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Ask Maeve: How to Downsize with Ease

UntitledMy husband and I are facing a move. Our new home is small, and we can only take half our stuff. We raised two kids in this house. There’s so much stuff. I can’t face the loss. What do we do? 

Leaving a family home is a significant transition for anyone, and on top of that you need to downsize, so you need to make some tough choices about what makes the journey with you.

Believe it or not, this process will be easier than you think. The loss you fear comes from the belief that to fit one home into another you’ll have to get rid of half your stuff. This would overwhelm anyone, as it represents the loss of too many treasured family memories. But the reality is, over the years all family homes accumulate a large volume of items that have long out-served their usefulness, as well as their status as memorabilia. If we can separate these items from the truly meaningful ones, then we have much less to lose, and the process of downsizing becomes manageable – and even a bit exciting! – and not something to dread.

Let’s identify what might be easier to let go of than you think. For example, your kids are grown, but I’m guessing you may still have games, toys and perhaps clothes tucked away somewhere in your home from when they were growing up. You may also have old sports equipment, worn or ill-fitting clothes, fad books, broken electronics, or broken furniture, things that once played an active role in your family’s life but have long been out of circulation.

Take a tour of your home. Keep a keen eye out as you walk for items that have long been out of use. Look in in closets, in the garage or attic, on shelves, and deep in the back of cabinets and shelves. Do this with your husband, if you can, and share openly as you go. Start a list, or begin to gather up obsolete items as you go and move them to a temporary storage spot, a staging area if you will. Your goal is to look for what you can easily let go. In my experience, those who take a tour like this before a downsize easily identify twenty to thirty percent of their total possessions that are not worthy of a move.

So start here. Saying goodbye is never easy, but the amazing news is that if you approach it this way, you can significantly reduce how much you need to say goodbye to. And don’t discount the small things! Whether it’s one tiny item, or an entire closet full of things you can let go, each and every item adds up.

Best of luck, and remember, transition is tough, but in the end, change always does us good.

Maeve Richmond is the founder and head coach of Maeve's Method, a home organization system based in New York City. She specializes in parents & kids, couples, small space solutions, space planning and decorative elements for the home. Contact her at or @MaeveRichmond.

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