How to Downsize a Home in 5 Days

Do you need to downsize a home fast? Maybe you have less than a month to move a loved one out of their home where they have lived for decades. A sudden illness or death can force siblings, partners, or family friends to take on the role of decluttering expert. 

How to Downsize a Home in 5 Days

Folks hire professional organizers to downsize homes in a few days. So how is that possible? And how can you help expedite this process? This video is about how to downsize a home when you are under an extreme time crunch.

Day 1 – Inspect the Space and Secure Resources 

You may be familiar with the space or entering it for the first time. Do a complete walkthrough including sheds, basements, crawl spaces, attic, and garage. What do you see? Are there large collections and bulky items like cars or antiques that will need special handling? Are there cabinets filled with papers, photos, and small items that will be tedious to sort? Are there categories like linens, clothing, and kitchen items that may not have monetary value, but that filled a few rooms?  

Once you have a sense of the space and its contents, it is time to secure some resources. You will not have specific details yet, but the resources you need to enlist are – 

Haulers

Movers

Auctioneers

Appraisers

Charities

Consignment Shops

Cleaning Services

Storage Units

and all the free labor you can secure

Identify a source to purchase these supplies,  you will need – 

trash bags

bankers boxes

painters tape

Sharpies

miscellaneous bags and boxes for recycling and donations

moving boxes

weathertight storage bins

packing tape

full adhesive sticky notes

tape measure

photo boxes

masks

gloves 

You may not purchase all this on the first day, you may make several trips over the week, but just get a plan in place. 

Keep your tablet, smartphone, or notebook handy to keep track of the list of services you can call and supplies to secure.

Day 2 Clear out the 4 Ps

One of the most valuable things I learned from working with estate sellers is that other than the 4 Ps everything else in a home could be sold. So what are the 4 Ps? They are Photos, Paperwork, Perishables, and Prescriptions. This changed the way I looked at downsizing homes. With enough hired help, even the largest estates could be downsized quickly. Now, this does not mean you have to sell everything in the home via an estate auction service, but it gives you that option and a starting point. 

Two of the 4 Ps, photos and paperwork, contain things of such great value but are so tedious to sort. If time is short I recommend packing these items up into photo boxes and bankers boxes and move them to another location or a climate-controlled storage unit. When packed properly, a small 5 x 7 storage unit will hold tens of thousands of these documents. You may need to locate certain legal and financial documents in the downsizing process. Provide a list of these items to all your helpers so everyone can search for these items as you pack away papers to sort when you have more time. Clearing of the other Ps, perishables, and prescriptions, do not typically take as long and can be easily discarded. 

Day 3 Pick your Favorites

Today is about picking favorites. If you or your loved one is downsizing because of a move, now is the time to pick the furniture and other large items that will accompany them into the new space. If the downsizing is due to a passing, this is the time to choose valuable or sentimental items to keep and relocate. Use painters tape to mark these special items. If things are going to multiple people or locations, purchase painters tape in multiple colors, like blue, green, and yellow. I do not recommend using stickers or regular tape to mark items as the residue can damage your valuables. For large, complicated estates I recommend creating a spreadsheet to list all the items and collections including where the item will go eventually and the means by which it will get to its new home. If you are downsizing to a smaller home, it’s helpful to have a floor plan handy and take measurements to assure that everything fits. 

Day 4 Pack it Up

Today is about packing. Bag up the remaining trash and recyclables. Pack additional items to move to another home or to storage. By the end of the day, the only items left in the home should be items to sell or donate. Label boxes clearly like “storage unit” or “Bob’s house” in addition to notes about the contents. Do not pack liquids or chemicals as they could spill and damage other items. Do not pack in large boxes unless hiring professional movers. It is easier to store and safer to move small boxes. If you want it – box it, seal it, label it and stack it up. Be selective! Only pack things you will love and use. Do not create clutter and overwhelm another location. Now is the time to be very selective. 

Day 5 Move it Out

Today is about moving. Secure charities, haulers, and auction houses to eliminate the remaining items. Ideally, move ou all the items you are keeping out first. This ensures there is no confusion, and that a treasured item does not get sold or end up at Goodwill. Some charities offer to pick up. In my experience, they are very selective and have narrow schedules. Hiring a hauling service ensures that all items are removed on time. You can request that haulers take items to a specific charity or make multiple stops. Or you can hire a  moving company to take one load of boxes to storage and another load to charity. If you are working with an online auction house like Max Sold, you can leave items out for the agents to photograph. You may wish to do some sorting and inventorying for your own records. But do not worry if you run out of time, just confirm that everything in the house is for sale and let the estate agents help with the final sorting, and organizing. In researching an estate agent be sure they have an exit strategy for unsold items and final clean up. You may wish to also have a professional cleaning crew come in after the auction so the house is ready to go on the market if you are selling the property. The important thing is that by this day, you’ve made all decisions about the things you wish to keep.  


Best of luck in your downsizing efforts. In the Richmond, Virginia area, schedule with downsizing expert Katherine Lawrence at www.myspacematters.com/schedule If you are working with a longer timeframe, check out my other downsizing blog, How to Downsize your home in 10 Simple Steps.