save money on your downsizing move

Save Money on Your Downsizing Move

There was a time (so we are told!) when you could downsize into a much smaller home and sell the majority of your unneeded belongings for a tidy profit.  There were plenty of collectors on the hunt for china, crystal, antiques, and art, and the younger folks were happy to furnish their homes with well-built case goods from neighborhood estate sales. 

For the people who lived through that time (and maybe even shopped at estate sales to furnish their own homes), the realities of modern-day downsizing frequently presents significant sticker shock.  

Downsizing costs will vary greatly depending on where you live, how much stuff you have, what KIND of stuff you have, and how much time you have to work on it.  If you want to save money on your downsizing move, you’ll need to understand that the cost of downsizing is primarily driven by decreased demand for household goods, today’s expensive labor market, and increased fuel costs.


Decreased Demand for Household Goods

Yes, estate sales are still happening and they can be a viable option for emptying a house.  But in general, the value of household goods has fallen significantly over the past 15 years and most people should not count on making a lot of money on their belongings.

How did this happen? Consider the HGTV era that launched in the mid-90’s: The redecorating craze created unprecedented demand for new, crisp and ever-changing home decor, and big box stores stepped in to fill the need for trendy and low cost housewares. These disposable housewares are now turning up en masse, and bordering on vintage themselves, after 15-20 years.

Next, add in the silver tsunami of Baby Boomers releasing the contents of their homes (and their parents’ homes!) into the secondary marketplace all at once, and it begins to make sense why your stuff is not worth as much as it used to be.

Even with a new interest in re-use and recycling, emptying an “average” American home is generally more of an expense than a windfall. In order to save money on your downsizing move, you’ll need to accept that some costs are somewhat fixed.


Higher Moving and Labor Expenses

Obviously you’ll need to employ professional movers to handle your favorite and most treasured items: the things you’re taking with you to your new place.  In fact, you may end up paying a premium for your move if:

  • You are moving high-value items that need extra protection
  • You need to temporarily store some of your belongings 
  • Your move includes lots of stairs, elevators, and tight spaces
  • You’re making a long distance move

Handling unwanted belongings costs a lot too! In our experience most people forget to budget in labor costs for moving items that aren’t going with them. Whether your dining room set is headed to a family member, auction, donation, or even the dump, labor costs will often be a big part of the equation.

Because of all of these factors, many downsizers are facing a common irony: it can cost a small fortune to release 80% of your belongings and relocate to a much smaller residence.


How to (NOT) save money on your downsizing move

There are definitely some ways you can save money on your downsizing tasks, but first let’s take a look at common missteps if you want to save money on your downsizing move.


Irrational Approaches

Plenty of people want to save money on their move, but not all money-saving ideas work out, especially if you’re taking on a big project at an older age.  In our experiences, these approaches can end up costing more money and more stress than necessary:

  • Attempting to handle it all yourself  
  • Expecting friends/family to handle it all for you 
  • Choosing the lowest cost mover you can find
  • Procrastinating until you don’t have many options


Low-Value Activities

We also frequently see people with limited energy and/or time engage in these low-value activities:

  • Spending a ton of time sorting and handling each and every item in the home
  • Driving small batches of donations all over town to several different drop-off sites.
  • Spending hours on the internet trying to figure out how much their stuff is worth
  • Putting all of their stuff in storage instead of dealing with it

Tips for Saving Money on Your Move

While you won’t have much control over how much money your stuff is worth, or the cost of handling and moving the contents of your house, you can be strategic about your own energy and effort. 

  • Start early and focus on the belongings that are going with you.
  • Don’t move anything you don’t have space for: Have a detailed plan for where everything will go in your next home.
  • Give family members a deadline to remove their stuff from your house.
  • Work with an experienced estate clear out company or downsizing company to help identify items of potential value.
  • Pack (some of) your own moving boxes, primarily non-breakable items.

Just like any large project, your experience will be greatly impacted by the amount of effort you put into planning and the people you choose to help.  Your local downsizing pros will help you identify the tasks you can do on your own and the jobs with which you’ll need help.  Find a pro in your area for the guidance you need to downsize with confidence.

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