<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=1660977404188157&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">
April 03, 2014

Keep, Toss, Donate: A Downsizing How-To

Whether you’re planning to move to a retirement community or simply downsizing to a smaller home, figuring out which of your belongings to keep, toss, or donate can be a big challenge. In addition to not knowing what you might need or miss in the future, you also have to navigate emotional attachments when making your decisions.

To help you get started on this difficult (but often necessary) task, we’ve compiled a breakdown of three categories that will help guide your process.


Let’s start with the easy choices: what you’re going to keep. The trick when selecting the items you wish to bring with you during a period of downsizing is to not get carried away.

  • First, start with the must-haves. This will give you a good “base” for your downsizing that lets you know what kind of wiggle-room you’ll have for the nonessential “wants.”
  • Next, make a “maybe” pile. If you’re having trouble deciding whether you should keep something, put your decision on hold and place it in a “maybe” pile. Once you’ve decided on all your other keep items, go back through your “maybes” and see if you have a little more clarity over what stays and what goes.
  • Depending on the decrease in living space you’re facing, you might have to give your keep pile a second go-through. There might have been some items that, at first glance, you thought you couldn’t live without, but are actually more suitable for tossing or donating.


The things you choose to throw away usually fit into two categories: things that aren’t of any use to others or things that are too old, broken or rundown to donate. 

  • Things that are of any use to others usually carry some kind of personal or emotional significance. While these can also be the most difficult items to part with, they also tend to take up lots of space and have very little practical use in your every day life. However, you don’t have to part with them forever. Consider digitizing important files or taking pictures of children’s artwork so you can retain the information and memories without the bulk.
  • Hopefully it won’t be too difficult to part with your broken and rundown items that no longer function at the peak of their purpose, but make sure to double check if things can be recycled or thrifted. Remember, one man’s junk is sometimes another man’s treasure.


The easiest way to look at this category is, simply: whatever’s left. Once you’ve kept and tossed everything else, it’s time to find new homes for your remaining belongings that won’t be making the transition. Donating is a great way to help people in need or keep important relics in the family. 

  • Before you toss or donate anything, give your family members the opportunity to look through and see if there are any items they want to claim. Particularly in the case of special heirloom items, passing along your belongings to family members can be a significant bonding moment, not to mention it allows you to “keep” something important to you without having to store it.
  • The rest of your usable items that aren’t claimed by family members can be taken to stores like Goodwill or The Salvation Army. Don’t forget to get a receipt so you can write off your donation on your taxes

While downsizing can be intimidating at first, once you’re on the other side, you’ll probably find you feel a sense of relief. Ridding your life of extra and unnecessary clutter can reduce your stress and make your life feel more organized, which can help with the transition to a new home.

Are you in the process of downsizing? Check out this guide for even more help on deciding what to keep, toss, or donate!

Downsizing Survival Tips


Subscribe to our blog and have articles

sent directly to your inbox.

Share Your Comments