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Don’t Despair When Downsizing: Advice on What's Worth Keeping

A home is full of memories. Deciding on what to keep and what to do with everything else when downsizing a home can bring back cherished memories that may keep you from decluttering.

You can rent a storage unit to hold it all, but that can get expensive. Consider this: if you’re storing something, what’s the likelihood you’ll pick it back up again? Don’t hoard all of your household items just to keep them locked away in storage.

Here are some tips for deciding what to keep and what to give away when downsizing a home:

Sentimental items. Everyone has sentimental keepsakes: a child’s handprint on a school painting, a ring from a grandmother, a favorite childhood toy, etc. The key when downsizing is deciding what’s most important to you, what another family member might enjoy having and what really isn’t all that valuable and needs to go.

You don’t need to keep every scrap of paper from your kid’s childhood, but you can frame a few drawings instead of storing them all in the closet never to be seen again. Or, maybe your son or daughter wants to keep a few things to show their children.

Try to keep items that have a strong sentimental value to you, and get rid of repetitive things. The less you have, the easier it will be to make the transition to a smaller home.

Documents. You don’t need old receipts and other irrelevant papers that are crumpled throughout the house. Only keep paperwork or documentation that you may need in the future. These include your will, passport, any birth or death certificates, Social Security cards, marriage licenses, property deeds, vehicle titles, diplomas, medical records and military service documents. Carefully store these away and always scan them into your computer as a backup in case they’re lost or destroyed during a natural disaster.

Small furniture. Functional furniture that fits in small areas or has a double purpose can be a great thing to take with you when downsizing a home. A bed that can fold up into a couch can be useful, as can an ottoman with storage or a foldable table that can be put away easily.

Things you rarely use. Chances are that you’ve kept plenty of useless items out of laziness. Things that have sat unused on shelves or forgotten in closets for years. Downsizing is the time to get rid of them.

These can include old magazines and books you’ve been meaning to read; news clippings; old electronics or kitchen appliances that are rarely used; DVDs, outdated clothes; old spices; toys with missing pieces; and everything in your junk drawer.

Separate items into piles that can be sold or donated. If they’re not in good enough condition, throw them away. Your future home will thank you for it.