9 Steps to Downsizing and Prepping for a Big Move

For most people, just the thought of moving from a larger home to a smaller one can be overwhelming. Since most of us don’t have a lot of experience in this area, we can be at a loss as to where to begin. In addition, sifting through a lifetime of possessions can be emotionally taxing as we decide what will fit into our new space. But we have help. Read on for a big-picture snapshot of what’s involved in downsizing your home for a move, as our guide goes over the major points.

1. Deciding what to pack, donate, sell or toss. This is by far the hardest part of downsizing. Depending on your energy level, the size of your home, the number of possessions you have and how quickly you make decisions, you might want to start this process six months to a year before you plan to move.
Many of us have accumulated a lifetime of things that we don’t know what to do with. You may want to enlist the help of a family member, friend or professional home organizer to keep you focused and motivated. Another set of eyes can help you decide what you truly need and what you can let go.
Some people work better if they make decisions based on categories, such as clothes, books or household items. Others like to tackle the job one room at a time. Whichever method works for you, try to give yourself plenty of time for this project.
2. Giving items to family and friends. When deciding what you want to give to family and friends, check with them first to make sure they really want them. Then arrange a time a few months before moving day to remove the items from your home so you have less to contend with. Resist the urge to gift items to someone who doesn’t truly want them. This will just cause problems for them down the road when they downsize their own homes.
3. Holding a yard sale or alternative. Although many of my clients enlist the services of an estate sale company after the moving van has come and gone, some like to try to sell items themselves before they move. This can be a lot of work, but it may be worthwhile for some folks who don’t want to pay an estate sale company. If this is the case for you, plan to hold your sale a few months before you move. Here are a few things to consider as you decide whether a yard sale is right for you:
• You might make a bigger profit if an experienced estate sale agent handles the sale for you.
• Watching your beloved possessions sell for pennies on the dollar at a yard sale can be emotionally trying.
• A yard sale can be a lot of work. You’ll need to advertise the sale, price items, haul everything out to the yard and sit outside for hours while people haggle over your belongings.
• You might make more money by taking the tax deduction associated with donating the items to charity.
• If you live in an area with unpredictable weather, an unexpected rainstorm might keep shoppers away and potentially ruin some of your belongings.
• If you live off the beaten path and don’t have a lot of traffic flow in your area, you might not make much money.
As an alternative, one of my clients invited neighbors and friends over on a particular day to select books, furniture and household items they might want or need. In exchange, they made a charitable donation to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. I thought this was a touching idea that left everyone feeling good about the transaction.


4. Scheduling a donation pickup. Many charities will send a truck to gather items curbside, but keep in mind that not all will accept furniture. Before you drag an unneeded sofa to the street, consider researching charities in your area that actually pick up furniture. Also, double-check to make sure the donation to your favorite organization is tax-deductible — and always ask for a receipt.


5. Dealing with trash. Unfortunately, the landfill may be the only option for items you can’t give away, sell or donate — items that are stained, worn-out or broken beyond repair. Please consider the landfill only as a last resort, exclusively for items that have reached the end of their useful life.

Many local disposal service companies will provide a small dumpster annually at no added cost, while a large dumpster is an additional expense. Check with your local service. Alternatively, a hauling service can be hired to take items to the dump.

6. Packing for your move. Ideally, once you’ve reached this point, you’re left only with the things you’re packing or selling at an estate sale. Consider marking all estate sale items with blue tape so there’s no confusion when the movers arrive.
Many professional home organizers provide packing services. If your budget allows this option, it will save you significant time. If you’re packing yourself, consider starting to pack nonessential items like home decor, books and craft supplies four to six weeks before moving day, depending on your energy level and volume of belongings. Label boxes by room and briefly list their contents. That way, the movers can easily deliver boxes to the appropriate rooms in your new home.
Some of my clients have the option of staying in a hotel or with friends or family for a few nights before the move, while their kitchen, bathroom and laundry supplies are being packed. This can eliminate a lot of confusion. If you don’t have this luxury, you might consider eating out or using disposable plates and utensils for a few days so all of your kitchen items can be packed.
7. Packing your suitcases. A few days before the movers arrive, I recommend packing a suitcase for yourself and each family member, as if you were going on a trip. Your bags should contain toiletries, medications and clothing for approximately a week. Plan to live out of this suitcase for a few days before and after the move.
8. Getting through moving day. This is the day the van arrives and moves your possessions — hopefully now packed and labeled — to your new home. It might be a good idea to have a close friend, family member or professional organizer with you to help keep things running smoothly and provide an extra set of hands. If you’re moving locally, you may want to have a friend help you unpack a few boxes of essential kitchen items and linens in your new home before the movers arrive. This can help you feel less overwhelmed when the unopened boxes get there.


9. Having an estate sale. After your house has been vacated, consider scheduling an estate sale. Your real estate agent will likely be able to recommend a reputable company in your area. Fees can range from 20 percent to 45 percent of the proceeds, depending on the services provided. The cost will most likely include taking inventory of items, organizing, staging, researching prices, advertising, marketing and holding the sale.
After the sale is over, most companies will get rid of unsold goods for you. Many partner with a local charity to clear out items appropriate for donation, and some also arrange trash-hauling services for an additional charge.
After the sale, your old home should be free of unwanted belongings and debris. Before you sign a contract, carefully read the scope of work so you know exactly what to expect. The lowest bid may not in fact be the best deal, so be sure to review the details. Although the fee may be daunting, an estate sale company can save you time and effort and potentially net you a bigger profit than selling your belongings yourself would.

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How to Protect Your Belongings During a Move

By: Laura Gaskill

From nicks in that fresh paint job to broken chair legs and sofas stuck in stairwells, there are lots of things that can go awry during a move. Thankfully, with some thoughtful preventive measures (and lots of padding), it is possible to get from old house to new with all your belongings in one piece — and hopefully with no dings in those freshly painted walls either.

1. Declutter first. It’s been said before, but it’s worth repeating: If you don’t want to keep it, you shouldn’t bother moving it. Preparing for a move is an ideal time to declutter, so take advantage and let go of items you no longer love or use. The less stuff you have to move, the quicker it will be to pack and unpack, and the less your move will cost. In addition, when the total amount of stuff to move isn’t quite so overwhelming, you’re a lot less likely to revert to the “just dump everything in a box!” mentality that seems to afflict just about everyone in the final hours before the movers arrive.
2. Measure large furniture, door openings and stairwells. Your furniture may have fit into your current home without a hitch, but that doesn’t mean it will be as easy to move into the new place. Among the moves of my immediate family and close friends alone, I have seen sofas get jammed in stairwells (twice) and a much-loved cabinet left behind because it simply wouldn’t fit through the door. Don’t let that be you.

3. Use corner protectors on mirrors and art. Fragile mirrors and picture frames need to be treated with care. Ideally, use a mirror- or picture-packing kit that comes with foam corner protectors, and follow the instructions that come with your kit. Once you have the corners secured, place the mirror or frame in a mirror or picture box and fill any empty space with paper. If you have a lot of artwork, framed photographs and other delicate items, it’s a good idea to start packing up your collection early so you can take your time and do it right.
4. Completely cover furniture with pads or moving blankets. It may seem like something that’s OK to skimp on, but covering your furniture well can make the difference between your treasured pieces arriving in perfect condition … and arriving scuffed, torn or otherwise damaged. You can also purchase rolls of plastic wrapping material, but pads and blankets offer more protection for extra-delicate and upholstered items.
5. Detach small parts and store them together. Life in a moving van is rough on your belongings. Items knock into each other, and the first things to sustain damage are usually the little bits. Whenever you are able to safely remove the legs, handles or small protruding parts of a piece of furniture, do so. Wrap up the parts and keep them together in a labeled bag inside or taped to the furniture it came from.

6. Use the right box for the job. The heavier the item, the smaller the box is a good rule of thumb to follow when packing. A large box filled with heavy items is likely to either fall apart or injure the person carrying it, and boxes left too empty can leave their contents vulnerable to breakage. Choose the right box for the item you’re packing, and fill in the empty space with paper or packing peanuts.
7. Protect floors and stairs with nonslip runners. There will be a lot of foot traffic in your home on moving day. Protect your floors and prevent slips and falls by rolling out nonslip runners in high-traffic areas. Your moving company may have reusable nonslip runners, or you may purchase nonslip self-adhesive plastic floor coverings to protect your floors in key areas. If you have a large area of flooring that you would like to protect (such as wall-to-wall light-colored carpeting) a self-adhesive plastic floor covering is probably your best bet.

8. Protect door frames with padding. Even the most careful movers will sometimes bump into a tight door frame when passing through with a large piece of furniture. Covering the door frame at the main entrance is a smart preventive measure. Some movers come equipped with doorjamb protectors, or you can rent or purchase your own in advance. These covers contain flexible spring clamps that attach to the door easily without causing damage.
9. Leave specialty items to a specialist. Planning to move a piano, hot tub, appliances or another large or heavy item? Be sure you discuss the specifics with your movers in advance, as they will probably need to bring special equipment and allow extra time to handle it. And although it should probably go without saying, do not attempt to move a piano on your own.


10. Be sure there’s a clear, close spot to park the moving van. Not only will this help avoid long-carry fees, having a clear space to park the moving van means less of a chance for accidental damage to occur on the way in and out. A sturdy ramp placed on a level surface is important for safe moving — both for the movers and your belongings.
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How to Work With a Professional Organizer

By: Alison Hogdson
My friend Jane is one of those peculiar people who gets energy from pulling order out of chaos. She owns and runs a bed-and-breakfast in her home, a hundred-year-old Georgian mansion. Her kitchen is a wonder of organization; even her label maker is labeled. After we completely remodeled our kitchen, I told her I would love her expert help in organizing it, but it was only years later, after my epiphany about decluttering, that we actually made it happen.
My kitchen wasn’t even in terrible shape. The counters were clear, there wasn’t a ton of clutter, and I actually had some systems in place, but I knew Jane would help me maximize the space. Eleven hours later, the kitchen was completely reorganized, as was the tiny pantry and small linen closet down the hall as well as my bathroom vanity, because this led to that and that and that.
At the end of the day, I was exhausted, but I knew I never wanted to even consider organizing a room without Jane leading the charge. She was a force of nature, but effective. After that we went room by room, every few weeks or so, decluttering and reorganizing until the day my house burned down.
Jane and I couldn’t be any different if we tried, but we worked well together for a variety of reasons. Here are the qualities I recommend looking for in a gifted friend or professional organizer.

The organizer “gets” you. Jane is a reader and has a huge personal library, so I knew she wouldn’t fight me about my books. Her butler’s pantry is larger than many kitchens and is filled with crystal, glass and china. She loves antiques and understands sentimental attachment to things, so there again I knew she wouldn’t pressure me to get rid of everything, but help me to prioritize and organize.
Indefatigable energy. Decluttering is exhausting work, physically and mentally. As I said before, some people get energy from pulling order out of chaos, and this is a nonnegotiable. There will be moments (hours!) when you want to crawl into the fetal position because the job is so overwhelming, but this is just when a naturally organized person is getting fired up and gaining momentum.
A sense of humor. This is for all parties involved. If there is ever a time you need to be able to laugh, it’s when you are knee deep in bags and boxes and the end of it all is nowhere in sight.
Creativity and flexibility. Jane’s passion is “systems,” which are personal routines that establish and maintain order. We had to find compromises between her suggestions for an ideal world and our day-to-day living as a family with several members not naturally organized — one of whom is me!
Basic respect and kindness. To put it delicately, Jane is not a social worker, and her attitude is often, “What is wrong with you?” — which isn’t always helpful. I came into decluttering with a healthy self image; I knew I was bringing many things to the table, but organizing was not one of them. I also knew that Jane cared about me and thought a lot of me in general. Mutual respect overall is imperative.

Just as important as finding a good fit with a friend or professional is making sure you’re ready. Ask yourself a couple of questions:
Am I willing to try something new? If you meet every suggestion with, “That won’t work,” you aren’t going to benefit from the other person’s wisdom. You may think you’re being practical, but it’s really a form of defensiveness. “Try it on,” as the life coaches say. Before you reject a new way of doing something, try to imagine how it could work and then refine it for you and your family if necessary.
Am I willing to get rid of a lot of stuff? Of course there are exceptions to this; you know who you are, and please carry on. But by and large, most of us have too much junk. It doesn’t matter how much you paid for it or how priceless it is, sentimentally speaking. If it’s covered with dust and stacked in a pile — and you are overwhelmed — you need to get rid of it or a lot of other things to create adequate space.
If you can’t emphatically answer yes to both these questions, it’s a sign you aren’t quite ready to get outside help. It is what it is; just don’t expect someone to help you rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic. It’s OK to be nervous and not quite sure you’re going to be able to get it all done. That’s normal. Recognizing you need help and being willing to ask for it is an enormous step.
In the beginning it may be stressful. You’ll be making a lot of decisions and may be feeling ashamed of the condition of things. This should pass. As you gain momentum you should feel hopeful, more confident and even excited. If the tension is only increasing, this is a sign that the person helping you isn’t a good fit or, again, you just aren’t ready yet.

Special tip: if you can possibly avoid it, pick a helper other than a person to whom you gave birth or who gave birth to you. The dynamic between parent and child when one is neat and organized and one is … not can be very trying.
Hire a professional or call on a friend and, unless it’s a dire emergency, leave your parents or your children out of it, other than to put dibs on family heirlooms.
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Essential Moving Calendar & Check List

Whether you’re moving across town or across the country, there’s a lot to be done before you move from one home to another. Once you’ve found the perfect home, using your trusty Ebby agent, of course, it’s time to begin thinking about actually moving.


While every move is different, we’ve compiled a general checklist and calendar that should ease your transition and keep you organized. Click the list below to download and print it. It’s sure to to save you time and energy in your upcoming move!