Empty Nester's Guide

How to Downsize Your House: An Empty Nester’s Guide

If you’ve just returned from dropping your children off at a university, or they graduated in May and are officially out of the house for good, downsizing your space might be on your radar.

Selling a large home and moving into a smaller one not only holds the promise of making life easier to manage, it can also be more cost effective. But if you’ve been in your current home for a couple decades, you’ve likely amassed a lot of stuff. When is the last time you cleaned out your attic or garage?

The key to downsizing effectively is taking a systematic approach to planning your move and organizing the space. Here are some tips.

Happy woman giving boxes to her husband while they are moving

Declutter First, Slowly

Getting rid of things you no longer need or want isn’t for the faint of heart. To manage the process of first reviewing your stuff, use these tips:

  • Tackle cleaning out spaces slowly over time. You don’t have to tackle the basement and the linen closet on the same day.
  • Make three piles: “Keep,” “Donate” and “Trash.” Don’t make a “Maybe” pile or many of your belongings are bound to end up there.
  • Decide if you want to include a “Sell” pile (only if you actually intend to sell items). If you do, give yourself a strict deadline.
  • To help you make decisions, ask yourself questions like, “When is the last time I used this?” and “What purpose will this serve in my new home?” If you can’t remember the answer to the first question or you don’t have an answer to the second question, it might be time to part ways.
  • Choose where you’ll donate what you no longer need. There are many options depending on what you have to donate. Before making the trip, reach out to the organization to make sure they’ll take what you have to offer—some donation centers prohibit specific items.

Use Space Wisely

If you’ve made the decision to downsize, you might be concerned about keeping your new space clutter-free—whether it’s a smaller house, a condo or an apartment.

To make the most out of less space, use it wisely and consider storage options which make the most out of your closets.

  • More hanging storage

    If you’ve got small reach-in closets with one rod and a shelf, you can likely add a second rod to double hanging storage for your clothes.

Wardrobe doors open to reveal hanging storage and shelves

  • Hooks and racks

    Add hooks behind the door or on the side wall of your reach-in closet or in your walk-in closet to hang bags or accessories. This is also a good spot to add a tie rack or belt rack so you’re not taking up valuable space elsewhere in your closet.

    Belt rack with 5 hooks and 3 belts hanging neatly

  • Shelves and cubbies

    Adding shelves and cubbies to a reach-in or linen closet is an excellent way to add storage that helps you avoid piling items on top of items, which can quickly contribute to clutter.

custom wardrobe with closet shelves

If these solutions seem appealing to you, you could also go with a completely custom solution, where a professional Designer reviews the space and helps you maximize it. It’s a better way to ensure that all of your things have a place in your new, more compact home.

Think Multipurpose

Beyond considering where you’ll keep all of your stuff, it makes sense to think multipurpose when downsizing. The spaces in your new home—and the furniture in those spaces—can pull double duty so you can get more out of them.

For example, choose an ottoman that doubles as a storage bin. Consider a kitchen island with cubbies on the side for small appliances or cook books. Maximize under-bed storage with containers or a bed with drawers below it.

And when it comes to sleeping arrangements, you can opt for a sofa bed or even a Murphy bed.

Custom cabinets with pull down murphy bed

Murphy beds are more comfortable than sofa beds because they incorporate a typical mattress that you could buy at any store rather than a thin one made just for a sofa.

They also provide flexibility: Murphy beds fold down from the wall only when they’re needed. Custom solutions can include storage around them such as shelves, cabinets and drawers. And, depending on the room, a Murphy bed can be incorporated into other custom furniture such as a desk in a home office.

That’s how one Closet Works customer added more function to a space after moving to a smaller home:

“The Closet Works designed a home office/Murphy bed combo for my husband and I when we downsized and moved into what had been our second home in Cape May County, NJ. It was and continues to be one of the best home decor decisions that we’ve ever made. The room functions as an office day to day, but accommodates guests as needed.”

If you’re downsizing and you need help with storage and organization, reach out to us. We’ll have one of our pros help you design a custom solution.

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