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Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid When Downsizing Your Home

What You'll Learn: Discover The Dos & Don’ts For Downsizing & Selecting a Perfect Smaller Home


In this article, we’ll talk about the mistakes to avoid when downsizing your home. Whether you’d just like to live lighter, are planning for retirement, or are starting a whole new adventure living in a tiny home, read on to discover the pitfalls to avoid.

  • Going too small in your new home
  • Not having enough storage in your new place
  • Not selecting a floor plan that works for your lifestyle
  • Not taking advantage of outdoor spaces
  • Procrastinating on decluttering & letting go
  • Not knowing how much you need to get rid of
  • Not downsizing enough
  • Taking boxes of paper documents
  • Moving your kids’ stuff with you
  • 10. Renting a storage unit

#1 Going Too Small in Your New Home

When shopping for your new smaller house, townhome, condo, or tiny home, be realistic in your needs and what type of lifestyle you’ll have when you move. If you love to entertain and overnight guests are always welcome ­- take that into account. If your current home works well, consider what rooms you could do without or are too big. That should give you an idea of the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and square footage you need. If you’ve been living in a 5,000 square foot house for years, downsizing to a 1,500 square foot home might be too small.

As you look at homes for sale, picture living in each one and get an idea if you’d be cramped or comfortable. Be realistic. You don’t want to make the mistake of buying a home that’s just too small.

And if you’re wondering how to downsize to a tiny house, consider it like camping – permanently. When you start with that in mind, you’ll keep the concept that you can’t take it all with you. Downsizing for a tiny home can be a challenge. And unlike downsizing for a slightly smaller single-family home or condo – most tiny houses are less than 500 square feet.

#2 Not Having Enough Storage in Your New Place

Storage is an essential element in any home, especially one with limited space.  A smaller home with ample storage can be organized and feel much larger. A smaller home that lacks sufficient storage can end up cluttered. As you’re looking at properties, check out the storage. Make sure to notice the size and number of:



  • Clothes closets
  • Linen closets
  • Kitchen cupboards
  • Kitchen drawers
  • Bathroom cupboards
  • Bathroom drawers


    Does the garage have available storage, and is there a shed outside for gardening equipment and tools if needed? And is there any additional storage in places like an attic or basement?

    #3 Not Selecting a Floor Plan That Works With Your Lifestyle

    The success and enjoyment of your new smaller home will depend on how much it matches and compliments your lifestyle. So, the first thing you’ll need to do is to make a list of your must-haves, what is vital vs. what would be nice. By focusing on the most important, you’ll have a better chance of finding a new home that’s smaller and fits your needs nicely.

    If you love to entertain and overnight guests are always welcome, keep that in mind. Will you need a guest room, or are you willing for friends and family to stay in a hotel? If your current home works well, consider what rooms you could eliminate or reduce in size. That should give you an idea of the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and square footage you need. If you’ve been living in a 5,000 square foot house for years, downsizing to a 1,500 square foot home could be quite a challenge.

    Two design must-haves in a smaller home are lots of windows and high ceilings. Even though you’ll have less square footage, your new home will feel more spacious.

    #4 Not Taking Advantage of Outdoor Spaces

    One of our biggest tips on how to downsize your home is to take advantage of any outdoor space. Having a smaller home on a larger lot could give you the space you need. During the nice weather, do most of your entertaining outside. Extend your living area and splurge on creating a space where family and friends can relax and enjoy themselves.

    Popular renovations include a covered patio, full outdoor kitchen, built-in barbeque, fire pit, and seating area. Create a private oasis that’s protected from noise and wind to have a morning cup of joe or read an afternoon book. When you put as much creativity into the outdoors as the indoors, your living space expands.

    #5 Procrastinating on Decluttering & Letting Go

    Our top tip for downsizing your home – decluttering-starts early – at least 90 days in advance.  Tackle one room at a time. It’s time to sort, give away, and toss. Notice we did not say pack stuff away for a storage unit. When you’re trying to downsize – it’s best not to rely on a storage unit. That will just prolong your decisions on what to get rid of. Plus, by not relying on a storage unit, you’ll be saving yourself hundreds of dollars each year.

    The top of your list to declutter should be anything you don’t use regularly. For example, do you need that 20-gallon spaghetti pot? Or what about the set of old lawn chairs you’ve been meaning to fix the last three years?

    And, if you’ve ever felt stuck in the past, it’s therapeutic to eliminate tokens or mementos that bring you down. Go through your belongings and make the rule – if an item makes you sad – even a little bit – toss it. Even though this method doesn’t work for everyone - for some, they feel a sense of relief to have less baggage – both physically and mentally.

    #6 Not Knowing How Much You Need to Get Rid Of

    When starting any project, you need a goal – otherwise, you’ll never arrive. That’s especially true when you’re downsizing your home, decluttering, and moving. Once you’ve found a new home, compare that floorplan and square footage to your current residence. There are various free online planning tools that you can draw your new floorplan and place furniture. That’s invaluable to know what you need to get rid of and what will fit in your new place.

    And don’t forget the enormous advantage of downsizing. You’ll save money on the move. And when it comes to furniture, less is more. Keep the special pieces and offload the rest. That way, what you do keep, you’ll be able to show it off more. Look at your furniture and make a list of the pieces you can’t live without. Many people are surprised that the list is so short. Anything that you’re getting rid of, let friends and family knows so they can have first dibs. Enlist their help if they’re local so you can have a big garage sale. If you have reasonable prices, you can clear out a lot over one weekend. Whatever doesn’t sell – donate.

    Downsizing the family home is just like cooking. Many empty nesters find it hard not to prepare too much food, like five times more potato salad than what’s needed, or buying the biggest roast in the market. It’s a skill that can be learned and honed to perfection.

    And when it comes to downsizing, if you have doubles of something – only save one. Do you need two heating pads, colanders, blenders, old hardline phones, or five bedside alarm clocks? The kitchen is another place to get rid of doubles. How many peelers, garlic presses, cheese cutters, cherry pitters do you need? Once you’ve reduced the duplicates – you’ll have an easier time finding what you need!

    #7 Not Downsizing Enough

    The trick to downsizing your home in retirement is to keep just what you need – and nothing more.

    When you’re retiring, think about downsizing not only your belongings but also your square footage. By doing so, you’ll most likely be able to purchase a nicer home of higher quality. Plus, with less square footage, you’ll save money on property taxes and utilities.

    Consider creating multi-functional rooms – instead of having a guestroom and an extra bedroom, combine the two. Murphy beds can be tucked away to leave space for your everyday living. Then when you have guests, lower the Murphy bed from the wall.

    If you haven’t selected your new home yet, it’s still not too early to start sorting, donating, and tossing. Another good rule to go by is if it’s dated, get rid of it. Take advantage of your next move to start over and update your home.

    If you’re moving to a location with a different climate – get rid of the clothes you’ll never wear again. For example - in a move from NY to FL, you won’t need down jackets. Keep just a few items for when you visit, but you won’t need to keep a drawer full of sweaters.


    Do the math; If your current home is 5,000 square feet and your new home is 1,500 – you’ll need to get rid of 2/3 of your belongings.

    What about preparing for a tiny home? Most tiny houses are under 500 square feet, so if you currently live in a 2,000 square foot home, you’ll need to get rid of at least 3/4 of your stuff. Notice we said, “at least.” That’s because storage in a tiny home is reserved for everyday items – not things you’ll use twice a year.  

    #8 Taking Boxes of Paper Documents

    Are you a paper packrat? Do you feel the need to save every receipt, bank statement, and birthday card? Now is the time to digitize any paperwork, taxes, CDs, videos, and legal documents. In a nutshell, you’re going to want to go paperless.

    Digitizing can take time. Enlist the help of a family member or friend starting 90 days before the move. Of course, there are valuable documents you’ll want to keep the originals of, like social security cards and birth certificates. But there’s a good chance you have at least one or two boxes of tax records you can shred.

    If you have boxes of family photos, it’s never too early to gather them all together, sort them, scan them into albums. Some companies will do it for you, which may be the way to go if you’re short on time. And if you’re wondering how to downsize to a tiny home - rather than bringing books along, read eBooks.

    #9 Moving Your Kids’ Stuff With You

    And if you’re downsizing the family home, you may be storing some of your kids’ stuff that they didn’t have room for. Well – it’s time for everyone to come and get their

    • Trophies
    • Yearbooks
    • Stuffed animals
    • Collector toys
    • Extra gaming consoles
    • Music instruments
    • Sports equipment
    • Extra baby furniture

    Give them notice at least 90 days in advance that they’ll need to come and pick up their stuff.


    #10 Renting a Storage Unit

    Our last step for success when downsizing your home is to not rely on renting a storage unit. It just puts off the inevitable. Rather than procrastinating on getting rid of stuff – take the plunge and do it now. Plus, if you can store it 99.9% of the time, you can do without it.

    The average storage unit costs $100 to $300 per month. So, if yours is $200, that’s $2,400 a year. That $2,400 could go towards new linens, towels, yard furniture, and many other things. Don’t throw away your money on a storage unit, instead save money, space, and reduce moving costs.

    Now that you’ve read our top 10 tips for downsizing your home, it’s time to get started. Gather boxes, markers, friends, and family to help you on this exciting journey.

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