As life circumstances change, downsizing may become part of the plan. Children grow up and move out, and large family homes may no longer be practical or necessary.

Whether considering a move to a smaller home, condo, assisted living or nursing home, odds are that you will be leaving a home filled with memories, mementos and far more “stuff” than the new, smaller space will hold. But going through a house full of material possessions and deciding what to bring with you for the next chapter of your life can seem overwhelming. Here are some tips to help with the process.

  1. First determine the dimensions of the new space. How many rooms will you have, and how large are they? How much storage space is available?
  2. Visualize the space. If you’re tech savvy, you can use an app such as … Otherwise, an old-fashioned sheet of graph paper will do. Sketch out the space in your new home and determine which, if any, of your furniture will work.
  3. Process of elimination. Once you decide how much will fit in your new space, the difficult process of sorting begins. Experts recommend starting with the main rooms – kitchen, living room, bathrooms, bedrooms. In each room, place each item into one of five boxes labeled “keep,” “sell,” “donate,” “pass on to a family member,” or “discard.”
  4. Start simple. Starting in the kitchen makes it less likely that you will be sorting items with a great deal of sentimental value. This will help you get going. Save the mementos and heirlooms for last. These items will be more difficult to go through.
  5. Accept the fact that you may have to repeat steps 3 – 5 until you winnow your possessions down to an amount that will fit in your new home without cluttering your space.

Most importantly, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Friends, family members and even professional down-sizers can give you a hand with this process and make it less overwhelming.

While the process of downsizing can be relatively straightforward, the emotions that may be tied up in the process are anything but. Sadness, grief and a sense of loss can accompany the decision to move to a new home, particularly if the move is necessitated by health or financial reasons rather than a choice freely made. Having to get rid of beloved possessions may only add to those feelings.

If you are struggling with this, it may be helpful to keep in mind that those possessions that have sentimental value are meaningful to you because of a memory they evoke. And while your possessions can be lost, stolen, broken or given away, your memories will forever live in your heart and will remain there wherever you go.