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October 27, 2015

How To Downsize with Minimal Trauma

Last Spring I received the heartbreaking news that my landlord was selling my house. Despite my insistence that possession is nine tenths of the law (It isn’t, actually), I had to move. What I hadn’t realized in my five or so years living there was that I wasn’t paying near the market value for my 3 bed/2.5 bath house.

What quickly became apparent was that I was going to have to downsize. And it wouldn’t be easy…emotionally, physically, or logistically. I eventually found a dodgy 2 bed/1 tiny bathroom duplex in a safe area with a fenced in backyard for my pup that I could afford. After scouring my new hovel with bleach, I was ready to reluctantly move in.

If you are also facing a similar reversal in fortune, allow me to share my best tips on how to cope.

1.  Lie to yourself.

My tiny house doesn't look like this, but I like to pretend it does.

My tiny house doesn’t look like this, but I like to pretend it does.

Moving to lesser dwelling is traumatic, and you need to keep a positive attitude, my friend. By describing your new pad as “bohemian”, “cute”, and telling yourself it “has character,” you’re helping to train your brain to actually believe these totally untrue things. I’m not kidding.

2.  Let the purging begin.

Anyone with a basic understanding of physics knows you can’t fit everything from a larger house into a smaller one.

Start with the big stuff. Will that dining room table fit in your eat-in kitchen? Do you really have a place for that guest bed now that you no longer have a guest bedroom? These will all be very obvious items. After you’ve dropped these massive space-occupiers off at the donation center, you’ll have more room to sort through everything else.

Farewell, Guest Bed.  I still think fondly of you.

Farewell, Guest Bed. I still think fondly of you.

Next, go to the opposite end of the spectrum with the smallest stuff. If you’re about to lose closet space, take this opportunity to bag up everything you don’t absolutely love and think you look great in. Any needless knicknacks with no sentimental value can be boxed up during this phase too, along with extra kitchen utensils, books you never plan to read, accessories, and cookware you don’t really use anymore.

3. Begin the move.

This is the part of your moving process wherein you realize you thought you had way more room in your new digs than you actually do. It’s the hardest part, because you thought the purging was over. Take a deep breath, and let it go. Don’t try to convince yourself that coffee table fits somewhere when you know the only way you can possibly get around it is to climb over it.

4.  Tackle the medium stuff.

By now you’ve dealt with the big stuff and the little stuff.  Now you’re stuck between two homes with a bunch of medium-sized stuff that has to go somewhere. You just spent a lot of time moving and are probably sick of it by now. This is the best time for you to take a good honest look at that floor lamp you only bought because it was on sale and decide if you really want to deal with finding a place for it.

5. Have a party.

I eventually found wall space for the giant squid.

I eventually found wall space for the giant squid.

After your belongings are in their proper place (in your home or donated), celebrate! You just survived one of the most stressful situations you will have to deal with in your lifetime…according to this random article I just found. You’ve also just donated a bunch of stuff you didn’t really need that can now go on to help others. That’s gotta feel good.

The best way to make your new place feel like home is to surround yourself with the people you love…you know…the people who helped you through all of this. At the end of the day, “stuff” and “space” don’t matter nearly as much as the people you share both of these things with.







  1. Moving is hard! We downsized from the house we owned to a much smaller apartment due to moving to another state. Definitely an adjustment! I don’t think I could ever live in one of those micro-houses like the one you pictured, no matter how cute it is! 🙂

  2. Great article! I totally agree… stuff is just stuff but good friends and family are who you should fill your home with. Congrats on the successful move!

  3. I need to downsize in my current abode just to get rid of all the clutter…. and make room for new stuff. I’m thinking all the books I got at the “everything you can fit in this bag for $1” sales should be the first things to go… Maybe if I start with the pile next to my fireplace and just move on from there…

  4. It can be so hard! I went from a 3 bedroom home early this year after a break up. Most of the furniture was mine. I lucked out with a larger than average one bed flat, which has a large living space AND dining room. This meant I didn’t have to give up my sewing cabinet and cutting table (hello dining/sewing room!). But it was still a huge adjustment, especially in the kitchen and with the new lack of cupboards. But throwing out stuff can be so cathartic! 🙂

  5. We found ourselves going from a 4 bedroom Victorian home with a dining room, eat-in kitchen, foyer, the whole nine yards to a 2 bedroom apartment, then because of my husband’s work transfer back to our home state we ended up living with my 91 yr old father in a 2 bedroom, 975 sq ft 1949 bungalow! (We did this because he can no longer do the work around the house). It’s the house I was born in.
    SO, we had to sell and donate nearly all our furniture and purge our kitchen items and pack up the rest. I hung on to anything of sentimental value, (with me that’s a lot of stuff!) With space at a premium we do a LOT of juggling around! But we manage.

  6. I lived in an awesome 2bed/2bath split home for years until this April, my landlords decided to expand and I had to move to a small, 1 bedroom apt. I was doing OK until September 1st when my place flooded and now I’m in a studio. #1 Lie to Yourself – the best advice there is and I needed to remind myself of that as I begin the daunting task of really downsizing everything I’ve amassed over the years. Thanks Jillian for another great article 🙂

    • Sometimes I even put Pandora on “60’s French Pop”. Just pretending you’re in Europe helps. Seriously. Wow…I feel pathetic now…;)