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Don't Dread the Downsize: Plan to Make Your Move Stress-Free

By Sanjog Gopal Published 09/28/2007 | Real Estate

There are many reasons for choosing a smaller living space: the kids have left, you want (or need) fewer responsibilities, perhaps it's because of financial issues or maybe you just want to simplify your life. Whatever your motivation, the prospect of getting your current stuff into your future space can be overwhelming, to put it mildly. Don't fret – thousands of people have survived a downsize with their sanity intact. The key to success is this: plan ahead, break it up and take it easy.

First things first – get planning and organizing well in advance. How far in advance depend on how much extra time you have and how much junk you've collected over the years. If you are moving from a five bedroom house with a garage into a two-bedroom condo, you're going to need more time than someone moving from a small house to a townhouse. A good rule of thumb is to begin two to four months in ahead of your move date. Remember that packing is often a time to rediscover memories - old photos, keepsakes, etc. Leave yourself enough time to enjoy them. This is important when sorting through boxes you haven't been in lately – you don't want to keep the whole box because you haven't got time to go through it properly. To avoid procrastination, set a designated packing time (i.e. every Thursday night or Sunday afternoons), and remember to take regular breaks (every couple of hours) so that you don't get burnt out.

Make a floor plan of the new house with dimensions so that you know exactly what will fit. Start off by deciding which furniture is coming with you and then turn your attention to the smaller things.

This is the tough part, and you're going to need to be ruthless. Depending on the size of the new place you'll probably want to eliminate half of what you currently own. It sounds impossible, but you can do it. Remember, it's just stuff (and you can keep the most important things, as long as it's not all the most important). You don't want to start this process in the middle of the action - warm up with your spare room, den, basement or other areas that you use less. This will have the least effect on your day to day living.

Make piles, boxes or bins to sort your belongings into stuff for a yard sale, objects to sell on eBay, things you can give to friends or family, items to donate to charity, recyclable materials and garbage. When in doubt, ask yourself, “Do I really need this?”

If you aren't being effective, you may need to ask a friend for some help with this – it may be useful to hear a second opinion. Just don't pick your biggest packrat pal for advice.

Clearly mark or color code your boxes by room, and unpack all the boxes as soon as you move to your new place. You may need to reedit at this stage – if you don't have room for something get rid of it immediately. Don't let it sit around in boxes gathering dust. See your new home as a chance to start fresh – think of this as an opportunity, not a chore.

Have realistic expectations, moving can take a lot out of you. Watch the way you talk to yourself – don't let negativity creep in. This process will be a lot easier if you can remind yourself that once you're finished, you'll be organized. Stay positive, you want to do this! Remember to schedule time for things you enjoy. Setting small goals to work towards will help you breakdown the task and see that you are making progress. Reward yourself with little treats when you finish a task: when the garage is packed and organized, take yourself to the movies – you deserve it!

With a little focus and a step by step approach you'll find that downsizing isn't half as overwhelming as it seemed in the beginning, and remember that this is a beginning – of your new, simplified life. Enjoy the freedom.

Sanjog Gopal has many years of experience as a professional Arizona REALTOR®. Sanjog brings passion and commitment to his job, and will help you with all aspects of buying and selling Arizona real estate.