Moving to a smaller home and downsizing your belongings can be a liberating opportunity to decide what really matters to you and let go of anything unnecessary.

But, choosing between your possessions isn’t always easy and many of us will have experienced moments of stress or guilt about what to do with items.

The good news is that there are many things you can do to make the task of decluttering that bit easier.

Below, we’ve put together five tips to help make downsizing your belongings as stress-free and simple as possible.

1. Be prepared

Be prepared

Start early

If you’re planning to downsize your belongings before an upcoming move, it can be easy to procrastinate when you’ve already got a lot on your plate.

But, it’s best to start as early as possible to avoid any unnecessary panic. You never know what unexpected or forgotten things might pop up in the process. Plus, finding new homes for items might take longer than expected.

Make a plan

A good list can make or break any big downsizing task, so you might find it helpful to make a plan of which rooms you’ll tackle when, so you can get started quickly and confidently.

Labelled containers can also be a useful way to keep organised (for example by storing the contents of bookshelves or wardrobes together) and give you an idea of how many things you’re planning to bring to your new home. This will also make unpacking easier as you know exactly what rooms different boxes belong in.

However, when it comes to planning, it’s worth remembering the words of former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who said, “Planning is essential, but plans are useless.” While a good plan can bring order to the downsizing and packing process, it can also be a source of stress if you leave no room for flexibility.

So, if something changes, it’s best to try to go with the flow and rework your plan to reflect that.

2. Decide what to part with

Decide what to part with

When choosing which items to part with, you’ll find that some decisions are easier than others.

This is especially true for bigger, more permanent items like furniture – as it can often be tricky to picture life without them. So, if you’re stuck on whether you need something or not, here are a few things to keep in mind…

How much space will you have in your new home?

The first consideration when deciding what to keep and what to get rid of is how much space you’ll have in your new home.

It’s important to check the measurements of your new place to know how much space you’re working with. You’ll likely have access to a floor plan which you can use for this, but otherwise, it’s worth paying a visit to the property with a tape measure.

It’s also important to remember that even if a table or wardrobe could fit in your desired area, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be suitable. Be sure to allow for enough open space between furniture to prevent things from becoming too cramped.

An effective way to do this could be to print out a spare copy of a room’s floor plan and mark out each furniture item in pencil. This will help to visualise the furnished room before you start the moving process. Then, why not pay the house a visit with your new, edited floorplan and try to get a feel for the space using the modified floorplan as a guide?

For tips on measuring your furniture before a move, check out this article from Walkers Moving and Storage. And, for more advice on preparing for moving day, you might like to read our article; 4 tips for a stress-free house move.

Which items will fit your new lifestyle?

Even if you can fit all of your belongings into your new space, there’s little point in keeping anything around that you won’t be using.

Downsizing is a great opportunity to revamp and refresh your lifestyle – and it’s worth remembering this when choosing what to part with.

For example, you might find the minimalist lifestyle helpful to adopt in your new home. In this case, it could be helpful to clear out anything that may detract from this, such as ornaments and knick-knacks that would otherwise gather dust.

It’s also worth considering how you want to spend your time in your new place – is there anything you’re particularly excited to do, and will the items you take with you reflect that? Will your hobbies be the same, or will you adopt new ones? Is there anything that you’ll particularly miss about your old home that you could recreate in your new one?

A clear understanding of how you want to live your life in your new space can make it much easier to see which of your belongings are ideal candidates for decluttering.

For example, if you won’t be doing much gardening in your new home because you’ve swapped a garden for a balcony, you could probably part with many of your gardening tools.

Or, if you’re moving somewhere very hilly where walking might feel like a better option than cycling, perhaps you could consider putting your bike up for sale and investing in a good pair of walking shoes instead.

3. Consider whether you can donate items to others

Consider whether you can donate items to others

Once you’ve found some items you’re happy to part with, you’ll need to decide what to do with them.

Here are a few things to consider…

Will family and friends actually want your things?

A first instinct for many when decluttering is to give away the things they can’t keep or no longer want to relatives and friends – especially items with sentimental value.

In many cases, children, grandchildren, and other relatives or friends will be happy to receive a piece of family history or a nice decorative item. But it’s worth keeping in mind that this won’t always be true.

For example, some items might not be suitable for children and grandchildren due to generational differences and smaller property sizes. Plus, as styles change, it can be difficult for items to find a place in the more minimalist aesthetic of a modern home.

Before giving away any item, consider what the recipient might get from it. If you’re unsure, try to think about giving away items that are either practical or valuable in some way. If you’re getting rid of something because it’s of little use or interest to you, it’s less likely to be of worth to someone else.

What items are valuable enough to sell?

It’s nice to make a profit from decluttering if we can and, in an ideal world, all our unwanted or unneeded items could be sold. Though, in reality, that’s rarely the case.

Shows like Cash in the Attic and Antiques Roadshow can give us the alluring expectation of making a tidy profit from seemingly unremarkable knick-knacks or heirlooms.

However, not everything we’ve kept around for a long time will necessarily have a high cash value. Many of the old heirlooms we hold onto, thinking they might eventually be worth something, are mass-produced. So, unfortunately, unless you’ve got an item from a big-name maker hiding in a closet somewhere, you’re unlikely to be sitting on a fortune.

While it’s best not to get your hopes up, it’s always worth searching online to see whether an item is worth anything. Try to have jewellery and artwork professionally appraised – you might be surprised at their value!

Other options for selling unwanted items include car boot sales and auction houses.

For everyday items, websites like eBay and Vinted – which allow you to list and sell your items – are an easy way to part with things while making a little money. And, for items like electronics, you might find it quicker and simpler to cash them in at exchange shops like CeX.

For more advice on how to turn a profit from your decluttering adventures, you might like to read our article on the subject.

When selling second-hand items online, bear in mind that HMRC has introduced new rules that mean some people might need to pay tax on the income they make from their sales. Whether you’ll have to pay tax will depend on your circumstances and you can read more about this in our article; Will new HMRC rules affect how I sell things online?

What can I give to charity?

There are plenty of charities that are always on the lookout for everyday household items.

If you think something you want to part with could still be of worth to someone else, you might want to consider taking it to your local charity shop. Knowing that your unwanted belongings will find a good home can be a great relief if you’ve got a lot of stuff to sort through – not to mention the satisfaction of helping to raise money for your charity of choice.

If you decide to donate items to a charity shop, it’s worth signing up for Gift Aid. Gift Aid allows the charity to claim back tax on their profits from selling your items at no extra cost to you. You can find out how to sign up for Gift Aid on the British Heart Foundation website.

Organisations like soup kitchens, food banks, refuges, and theatre prop departments are other good places to donate unwanted items to. You can find out what’s available in your local area online, but make sure to contact the organisation first to check whether your items are of use.

You can also use services like Get Rid of and Donate, which pick up your items and distribute them to those in need. To learn more about their work and see if they collect in your local area, you can visit the Get Rid of and Donate website.

Could someone in your local area be interested in your things?

Nowadays, it’s easier than ever to find someone in your local community who’s interested in items you can’t, or no longer want to, keep.

Websites like Freecycle allow you to offer and collect items for free, and you can just as easily do the same on Facebook – either by joining local groups or setting up a (free) listing on Facebook Marketplace.

Could you digitise books, photos, and DVDs to save space?

Some of the most common things that we have taking up space in our homes are photos, books, and DVDs.

When it comes to photos, it’s worth asking yourself how important it is to you to keep physical copies as digitising your photo collection can be a great way to save space. It can also make it easier to search through your collection, and you’ll be able to access them portably from your phone or tablet.

If you enjoy collecting beautiful albums of your memories with family and friends, the prospect of getting rid of your hard work might seem unappealing – but it doesn’t have to be an either-or situation.

If you’ve got lots of loose photos that aren’t in frames or albums, why not digitise only those? This way, you don’t have to let go of your display collection, but you’ll save on the space taken up by the rest of your library. Plus, you’ll still be able to reprint any of your photos later if you want to display them.

If you want to digitise your photo collection, some services can do it for you. Vintage Photo Lab is a good choice as they collect your photos from anywhere in the UK, scan them, and then return them to you.

You can also download apps like PhotoScan, which allow you to do the job yourself via your smartphone camera.

If you need to discard photos, there are multiple ways to go about it. From selling them as craft supplies to donating them to local museums, this article from Zero Waste Week has some great ideas to help you out.

As well as photos, many of us will have sizable collections of DVDs lying around, and these are another prime candidate for downsizing. Chances are, the majority of the films and series on your shelf are now available on streaming services that you may already subscribe to. So, unless you’re a collector, there’s no harm in parting with physical copies.

The same goes for books: if your collection is a little cluttered, why not replace some of them with digital copies on services like Kindle? You don’t need to have an e-reader, as you can access e-books via a web browser or smartphone app.

And, just like with photos, you don’t need to give away your whole media collection. Even if you part with the majority of your books and DVDs, there’s no reason you can’t hold on to some of your favourites.

If you can’t find a new home for your unwanted DVDs, you can easily trade them in for cash or store credit at exchanges such as CeX and Music Magpie. Or, why not recycle them with the help of this guide from Recycle Now?

4. Decide how to dispose of unwanted items

Decide how you’re going to dispose of unwanted items

Inevitably, you’re going to end up with some stuff you won’t be able to find a new home for. For any clothing you can’t donate, you should be able to find clothing recycling bins in your local area – just use the handy search tool on the Recycle Now website.

When it comes to unwanted electronics, it’s best to trade these in at exchange stores like CeX (either online or in-store). They’ll often buy faulty items too, just at a discounted price

However, if you do need to throw away any old electronics, you can follow government guidelines for disposal. Since electronic devices can leak toxic chemicals over time (which can damage the soil), they can’t be left in landfills.

5. Remember that downsizing can be emotional

Remember that downsizing can be emotionall

Downsizing and decluttering can be a big task, so it can be easy to forget about its emotional impact on us.

One reason many of us end up with so many things is that we attach sentimental value to items.

Having to part with our belongings can prompt some difficult decisions. You might have to decide between different objects with important emotional histories, and it’s not always as simple as hanging onto everything you want.

In these cases, one of the best things we can do is to pass an item on – especially if it’s a family treasure you inherited. Continuing its journey to a new relative or friend is the best way to give you peace of mind if you can’t hold onto it yourself.

But, even if you can’t find someone you know personally to gift an heirloom, it’s better to see that it ends up in the hands of someone who’ll appreciate it, rather than throwing it away. This is especially true if you’re fortunate enough to get to know the recipient, as this will help you feel safe in the knowledge that your beloved item is going to a good home.

Sometimes, though, we don’t have the option to keep something or give it to someone we care about. In these cases, it’s best to look deeper and ask yourself why the item is so important to you.

If it reminds you of someone you love – whether they’re still with you or not – chances are they’d prefer you to treasure the memories associated with it, rather than stress yourself out over the object itself.

If you don’t want to keep an item but you’d like to retain the memory of it, you could take a photo of it to look back on should you wish to. Many people find this to be a great comfort.

Final thoughts…

Downsizing can be tricky, but we hope our advice can help make the process a little bit easier.

For more downsizing tips, you might want to check out our articles; Five questions to ask yourself if you’re considering downsizing your home and How to declutter and reorganise your home.

And, if your house move is approaching, you might find our list of four tips for a stress-free house move helpful.

Have you had any experience of downsizing your belongings? Or do you have any tips you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.