What to Save, Donate, or Toss When Downsizing

What to Save, Donate, or Toss When Downsizing

Downsizing from a larger home to a smaller residence is a great decision for a variety of reasons, from cheaper housing costs to less time spent cleaning the entire house, but it also means having less space to store all of the belongings you’ve accumulated over the years. Sometimes, there is so much stuff that it seems like an insurmountable task to go through and determine what should be saved, donated, or discarded, much less where to begin.

Breaking down the project into smaller parts and starting with the easiest items, can help you gain the momentum and energy needed to tackle larger projects, like clothing. For example, the junk drawer in the kitchen or living room is a great place to start.

To help you successfully downsize your home, here is a general guide on which items should be saved and which should go.

What to Save.

The good news is that not everything you own should be tossed out the window when it comes to downsizing: there are many items that should be kept not just because they’re useful or a necessity in your life, but because they add joy and brighten your day. If an item falls into one (or more) of the following categories, then you should probably save it:

  • Contains high sentimental value (for example: something that has been in the family for generations)
  • Fills a specific need, function, or purpose (for example: a special foam pillow that helps alleviate pain in your back)
  • Is used on a daily basis (for example: glasses, indoor loafers, your favorite drinking mug, silverware, etc.)

In case you’re still unsure about what to keep, the following is a general list of which items are a good idea to save when downsizing:

  • Items with sentimental value
  • Photographs (particularly if you don’t plan on digitizing them)
  • Important documents (birth records, marriage documents, mortgage files, anything needed to file taxes, etc.)
  • Fine or heirloom jewelry
  • Small and multifunctional furniture
  • Electronics (personal laptop, phone, television, etc.)
  • Landline phones (in case of emergency, having a landline phone at the ready is advised)
  • Collections (if you’ve spent a lifetime collecting baseball cards, then that collection is not only valuable but sentimental and should be saved)
  • Emergency supplies
  • Basic kitchen and bathroom supplies
  • Unexpired medication and toiletries

What to Donate or Ditch.

Before trashing an item, take a look at it and consider if it can be donated, sold, or recycled. By selling unwanted items, you can make some extra cash to help with the rest of the downsizing process. If your neighborhood has a massive yearly garage sale, try timing your downsizing so you have the opportunity to sell items then. Otherwise, websites such as Craigslist are a great and convenient way to sell old and used items. You can also consider local consignment shops or donate to Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc. If you donate a sufficient amount, you can write it off on your taxes.

And if none of these avenues appeal to you, but you still want to get rid of the item without throwing it away, consider giving it to a family member or friend so that it can be cherished properly. (As the saying goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure!”)

The following is a general list of which items are good (and relatively easy) to get rid of when downsizing:

  • Anything that can be digitized
    • Photographs (this is up to the individual: keeping the physical photographs may mean more to you, so by all means, keep what brings joy to your life, but it is also a good idea to digitize photographs in case the physical versions are lost or destroyed)
    • CDs
    • Movies (DVDs, VHS, etc.)
    • Old receipts (if you need to keep these for tax or accounting purposes, then do so; otherwise shred them and trash them)
  • Anything that hasn’t been used in the last year or so
    • Clothes (such as logo t-shirts that you never wear, items that you or your children have outgrown or are so ratty you couldn’t imagine wearing them ever again, and that no on else in the family can use, socks that are missing the matching one, etc.)
    • Toys (especially broken toys)
    • General household goods
  • Miscellaneous knickknacks
    • Magazines and newspapers
    • Flyers or other random items that people hand out on the street or give to you as you pass by them in the convention or fair
    • Old and/or junk mail
    • Metal hangers from the dry cleaner
  • Incomplete sets
    • Incomplete Tupperware sets (missing lids or containers)
    • Souvenir plastic cups with missing straws or other components
    • Puzzles that are missing pieces
  • Garbage Collections
    • Anything that does not fall under the category of a collectable item and is typically thrown away after use (cardboard tubes, bottle caps, clothing tags, empty glass bottles or jars, etc.)
  • Old, outdated, broken, and/or unused appliances
    • Kitchen appliances that you never use or that you have used less than five times since owning
    • Be sure to clear out all your personal information on electronics (such as computers and extra cellphones) before tossing them, and watch for recycling events for these items. Erasure of personal data is usually included.
  • Dishes that you don’t use, such as coffee mugs and other souvenir drinkware
  • Old and/or expired cosmetics and toiletries
  • Anything that is past its expiration date
  • Sports or camping gear that you’ve never used
  • Bags and luggage that you no longer use

Not Sure? Think On It.

In the end, what to keep and what to toss or discard depends entirely on what you know is most important to you and what you feel you can live without. If you’re not sure whether you should keep something or toss it out, set it aside and think on it for a few days.

In some cases, sharing with others the story of how you acquired the item, or how it came to be in your family, its history, and its current meaning to you can help you figure out where the item belongs in life—with you, or with a family member or friend. Take it one drawer at a time, and soon you’ll have the whole house downsized!

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