Every year about 12 percent of people in the U.S. move, according to the Census Bureau, and roughly a third of them downsize to smaller homes, reports the National Association of Realtors. Moves are largely triggered by approaching retirement, but even for younger workers, the prospect of moving someplace smaller can be gratifying in a magical tidying-up kind of way. Whether you’re moving to cut expenses or just to simplify your life, these pro tips can help you ace the transition.
Only pay to haul things that will actually fit in your new, smaller space (remember, you’re reducing clutter, not stockpiling it). Organization experts Jeni Aaron and Sharon Lowenheim suggest that if you haven’t used something in an entire year or a season, you should probably toss it—unless it’s something like a tuxedo or an evening gown. Ask yourself if you actually enjoy using the item or if it has a place in your life. Be ruthless. “Our activities and interests change over time, and we don’t always review our possessions to keep up with that, ” says Lowenheim.
Unload Stuff Online
While garage sales help you get rid of items you no longer need, you should also check social media or Freecycle for so-called beg, barter, and buy-and-sell groups that allow you to buy, sell and trade your possessions. It can be an effective, low-labor way to unload unwanted items fast, says Neil Vansant, vice president and general manager of Atlantic Relocation Systems.
If movers pack for you, remember that they will move literally everything you leave behind—including food. “We see people moving full pantries all the time,” says Scott Michael, president and CEO of the American Moving and Storage Association. He recommends visiting Move for Hunger and choosing a socially responsible mover that will collect your unopened, non-perishable food and deliver it to a local food bank. This way, you save the cost of moving it and help alleviate hunger in your community at the same time.
Insure Your Valuables
Although people don’t like to think of professional movers damaging their stuff, it does happen. That’s why valuation—or how much your moving company will reimburse you if your property is lost or damaged—is so necessary. “We always recommend valuation, but it may be particularly important to people who are downsizing. They tend to retain the most valuable pieces,” says Vansant. A standard basic valuation is 60 cents per pound, says Michael, though he recommends exploring additional coverage options. So if electronics that weigh only a few pounds or less get damaged, you’ll only be reimbursed a couple of dollars, even though they’re worth much more than that. Call your homeowners insurance agent to find out what is protected under your existing plan and ask how much it would cost to fully insure everything you plan to take with you; then decide whether it’s worth it to upgrade the valuation.
Get Multiple Cost Estimates
Because the new place is smaller, you may feel tempted to skip comparison-shopping for a quote, says AMSA’s Michael. “If you’re downsizing, you may not think of it as a big move, and you may not take all the precautions you would normally,” he says. But you should. You may find a company that’s just as reputable and offers the same services for hundreds or even thousands of dollars less. “Get at least three estimates from reputable, professional movers. Don’t just go with the first person you talk to,” Michael suggests.