Downsizing: 8 Ways To Get Rid Of Your Stuff

One of the hardest and most emotional things when downsizing is to know what to do with all the stuff we are not taking to our new home. Here are smart ways to get rid of our stuff. Downsizing: 8 Ways To Get Rid Of Your Stuff is part of a series on Downsizing The Smart Way.
downsizing-dining area

How do we get rid of everything we can’t take with us when we downsize? This is one of the biggest questions, issues, decisions, and concerns that cause downsizers angst!

How do we get rid of our belongings when we move to a home with smaller spaces? Some things are easy to get rid of like the clutter we have collected over the years. But other things that are expensive or hold sentimental meaning to us can be painfully hard!

I’ve been there and gone through all the decisions and emotions of letting go and getting rid of so many things I loved! Things I could not take to our Tanglewood house.

Balancing the practical and emotional sides of letting go of things is like walking on a tightrope! Staying centered between knowing what we can’t take with us and not letting our emotions derail us is the goal.

Today let’s talk about the practical aspect of how to get rid of all the stuff we can’t take with us to our downsized home.

A FEW THINGS TO DETERMINE FIRST

downsizing- white buffet

Downsizing is a huge job! Every space from the attic to the basement must be cleaned out!

All the content of every closet, every drawer (even that junk drawer), every dresser, and every storage space must be addressed! Not a space in our homes can be overlooked. And every possession must be dealt with!

As we start going through all the things in our home to cull and curate what will go with us to our new place, think about these four things…

THE SENTIMENTAL VALUE

This is probably the hardest category of things in our homes to deal with when we are thinking about things that we can’t take with us when downsizing.

So let’s chat about this first.

When I was going through all of the things in our home I was particularly aware of what things held sentimental value to me.

The emphasis was on the word ME.

It is important to acknowledge that your stuff has lots and lots of value to you even if it does not to others. And believe me, items you hold dear may not (and probably won’t) be held in the same way by others in your family.

If you have just a couple small things that have lots of sentimental value then you can probably take them with you. However, what about all the other things that tug at your heartstrings that won’t fit in your new home?

Realistically you probably can’t take everything you love to your downsized home.

When I was downsizing the things that held sentimental value to me were things like my children’s artwork and photographs. I had boxes and boxes of them and my kids did not want them. I was shocked they did not want to fill up their homes with reports on volcanos and stories about magical bunnies!

So I decided to take lots of pictures of the most sentimental school papers and make a book using the images! I took the book to our new home and this book holds so many precious memories for me!

WHAT IS IT WORTH

Another thing to determine when downsizing is what an item is worth. Is the oriental dining room rug in your living room worth $15,000.00 or $500.00?

Is the beautiful rice-carved bed in your master bedroom worth $6,000.00 or $450.00 or not much at all.

This might help you decide how you might dispose of an item in your home.

IS THERE A PLACE FOR “IT” IN MY DOWNSIZED HOME

downsizing- curlacue chest

Oh, this is such an important thing to think about! And this is where we have to be very very practical!

It would be a nightmare if on moving day, because we could not part with our things, we ended up with a cramped and crowded home full of too much stuff! UGH!

We just can’t take it all with us, friend! Downsizing is called downsizing because we are not only downsizing our homes but the things in them too!

If you are taking items from your home with you to your downsized home only take things that will help you have a comfortable, curated, and spacious home.

In the StoneGable dining room, I had a beautiful concrete topped dining room table and six gorgeous French cross backed chairs I just loved! And when I say loved, it was a big understatement!

I wanted them to go with us to the Tanglewood house more than any other things! But the reality was they were just too big and would not fit. This caused me a great deal of angst and even tears!

But the reality was… they just would not fit!

I like the story of Goldilocks. It has lots of decorating wisdom hidden in its pages. Goldilocks although a silly girl for breaking into a home, was smart to look for things that were “just right”. When we downsize we need to only take things that will be “just right” for our home no matter what!

WILL IT WORK WITH MY NEW HOME

downsizing- white buffet

When I was talking to a lovely, decorator and acquaintance about moving to our downsized home she said to sell everything and buy all new. Well, that might be a great idea but not a practical one for me.

If you don’t have the budget, like me, to buy all new things for your downsized home you will have to decide if the things you are taking with you will work in your new home.

You should determine the style you will be decorating your new home in and your downsized home’s color palette. Then use these two things, decorating style and color palette, as a filter for everything you want to take with you.

This is probably the best advice you will get! Do this and you will end up with a home that is cohesive and curated.

You might have a few bare spots in your home like I did, but I eventually filled them with beautiful new furniture.

Because our new home is a Transitional style and has a warm neutral color palette, it was easy to determine what things were coming with us to Tanglewood.

Yes, there were a few things that I really wanted to take but were primarily the wrong style and color so I let them go. And yes, this was hard but I’m so glad I let practicality guide my decisions.

MENTALLY ORGANIZE YOUR THINGS INTO A FEW CATEGORIES THAT WILL HELP YOU

Keep these categories in mind when sifting through all the things in your home.

GIVE THINGS TO A FAMILY MEMBER

downsizing- dining room table

The things we can’t take with us to our new space and think have some financial or sentimental value are most often the things we want to gift to family members.

Here is a bit of downsizing wisdom. Don’t be surprised or hurt if a family member does not want your things. Even if they are the most precious things to you.

Most of the time, our family members don’t want our stuff. Even if it is a family heirloom.

Times have changed. The way we buy furniture and what we put in our homes are so different today! It’s just the way things are!

For the most part, the younger generation’s idea of furniture and other home decor is different from their parents and grandparents. They don’t want bulky, matching brown furniture (so sorry). And they don’t want wedding china or silver because they don’t use it!

Our children live differently. And furnishings we hold so precious are not precious to them.

We, downsizers, must realize that WE are not being rejected. It’s just that our things don’t fit into our children’s lifestyle.

A COMMON EXPERIENCE

My children did take my Pottery Barn slipcovered sofa and the West Elm off-white sectional but passed on the four-poster bed and the red oriental rug and the gorgeous cross backed French dining chairs.

My mother found it extremely hard when we did not want some of her things. And I understand why. She and Daddy worked very hard to buy quality, beautiful items for our home and lovingly took the best care of them! Mom poured her time and effort into keeping everything clean and polished and lovely.

My kids did not want my beautiful china, but I did not want my mom’s. I did however want my grandmother’s and my mom’s silver. My kids did not!

The Pottery Barn round table, yes, please. The other furniture, no thanks!

I began to see a theme. Unless the furniture was new-ish and more trendy my kids did take home to furnish their nests. But the more traditional things, not so much!

Here’s the reality for my mom and me and anyone wanting to give things from our homes to our kids is… they probably don’t want our stuff and cannot use it! It’s not personal. It’s practical!

And who could blame them! Why did they want my stuff and style furnishing their home?

Let’s be gracious to understand this and not burden or guilt our kids into taking our stuff that doesn’t work in their lives.

GIVE THINGS TO SOMEONE OTHER THAN FAMILY

downsizing- white spindle chairs

Let’s head outside the realm of our family. Another way to get rid of things we cannot take with us to our downsized home is to give to someone other than family.

There is a big, wide world out there and others may want your stuff! Maybe not your mahogany dining room set, but maybe your dishes or cross backed chairs!

Think about letting it be known among your circle of friends that you have a bookcase or silverplate utensils you are willing to give away. Just maybe, a friend of a friend is looking for a bookcase or dying to own silverplate utensils for their home.

I think of giving things away as blessing someone else. I LOVE to give things away!

Have a happy, gracious, and giving mindset. If you can’t use it bless someone else who could.

SELL IT

Selling the things we can’t take with us when downsizing is a great option if you don’t want to give something away!

There is a big difference between how much we paid for something and how much others will pay for it. So don’t be shocked when something you paid a lot of $$$$ for goes for $!

Here are some of the most common places to sell home items…

  • local thrift shops
  • vintage shops
  • online community pages like Facebook Marketplace
  • Craigslist
  • Nextdoor
  • Decluttrr (mostly for electronics)
  • eBay
  • OfferUp

Consignment shops are another way to sell your things! Go online beforehand to see their rules and what they are taking. They usually take gently worn things that are in good condition like clothing, sports equipment, household items, baby equipment, home decor, and more!

Vintage Shops will often take some pretty quirky things. People collect the funniest things like mementos and old Christmas ornaments.

GIVE IT TO A CHARITY

vignette

Here’s another one of my favorite ways to get rid of nice, gently used things! Give it to a charity.

Many charities like Goodwill will give you a tax deduction voucher. Federal Law allows for some tax deduction on items we donate. Make sure to ask the organization you donate to about tax deductions.

Here are some places to take (or have them pick up) your home items…

  • the Salvation Army- best for picking up almost anything
  • Habitat For Humanity- best for home furnishings and building supplies
  • Goodwill- best for clothing, but I find they take almost anything
  • 1-800 Got Junk?- they will find a charity for your furniture- there is a charge for pick up
  • Furniture Bank- works similar to 1-800 Got Junk?
  • Valor- helping furnish Veteran’s homes
  • AmVets- helping veterans
  • The Arc- helping the disabled
  • PickUpMyDonations.com- helps connect you with non-profit thrift stores
  • Dress For Success- take professional clothing like dresses, suites, purses, and shoes to help women dress for interviews

Other places to contact to donate home goods are men’s and woman’s shelters and other homeless shelters.

Many vets or animal shelters will take things like towels and blankets as well as unopened dog and cat food and gently used leashes, pet toys, and office supplies.

Contact churches in the area. They are often looking for home furnishings for those who are in need.

Remember to ask for and save your receipts because some things are tax deductible.

HAVE A GARAGE SALE OR YARD SALE

As if we don’t have enough to do when we downsize! But if you have the time and the energy have a big yard sale!

Advertise your yard or garage sale and have fun!

TRASH IT

mantel and chair

Obviously, there is probably a lot of junk and unwanted items that will need to be purged. You will be surprised!

No matter how good of a homemaker you are or how neat and organized your home is there are just things you will have to throw away! Downsizing gives us the opportunity to get rid of all the trash and junk in our lives so we can start fresh!

THROWING AWAY FURNITURE

It is always better to sell or give away home furnishings, especially furniture! 19.6 billion pounds of furniture end up in landfills every year! Just think of that!

What a shame when we could be helping others with their basic need for furniture!

However, broken beyond repair or stained furniture might have to be thrown away.

In some areas, you can buy tags from your local refuse provider for removing unusable or beyond repair furniture and appliances. It’s worth asking what they will take away.

PAPER CLUTTER

Paper piles up. Paper clutter and other paperwork are something we will have to deal with when downsizing! Some papers we can safely throw away but we must be very careful what papers go in the trash!

Anything with your information like your name, address, phone number, tax info, bank account numbers, credit card info, health records and information, and any other private information about you, your family, your finance, and your health needs to be shredded!

Also know where your important papers like your birth certificate, social security card, insurance documents, etc are! You don’t want to accidentally throw them away. Keep them together in a safe place.

WHAT NOT TO THROW AWAY

Here are some things you should never throw away in the trash…

  • cell phones
  • a hard drive
  • any hazardous materials
  • batteries
  • aerosol cans
  • paint
  • tires
  • electronics
  • motor oil
  • construction debris
  • appliances
  • fluorescence light bulbs
  • medicine or other medical supplies
  • and anything harmful to the environment or people

You can look up online the best way to get rid of these things.

ABOUT GOING THE AUCTION ROUTE

bookshelf

When you are downsizing your home you may think about having an auction house help you sell your home furnishings. These are usually professionals that know the tricks of the trade and can move items quickly.

This is an easy way to purge the nicer things in your home that you can’t give away to family or other people.

The upside to going the auction house route is that they will come and take your things away. The downside is you usually don’t make much money and lots of your stuff may be rejected by them.

However, every auction company is different so it might be worth a call if you have beautiful furnishings and/or antiques.

FINDING A JUNK DEALER

A junk dealer will usually take your things (often anything) away for a minimal price and then try to sell them to different auctions or tag sales and give you a cut of the sales.

Every junk dealer is different.

Because auctions are huge in our area we went this route for the things we could not give to family or others or charities, or sell.

I was seriously surprised at the actual junk our junk man took! He literally cleaned out what was left over!

For us, it was not about making money but was about a smart way to get rid of what we thought no one else would want. Apparently, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure!

I hope this has helped you if you are thinking of downsizing or just wanting to clean out your home.

Please share if you have any stories or suggestions about how to get rid of things you can’t take with you to a new downsized home.

YOU MIGHT LIKE TO READ MORE ABOUT DOWNSIZING…

downsizing- coffee table

OUR DOWNSIZING STORY, PART 1

OUR DOWNSIZING STORY, PART 2

OUR DOWNSIZING STORY, THE FINALE

10 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT DOWNSIZING

HOW TO DEAL WITH THE EMOTIONS OF DOWNSIZING

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22 Comments

  1. My granddaughter was here yesterday and she went through our home and actually took photos of the items we will be taking with us when we downsize. I plan on asking the movers to put a large sofa and some wing chairs out to the road for our big trash pickup that occurs once a month. We will be purchasing a new sofa and chairs for our new living room and have them delivered to the new house. We already had someone come and remove a hutch top, large leather chairs, etc. I think we paid $250 for this service. These were items we simply couldn’t lift ourselves. We also have discovered Goodwill will take just about anything. We donated our wedding service for 12 recently. We hadn’t taken it out of the hutch for 15 years! Our daughter didn’t want it, as she has my mother’s china service that she doesn’t want! I don’t want to go to the bother of trying to sell items, and don’t relish having to deal with people coming to our home. I also don’t have the time to commit to the process. This whole downsizing movement started 2 years ago so it was easier that way rather than trying to do too much at once, and this can be overwhelming. I have loved your downsizing series.

      1. I work at a local furniture and home decor consignment shop. I second your comment on there being a big difference between what YOU paid for an item and what someone is willing to pay for that item today. This is especially true for art, formal dining pieces and rugs. We don’t even accept TV armoires or fine china. You can figure to be paid out about 40%-50% of what the item eventually sold for. It’s a great way to recycle and recoup some of your investment, just don’t have overly high expectations. Thanks for the article!

  2. Can’t say enough about this article.
    It has helped me emotionally so much.
    Letting go of things is really hard.
    Thank you so much.
    It just made sense to me for keeping or letting go.
    I love the picture book idea of sentimental things.
    Thank you again!
    Lynda Groves

  3. I absolutely love your downsizing series. It has helped me so much as we navigate cleaning out a basement and attic. The comment that had the buggiest impact is “ don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t want your stuff”! Our son surprised me though when he wanted my grandmothers buffet. I will want a whole different style in my home when we do downsize and the buffet just doesn’t make the cut. Thank you again!

  4. My father recently passed away and my mother moved into Assisted Living. Emptying a home they resided for 47 years was a monumental task. Our family took the few things they wanted and soooo much was left behind. We were overwhelmed with how to get rid of it all- antique furniture, china, collectibles and vintage clothing from their late 1800’s as well as so much more. I thought an estate sale that took 45% was ridiculous, however I was so very wrong. The ladies I hired not only staged it all beautifully, but advertised to over 30,000 people. There was a line of people waiting to get in on the first day. They made more money than I could possibly have imagined for our mom. Best decision ever!

  5. I think you covered it all! A year and a half before we even knew we would be moving, I adopted the motto, “live like you’re moving”. And systematically went through every space, drawer, files/filing cabinet, closet, decor and garage and dejunked/downsized them. Questions – “if it’s stuffed in a drawer, what’s the value of keeping it?” Find a way to display it or let it go. “If my kids don’t want it, why am I hanging on to it?”

    When we actually did move and downsize, I traded furniture with my kids or found homes for other pieces. For example, I traded my piano for my daughter’s keyboard which is in our office now.

    Because I had made all those tough decisions before our unexpected moving opportunity, it was a breeze – in fact I wasn’t even in town for moving day due to a previously scheduled girl trip! And I still had two empty drawers in my kitchen when I unpacked.

    Sorry this is long – I had the thought last night to send my soon-to-be 100 yr old mother, her journals so she could read them. They have just been sitting on a closet shelf.

  6. My husband and I are going to downsize in 4-5 years, so are starting to clear things, though slowly. So far, what has worked for us, is sticking things out front, with a FREE sign. 90% has been taken, with a few thank you note left on our front door.

  7. Another great post about downsizing. You have given me a few ideas I didn’t think about. I have been using Buy Nothing and have found so many appreciative folks. It is a site intended to keep things out of our landfills. Like you our two adult sons are not interested in a lot of our things. Fortunately I have many adult nieces and nephews to reach out too. Some are the norm and want the new but there are a handful that want the older pieces and items. Makes me happy. Recently gave my niece a shadow box displaying a beautiful christening gown my mom hand made for a porcelain doll. The French seams and impeccable stitching and embellishments warranted a proper display. Even though I know I would have a walk to display it I have enjoyed it for over 15 years. I reached out to my nieces and within a few minutes one said please. Warmed my heart to know it will bring her the joy it has given me.

    Please keep the posts coming on downsizing. We had a bit of a setback on our plan with a few health challenges but hope to transition by June of next year.

    1. I know! It’s sad when no one wants something that has been in your family for generations. Ask all your family. The reality is that things like silver might not be important to them. I’d take the silver!!!!!

    2. My sister who is almost 80 and my brother and his wife in their early 70’s found that their kids did not want any of the family and wedding gift silver. They took it to a jewelry store known for buying silver and gold and were able to help grandkids with tuition for college. Something to think about. Just check out their reputation.

  8. I love your article about downsizing. I think it really does help to try to declutter monthly and start working on it earlier rather than later.

    Could you please let me know where you purchased your beautiful white spindle chairs? I’ve been admiring them since I started following your site. I promise I will get rid of 2 chairs if I purchase them.

    Thanks for all you do. You help so many people.

    Carrie

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