Moving to a Smaller Space to Save Money? Here’s How to Minimize

A woman sorts through her clothing.
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Downsizing to a smaller living space will often shave costs off your monthly expenses.

A smaller home or apartment usually means you’ll pay less in rent or mortgage payments. It’ll take less energy to heat and cool the place, so you’ll see a drop in your utility bills. You’ll be restricted in what you can buy, because you’ll have less space to store things.

However, the downside to downsizing is having to get rid of stuff you own to accommodate the smaller space. For some people, it can be incredibly stressful to pare down their belongings.

If you can’t imagine how to minimize the amount of possessions you own, we’ve got six tips to help you find success.

1. Minimize Bit by Bit

If you’ve got a bunch of stuff to work through, laying out everything you own and trying to pare down in one weekend can be super overwhelming. Give yourself plenty of time before your move and plan out different days to go through each room of the house.

Simplify the process by focusing on one category at a time. For instance, in a bedroom you might want to tackle clothes and shoes in one sitting and then trinkets and keepsakes another time.

Make sure to take inventory of what you’ve got and what you decide to keep. Having everything written down in a list will be useful when you’re thinking about your new space and determining whether everything will fit.

2. Get Rid of the Unnecessary Clutter

Your initial round of elimination should be a no-brainer. Get rid of all the junk.

Toss (or recycle) everything that’s broken, falling apart, no longer works or doesn’t fit — all the stuff you’ve been meaning to throw away but never got around to.

Do away with the kitchen appliances you never use and jewelry you never liked. If you’ve been holding onto something that hasn’t been touched in years, transitioning to a smaller home is the perfect time to part ways with it.

As you lay out and take inventory of your belongings, note when you have multiples of an item. There’s no need to bring three waffle irons and four can openers to your new place.

Pro Tip

Everything you get rid of doesn’t have to go to the dump. If they’re in good quality, consider selling things online, hosting a yard sale, donating to charity or giving away to friends or family.

3. Eliminate Single-Purpose Gear

When you’re downsizing, what space you’ll have will be more valuable than ever. Don’t waste it on gadgets and gear that serve a single narrow purpose.

Choose household items that are multi-functional whenever possible. Keep the knife set and ditch the apple corer and asparagus peeler. Make grilled cheese in an ordinary frying pan from now on rather than keeping a specialized sandwich press. And do you really need a DVD player when you can watch DVDs on your laptop?

4. Only Keep What You Really Use

Figure out what you and your family use on a regular basis and find a new home for what you don’t need.

When you have a family of three, you don’t need dishware, glasses and silverware for 20 people. If you only use your formal dining room or living room a couple of times a year, that’s extra furniture you won’t need in your smaller space.

Consider what makes sense for your new space. If you’re downsizing to a condo, you won’t need your lawnmower and other outdoor equipment.

Pro Tip

Consider minimizing your closets by converting to a capsule wardrobe — a limited collection of clothing, shoes and accessories.

5. Digitize What You Can

So many of us are guilty of hoarding piles, stacks or boxes of papers, photos and trinkets over the years. However, you can still hold onto those important medical documents or sentimental childhood mementos without keeping the originals.

Scan old paperwork and photos and store them on your computer or use your cloud storage. Take photos of items like old trophies or vacation souvenirs so that you’ll have a digital version of them, too.

6. Keep What Truly Matters

What you hold onto through the paring down process should only be items that are useful to you or that — in the words of Marie Kondo — spark joy.

Think about it this way: If you had to evacuate your home in an emergency and could only grab a few things, what would they be? Which of your belongings are most important to you?

Downsizing won’t be a completely miserable process if you know you’re going to walk away with what’s most vital to you.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.