The Upside of Downsizing

Moving can be one of life’s most stressful events. That’s why you should consider calling in the experts, professional organizers, to help right-size your move.

By Kate Robertson

Organizing and packing up your belongings, arranging movers and then unpacking everything into your new home requires a lot of time and energy. For those who are downsizing out of a family home and into a smaller home or a 55-plus condominium, it can be even more stressful.

Cristina Dietrich and Naddine Baha, owners of Simply Organized For You, a professional organization company in Surrey, recognize that the emotional part of a move can be the hardest hurdle to overcome. “There is a strong sense of worry and discomfort with change, and moving into the next stage of life. Because people spend years collecting items, and then are faced with either having to leave them behind, donate them to someone they don’t know, or sell them, the process can be overwhelming,” says Baha. Dietrich says that knowing their items will find a new home can be a reassuring step in the process.

Tim Trentham, who moved from his family home into a retirement condo a few years ago, found it especially difficult to let go of items with sentimental value, like a dining-room buffet. “Finding someone who was excited to find this great piece made it easier for me.” After checking in with family and friends, he organized a garage sale. Anything leftover at the end of the day was loaded into a truck and donated to Habitat for Humanity and other organizations.

Lisa Knutson, owner of Dwell Organized, a home organization company in Kelowna, recommends starting the downsizing process early. “Give yourself time to go through each item, reminisce, then make the decision whether to keep, donate, or sell. Keep family members in mind during this process, as they may appreciate receiving an heirloom piece of jewelry or a legacy gift now, instead of later,” she says.

Making those decisions can be overwhelming, especially for a large home. Knutson suggests starting with a small space like a linen closet, a kitchen drawer or a bathroom. “These areas often store less-emotional items, and decisions can be made quickly,” she says, building your confidence.

Deciding on what furniture to bring to a new home can be like a puzzle that only a measuring tape and some creativity can solve. Prioritizing storage-friendly furniture is important when your square footage is reduced. Having a floor plan of your new space, and exact dimensions of existing furniture, is a great way to plan what will fit. “Whenever possible, I recommend that people visit their new home with a plan, so they can see where their furniture will be placed,” says Knutson.

Trentham sold or gave away most of his furniture and invested in new smaller condo-sized furniture. “I kept the furniture that was still functional, in good shape and fit the space.” He also kept furniture that had a dual function, like a sofa bed for the living room.

Taking advantage of the amenities your new home offers can also decrease the load of items you need to bring with you–bikes, golf clubs and gardening items are often available for loan or rent in lifestyle communities. Dietrich and Baha encourage their clients to use long-term storage as a last resort, storing as few items as possible. They gently remind clients that this will make it easier on their family in the future, when eventually having to deal with the loss of their loved one and all those possessions.

Many people who downsize are surprised about how much they have to leave behind. They may be equally surprised how many things no longer serve them, and how long they’ve held onto those things, simply because they had the space. “It’s amazing to see clients feeling liberated once decisions are made; they feel lighter and more in control of how they want the rest of their life and new space to look like,” says Knutson.

Trentham wishes he had realized that earlier. “I might have lived differently while in a house,” he says. “All those years of living in a house and accumulating stuff and rather than getting rid of it, I would find places to store it. I have no regrets with regard to getting rid of stuff.”

The process of downsizing can be stressful, but when done with patience, empathy and a positive attitude, it can simplify your life and make room for new adventures and memories.


  • Start packing early. Moving companies usually charge by weight: don’t pay to move what you’ll get rid of later.
  • Take one small area of a room at a time to get started.
  • If you are moving to half the amount of square footage, get rid of half of your possessions.
  • Cut substantially from rooms that you will not have in your new space. If you had a craft room or workshop in your home, edit essential items into one storage-friendly container for your new space, and donate the rest.
  • If you’re feeling overwhelmed or are not making progress, reach out to a professional organizer. They can ease your stress with strategies for sorting, planning and coordinating
    the pre- and post-moving process.
Posted in Fall 2021