creative Bathroom Storage

If you have a small bathroom, get creative with storage solutions. Consider adding over-the-door hooks, towel racks, standalone shelves, and bins for under-counter storage. An over-the-toilet shelving unit and a medicine cabinet can also provide extra storage for toiletries and other essentials.

Efficient Kitchen Storage

The kitchen is often a clutter hotspot, especially for duplicate items. To optimize your kitchen storage, utilize various organizers and containers. For example, use stackable canisters for pantry items, hang pots and pans on wall racks, and store lesser-used appliances in upper cabinets or on top of cabinets for easy access without taking up counter space.

Label and Categorize

Labeling and categorizing your stored items will make it easier to locate them when needed. Use clear storage bins or label opaque containers with sticky notes or tape. This will ensure you don't forget what's in each box, and it will save you time when searching for specific items.

By implementing these storage strategies, you'll be able to make the most of your available space and efficiently organize your belongings, even in a downsized home.

Frequently asked questions

It can be daunting to start the process of downsizing, so it is recommended to give yourself a timeline and set goals for your project. It is also helpful to categorise your belongings into groups such as garage tools, linen closet items, and kitchen supplies.

A good method for sorting through your items is the Three-Box Method. Gather three boxes labelled "Keep", "Get Rid Of", and "Put In Storage". You can also use a four-pile sorting system with piles for giveaways, donations, sale items, and trash.

It can be difficult to part with sentimental items. One option is to preserve the memory by taking a picture, writing a description, or passing the item along to a family member. You can also store these items in a storage unit or a climate-controlled storage unit.

Measure your new space and your furniture to see if it will fit. Consider whether you will need to part with any pieces and whether you will need to buy new furniture.

You can donate unwanted items to local charities or thrift stores, give them to friends or family members, sell them, or throw them away if they are in poor condition.

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