Living Local Nashville’s Guide to Downsizing and Minimizing

Over the last several years, our families have moved into homes with significantly less storage than our previous homes.

In 2012, Ron and Pam downsized to a condo less than half the size of their former house, and just last year, Stephanie’s family moved into a 1970’s ranch home with lower ceilings, smaller closets, and no garage. During our experiences, we picked up a few tips that helped us have a smoother transition and would like to share them with you here.

How Will Your New Space Be Used?

Determine what your actual needs are.  How is your current space being used? Do you have rooms you’re not using?  Could you combine certain spaces into one flex room, such as having a craft room that doubles as a guest room?  Do you need both a kitchen and a dining room?  Do you need two living areas, such as a formal living room and a family great room, or would just one suffice?

Decide Which Items You No Longer Need, Use Or Want.

Take a realistic look around your current home and decide how much you can minimize your belongings.  Diligently go through each room, cabinet, shelf and closet, and pull out clothing you no longer wear and aren’t likely to wear again, extra sets of dishes that you’ve hung on to just in case you entertain 100 people, sporting equipment that sits around unused, items you purchased because they were on sale but have never been put to use, etc.  There was likely a time in your life when these things were of value to you, but over the years, our lives change and there comes a time to re-prioritize their importance to you.

Some items will be easier to clear out than others, and if you have enough items you just don’t seem like you can part with or aren’t sure they’ll work in your new home, consider renting a storage unit to hold them for a set period of time (12 or 24 months), assuming their value exceeds the cost of the storage rates.  At the end of that time period, seriously consider whether you really need to hang on to any unused items.  A storage unit may also come in handy when preparing your current home for sale, as homes will show better when they’re not as cluttered or cramped feeling.

Properly label the boxes and stacks to know which items will be moved into your new home or storage facility and which ones will be sold, donated or otherwise disposed of.

Sell, Consign and Donate.

Once you’ve determined which items you will not be taking with you to your new home, you’ll need to decide how you plan to dispose of them.  Many items can be sold, and there are a multitude of ways to accomplish this.  You can organize yard sales or post your items for sale via online sites like Facebook’s Marketplace and retain all of the proceeds yourself.  Alternatively, you can hire professionals to come in and buy everything in bulk or arrange for a consignment store to sell your items, but you will be splitting the proceeds with them. Regardless of how you sell the items, you’ll have some extra cash to put toward your new home.  For items you wish to donate, there are many local organizations that accept household goods and clothing, and unfortunately, the need is great. By donating, you’ll be helping someone else while also accomplishing your downsizing goals.

Measure, Plan And Measure Again.

Now that you’ve established which furniture, artwork and other items you would like to move into your new home, give some careful thought about the arrangement of those items to be sure you have sufficient space and will be happy with the placement of those items long-term.  It’s much easier in a larger home to rearrange bedroom suites or shuffle artwork around, but in a smaller space, there won’t be as many options to rearrange when the mood strikes.  Keep in mind, too, that just because your furnishings will fit into a smaller space, they may look or feel cramped.  Carefully measure any items, including any artwork, that you wish to take with you, and measure the space in your new home.  You can even use one of the many floor plan/furniture arrangement software applications available, or simply map out your arrangement to scale on graph paper to determine if your room will look too cramped. This will also help save time, and thus expense, on moving day if you already know where everything will go. Also, don’t forget vertical measurements too, especially if your current home has tall ceilings and you’ve acquired larger items over time. This is also a good time to decide which closets will hold certain supplies and seasonal items, such as vacuum cleaners, luggage, holiday decorations, etc. The majority of the time people are inclined to overestimate the storage space they will have available at their new home, and closets and cabinets get filled up quickly.

Check out Living Local Nashville’s Guide to Moving for more tips and inspiration!

Organize and Prioritize.

As you start unpacking in your smaller home, we can’t stress how important it is to do so in a methodical, organized manner.  Your available space is now at a premium, and a little planning will go a long way in keeping the clutter manageable in your new space. Try not to fall back into old habits of hanging onto things with the thought you ‘might’ need them later, or accumulating too many things without cleaning out regularly.  We gave ourselves a new rule when we downsized:  for every new item we brought into the home, an older one would need to be sold or donated. Resist the urge to put anything else into storage, because you ultimately want to give up your storage facility or at least minimize your storage space.

Oh, What A Feeling!

We know from firsthand experience how much work is involved in downsizing to less square footage, but we also know firsthand how liberating it is to minimize your belongings.  In fact, that feeling of liberation is almost addicting, as we find ourselves purging on a somewhat regular basis these days. It helps to keep the space organized and prevents unused items from accumulating to the point of being unmanageable. We’ve also found that we have more free time since downsizing, as our to-do list doesn’t have as much housework on it, and our daily choices of what clothes to wear or items to use are simplified.  While downsizing can be a bittersweet transition, you will probably find your next chapter to be very rewarding.

For any of you interested in making a move to condo life, but unfamiliar with it, Ron has firsthand experience with both traditional suburban condos and downtown condos, as he has lived in both types of developments, served on HOA boards at both types, and represented clients in the purchase and sale of both types of condos.  For those of you specifically interested in downtown living, give Ron a call so he can share with you the pros and cons and answer your questions about storage, parking and other elements of life in a downtown high rise.

About the Author

My wife and I live in Donelson, where we both were raised and graduated from high school (DCA Classes of 1983 and 1984).  Our current home is on the Cumberland River, very close to my childhood home and the former homes of both my McDonald and Rice grandparents.

Our daughter and son are grown now, and our daughter, Stephanie Miller, is my real estate partner.  She lives in Lebanon with her husband and their two children.  While Stephanie and I specialize in the areas of Downtown Nashville, Donelson, Hermitage, Old Hickory, Mt. Juliet and Lebanon, we have and do serve clients all over Middle Tennessee.

As a Nashville native, I’ve spent a lifetime watching our city evolve, and I am enthusiastic about showcasing it to others and serving their real estate needs.


1997 — 2000   Fleetwood HOA Board Officer

2013 — 2016   Rhythm at Music Row HOA Board Officer

2017   Greater Nashville Realtors: Housing Opportunities & Affordability Committee

2017 — 2018   St. Martin Square HOA Board Officer

2017 — 2019   Brentwood Photography Group Board

2018 — 2019   Senior Ride Nashville


National Association of REALTORS®

Tennessee Association of REALTORS®

Greater Nashville Association of REALTORS®