Our Tips for Low-Stress Downsizing, Packing and Moving

Tips For Low-Stress Downsizing, Packing and Moving - how we moved from a 2200 sq ft home to a 1200 sq foot loft with minimal stress and made over $7k selling stuff we didn't need | Thyme is Honey

It’s been a pretty wild but incredible ride around here lately! After deciding to postpone parenthood we made the decision to not only relocate, but to downsize and simplify. To do that we had to sell our 4 bedroom, 3 bath house in the suburbs of Madison, Wisconsin, sell most of what we owned, and decide where the heck we were heading.

For us this move was about trying out a lifestyle that was significantly different from the one we had. Partially as an adventure for a year or two, but also to help us decide which lifestyle fit us best (and hopefully that’d help determine where we land more permanently in the near future).

We relocated to a 1200 square foot loft downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. We’ve been here two weeks and are finally feeling settled in our new home which has given us a chance to reflect on the entire process. We reduced our belongings significantly and made over $7,000 selling things we didn’t need or that wouldn’t work in our new space. The task of having a house full of stuff to sell or move can be very daunting, but here are some of the tips a we learned along the way!

  1. Plan a moving sale and be strategic about the timing – Don’t just make the decision to have a moving sale and arrange it for the only open weekend on your schedule. Try to plan ahead and be strategic about when the sale will take place. Some tips: 1. Give yourself enough time to do as much “heavy lifting” as possible before the sale. This means cleaning out your garage, your storage room, your tool shed, your closet. Those tasks are all time consuming and kind of mentally exhausting, especially if you are downsizing and need to make hard decisions about what to keep, sell and throw. Give yourself a couple weeks to schedule out all of these tasks. 2. Have your moving sale close enough to your moving date that you don’t have to be too inconvenienced by living without a dining room table or mattress, but far enough from your moving date that you can initiate a Plan B and Plan C (more about that in #3).
  2. Promote your moving sale online– If you’ll be downsizing significantly I’d recommend having a moving sale. The more you can promote it, the more traffic you’ll get the day of your sale. We made over $2,000 during our moving sale. I promoted our moving sale on my personal Facebook Page, on our neighborhood social network (NextDoor), on local Facebook For Sale Groups, the Facebook Marketplace and on Craigslist. On the Facebook Groups and on Craigslist I created listings for the sale itself, but also created individual listings for some of the bigger items we had for sale (bikes, bike racks, a bedroom set etc) and included information in the description similar to this: “This item can be viewed and purchased at our moving sale this Saturday, April 15 from 1-4 PM!” I didn’t accept purchases before the sale and this help increase awareness and anticipation. It’s also helpful to join Facebook For Sale groups for any neighboring towns or neighborhoods and promote your sale on all of them. The Facebook Marketplace is kind of newish and Facebook basically walks you through posting there whenever you create a sale post in a group (they make things so easy sometimes, don’t they?). Whip up a quick graphic using Photoshop or a free online service such as Canva, include a few photos of items you’ll have for sale and all the information about your sale — then post it anywhere and everywhere. Disclaimer: you’re obviously posting your address all over the internet on a platform that also provides a lot of additional information about yourself, so this is a good time to lock down your account and be aware of what information is visible to the public.
  3. Have a plan B and Plan C for everything you sell – Have a moving sale and price your items PROPERLY. If you are downsizing you will likely be getting rid of high quality items that are still in great condition. People WILL pay good money for it, you just have to be patient. I’m sure there were people who showed up to our moving sale and thought “Wow, this is an overpriced sale!” and we definitely had people who tried to barter. Sometimes we accepted their offer and other times we felt confident saying “No thank you!” because we already had a Plan B and Plan C for ways to sell that item. For example: I had a lot of name brand, like new clothing that I had to part with. I priced it how it should have been priced ($5-10 for tops, $15-20 for Anthropologie sweaters or jackets, $15-20 for like new GAP jeans). I sold a lot of clothes at the moving sale, but knew that if anything didn’t sell I could list the items individually on Facebook Sale Groups, online sale apps (such as Poshmark) or that I could bring items to a friends garage sale in early June if anything was left. Providing yourself with that Plan B and Plan C along with a couple weeks after your moving sale will help you say no to those low ball offers and get what your items are worth.
  4. Think of the best place to donate items – Your local used clothing shop, salvation army or Goodwill are happy to accept your donations, of course, but I’d also recommend thinking about local organizations who can benefit from particular donations. We donated  3 boxes of kitchen items, some furniture and our old winter jackets to our local Syrian Refugee Resettlement Program. I donated some clothes, shoes and coats to a local women’s shelter. We donated old dog toys, crates and gates to a local dog rescue. I think that being more intentional about where you donate items can help them land directly in the hands of someone who needs it.
  5. Sell items to the new owners – We sold our home to first-time home buyers, who were happy to purchase things such as a couch, a 60″ television, a king size mattress, work bench, 10′ ladder, mower and other items that we weren’t going to need in our new home. We were able to just exchange contact information and arrange the sale through a joint Google Document. I think this worked well for both parties — they got stuff they’d ultimately need, and at a great price — and we were able to sell stuff without wasting time or energy.
  6. Start a “moving basket” right away and keep it handy – I had this small, brightly colored basket that I designated as our “Moving Basket” the second our house sold. Since we were downsizing, selling, packing and moving for about an 8 week period, having this basket on hand and not having to constantly look for tape, markers or price tags was a life saver! In the basket I had: tape (washi, packing and duct), permanent markers, pens, price tags, post it notes, string and labels for identifying boxes.
  7. Start a basket for things you’ll need immediately in your new home – Start a second basket that will contain things you’ll want immediately upon arrival at your new place, and put items in there as you come across them during the downsizing and packing process. Ours had items such as: a box cutter, a roll of toilet paper, garbage bags, bottle opener, and a wine opener (priorities).
  8. Designate areas for “donate” “sell” and “store” – It helps to designate large areas where you can start piles! Being able to physically separate things not only helps you move through the process faster, but also helps you be more efficient with trips to the dump or donation center. I marked ours with big signs identifying what the pile was for and when that area was full, we’d make a trip to drop things off.
  9. Don’t get rid of luggage, tubs or storage containers until after the move – We each had luggage sets and after getting rid of a lot of stuff we ended up with empty tubs, drawers and organizers. We almost took it all to Goodwill until we realized that we might as well use them for packing, and then donate them after the move. The luggage sets were great for packing up our clothing and easily transporting it. Consider saving old towels and blankets, too. Similar to the tubs and luggage you’ll be surprised by how often you’ll use an old towel or blanket during the moving process. They came in great for packing up fragile items or cushioning stuff in the moving truck to prevent damage.
  10. Outsource the final cleaning of your old home – This might not be in everyone’s budget, but man is it nice to finish packing up and leave the cleaning to the professionals. We had a regular cleaning person at our old home in Madison, so we went through her to organize a final cleaning of our home. The cost will likely be around $200-250 depending on the size of your home, but it’s a huge time and stress saver. They’ll do things like clean the stove, microwave and other appliances, vacuum around all the edges, clean the vents and fans and generally prepare your home for new owners.

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