• Downsizing: Pro Tips from an Interior Designer

    Downsizing: Pro Tips from an Interior Designer

By Tammy Brooks, Marketing Specialist, Twin Towers Senior Living Community.

As an Interior Designer, I’ve helped many people downsize for a move, and it can be difficult for several reasons. First and foremost, it’s difficult to let go of our ‘stuff.’

Second, when the downsizing is attached to a move that means change is on the horizon, and some of us aren’t big fans of change. Lastly, it can be overwhelming to find a place for everything that you no longer want or need.

Yet people move every day, so the sorting, cleaning and decision making are happening. So if you’re downsizing to a smaller home, condo or patio home, there are ways to prepare for your move to ensure an easy transition.

Tips to Make Downsizing Easier

Throughout the many moving and downsizing projects I’ve assisted with, these are the tips and tricks that have helped smooth the process.

Set Your Expectations

Downsizing does not happen in a day or two. It can take weeks and even months depending on how much you have to go through. It will also depend on how readily you are willing to let go of items that don’t add value to your life.

Floor Plans

If there is a floor plan for your new space you will want to have it on hand. Even if you don’t have the architect’s plans, sketch out the dimensions or consider utilizing free floor plan design sites like Floorplanner.  You get one free plan which will cover a multiple level home.

However you do it, be sure to have room dimensions as you begin sorting. This will be especially helpful when you are evaluating large furniture pieces.

One Room At A Time

>This isn’t a marathon and there is no medal, so tackle one room at a time. It will help you feel like you’ve accomplished something and you’ll be more motivated to do the next room.

Also, try to dismantle an easy or little-used room first. This will help you get into the rhythm of sorting and decision making, and you won’t be trying to live in that room as you pack it.

Get Prepared

Find a place to put all of your unwanted items. Many people use their garage. Divide the space into three sections and label them, “Donate”, “Throw Away”, and “Gift”.

Once you have a place to stack boxes, it’s time to get prepped for the work. These items will help your packing and sorting run more smoothly.

What to gather:

  • Boxes of different sizes
  • Packing tape and regular tape
  • Newspapers or bubble wrap
  • Large strong trash bags
  • Post-it notes
  • File folder for downsizing
  • Blank paper (ruled paper is good to have – think lists)
  • Good markers (like a Sharpie)
  • Tape measure (size up that furniture for placement in your new home)

Once you have all your supplies, call in the troops!  Friends and family are more likely to help if you:

  • Schedule set dates and times
  • Be courteous and have lunch/dinner or snacks available
  • Encourage everyone to take breaks for a good stretch

With planning and organization, you will find more willing helpers, and everyone will feel they have made a difference.

Let The Sorting Begin!

You have your team, your packing supplies, and a place to put the loaded boxes – now the sorting begins. There are four options for what to do with your stuff will go:


Does the item add value to your life? That’s the question I encourage people to ask themselves when they are evaluating their items. Getting rid of material items of no value is an amazingly freeing feeling.

I always recommend erring on the side of getting rid of too much versus not getting rid of enough. When you’re faced with making a decision, always opt for the “get rid of it” option. Minimizing is very empowering and your transition into your new space will become that much easier.

Box up the items you wish to keep and leave the large pieces of furniture in the space.  Label the box with which room it came from. This will help the movers get your things to the right area in your new home.


Familiarize yourself with which charities in town will take what donations. Keep in mind that some organizations only take certain items, clarify with them by phone or online. Clothing, household items, furniture, appliances, and even cars can be donated.

You’ll even find some locations like Cincinnati based Matthew 25 Ministries that accepts many items including latex paint for their Rainbow Paint Reblending Center.

Most organizations will ask you to drop the items off, but some like St. Vincent DePaul in Cincinnati, will pick items up at your home. Simply schedule a pick-up with them and have then items ready to go.

Wherever you decide to donate, always keep track of what you gave and ask for a receipt. Goodwill provides a signed receipt at their drop off location, and often they include a printed valuation form with the receipt.

For a quick idea of what your stuff may be worth, check out this valuation guide from the Salvation Army.

Throw Away

Use your large strong (buy good ones don’t skimp) trash bags for this. If you find items to recycle, keep a separate trash bag handy for those items.

When you’re getting rid of papers with personal information on them, be sure to shred them. If you don’t own a shredder, see if your community hosts shredding days. Keep in mind that going through papers can take a while so you may plan to sort through a pile a day to keep it from becoming overwhelming.

For tax returns, keep records for 3 years from the date you filed your original return or 2 years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later.

For hard to move items that cannot be donated (like very old appliances that don’t work), there are companies that will come and remove these from your house. There may be a cost to this but you will be rid of it.


Are there things you own that a friend or family member adores? This is the perfect time to pass these items on. Your family member will be delighted and you can still see the piece when you visit them.

Offer up other items under “no obligation, no pressure” but don’t expect everything that was special to you to necessarily be special to someone else. Different generations have different tastes, so if you find yourself with antique items consider consigning them in an antique shop.

For larger collections of unwanted items, consider selling them through an auction house or an online estate marketplace.

I can’t promise you that your downsizing will be easy, but if you start with the right attitude, a plan, and keep your eye on the prize, I promise you CAN and WILL achieve your downsizing goals.

Twin Towers is a continuing care retirement community in Cincinnati, Ohio, with independent living homes, assisted living, rehab services, and more. We’re focused on supporting the vibrant and active lifestyles of our residents so they can age well. For more information, contact Twin Towers online or at 513-853-2000.