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Downsizing can be daunting, especially when it comes to deciding what to keep, sell, toss out, or donate. Whether you’re moving to a smaller home, decluttering, or simply trying to simplify your life, downsizing can feel overwhelming. Below, we share practical tips and resources to help you decide what to do with all your stuff.

Step 1: Assess Your Needs and Wants

Before you start downsizing, it’s important to assess your needs and wants. Take some time to reflect on your current lifestyle and what you want your future to look like. Consider your space limitations, budget, and future plans.

  • Goals: Are you downsizing to save money, or to live a more minimalistic lifestyle? Do you plan to move soon, or are you simply decluttering your current space?
  • If you’re moving to a smaller space, how much storage will you have? Take measurements and make a list of all the available built-in storage (kitchen cabinets and counter space, bathroom vanities, built-in bookcases, closets, lockers, etc.) – and all the kinds of storage you can add (shelving, wardrobes, etc.)
  • Budget: Another important consideration is your budget. Does it make sense to invest in built-in storage solutions or dual-purpose furniture that provides storage too? If you want to keep more things than fit in your home, can you afford off-site storage?

Once you have a clear understanding of your goals, needs and wants, you can start making decisions about what to keep and what to let go of.

Step 2: Decide What to Keep

When deciding what to keep, it can be helpful to start with a broad sorting system. This can involve categorizing items into groups such as “keep,” “sell,” “donate,” and “toss out.” Once you’ve sorted items into these categories, you can start to make more specific decisions about each item.

If you’re struggling to decide what to keep, consider the 80/20 rule – you’re likely only using 20% of your possessions regularly. When downsizing, try to focus on keeping the items you use most often and that bring you the most joy.

  • When deciding what to keep, consider the following questions:
  • How often do you use it?
  • Does it hold sentimental value?
  • Is it a family heirloom?
  • Does it fit into your future plans?
  • Would it be difficult or expensive to replace?
  • Is it valuable? Are you sure?
  • In the words of Marie Kondo, does it bring you joy?

If an item meets any of these criteria, it may be worth keeping.

Step 3: Sell Unwanted Items

Once you’ve decided what to keep, it’s time to start thinking about what to do with everything else. Consider selling items that are in good condition but no longer serve a purpose for you. Some options for selling items in Toronto include:

  • Host a Garage or Contents Sale – If you don’t want to host and advertise your own garage sale, consider joining friends or convince your neighbours to do a street sale. You won’t likely make a ton of money, but it can be a fun way to meet your neighbours and get rid of all that stuff.
  • Craigslist and Kijiji – I love selling stuff I don’t want on Craigslist and Kijiji. Pro tip: You’ll be inundated with people wanting whatever you’re trying to get rid of, so don’t post your phone number on the ad (trust me, you’ll regret it). Expect that people will want to haggle and some won’t show up to pick up their item.
  • Facebook Marketplace – One of the fastest ways to part with a couch or dining table you don’t want is to post it on Facebook Marketplace. Price it with room to negotiate and get ready to monitor your Facebook messages.
  • Consignment Shops – There are plenty of consignment shops in Toronto. Consider:

Step 4: Donate Unwanted Items

Some options for donating items in Toronto include:

  • Canadian Diabetes Association The CDA will pick up unwanted clothing, blankets, toys, books, computers, cellphones and household items or you can drop them off at one of their drop-off locations. Find out more here.
  • Furniture Bank Gently used furniture can be donated to the Furniture Bank, where furniture is re-housed to people transitioning from homelessness. They give in-kind tax receipts for donations over $100 and pick-up can be arranged online.
  • Habitat for Humanity Restores You can donate construction supplies, furnishings, home decor, cabinetry and appliances at one of the various Restores in Toronto. Money raised through re-selling goes directly to fund new home projects. Click here to find a Habitat for Humanity Restore.
  • Salvation Army The Salvation Army accepts donations of clothing, household goods, books, sporting goods, toys, electronics and more. Find out where to donate to the Salvation Army here.
  • Value Village – With Value Village thrift shops located across Toronto and the GTA, there’s bound to be a convenient spot for you to donate your unwanted stuff. Note that Value Village is a for-profit, vs charitable organization, but they do a great job of reusing and recycling and reducing what ends up in the landfill.
  • Goodwill Goodwill takes clothing, household items, collectables, textiles, books and more. Goodwill uses the money raised from re-selling your donations to help create jobs for people in our community, including the young, the old, new Canadians and people with disabilities. You can find Goodwill locations in Mississauga and North York.

Step 5: Repurpose and Recycle

We all want to help the environment and keep things out of landfills, so if you’ve got an item you don’t want to keep and can’t sell or donate, consider putting it on the curb in front of your house and posting it in the ‘Free’ sections of Craigslist, Kijiji and Facebook Marketplace. You’ll be shocked at how fast someone will want it!

Live in a condo and don’t have a curb? No problem! Post it on the message board or in the building’s Facebook group.

Step 6: Toss Out Items That Can’t Be Repurposed

If something doesn’t fit into the keep, sell or donate pile and you can’t recycle or repurpose it, then it’s time to toss it. If you have a lot of stuff, get in touch with 1-800-GOT-JUNK. They take all the stuff the City of Toronto doesn’t pick up, from mattresses and furniture to old appliances, construction debris and more. They provide same-day service and a 2-hour pick-up window. Costs vary depending on what you have, but they’re an honest bunch (at least in our experience).

Step 7: Embrace the Emotional Aspect of Downsizing

Downsizing can be an emotional process, especially when it comes to letting go of sentimental items. It’s important to give yourself time to process these feelings and to be gentle with yourself during the downsizing process. Consider taking photos or videos of sentimental items that you can’t keep as a way to preserve memories without taking up physical space. Or pass down sentimental items to family members or loved ones who can continue to cherish them.

Don’t be afraid to seek out support and resources during the downsizing process. There are many professional organizers, real estate agents, and other experts who can offer guidance and support as you navigate this challenging process.

And remember: downsizing is a journey, not a destination. It’s okay to take your time and make decisions at your own pace.

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