Deciding what goes when downsizing

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Dreaming of ditching your McMansion in favor of a cute condo downtown? If so, be sure you consider the downside of downsizing: You will need to get rid of some, if not most of your possessions.

Once you move, the challenge will be to maximize the efficiency of your smaller space with supreme organization. Professional organizers offer tips to help make both sides of the empty nest equation easier to handle.

“The first step is to get a sense of the homeowners’ goals and to find out if they already know the size of the next place where they will live,” said Nancy Ilene Quinlan, owner of Must Get Organized (www.mustgetorganized.com) in Arlington.

Scott Roewer, president of Solutions by Scott (www.SolutionsbyScott.com) in the District, said while most people wait until they have a signed contract for a new home, some people wait until they actually get to their new home to sort their belongings.

“People don’t realize that they can start downsizing earlier,” Mr. Roewer said. “Editing some of your stuff before looking for a new home can help you figure out what to buy. It’s important to plan six weeks to two or three months in advance of a move, to think about how you want to use your new space and how your furniture will work there.”

Alexandra Koneff, co-owner of Orchestrated Moves (www.orchestratedmoves.com) in Bethesda, said empty nesters need to set priorities to determine what to get rid of and how to get rid of it.

“If something would have meaning to another family member or close friend, you can give it to that person,” Ms. Koneff suggested. “People have an emotional attachment to things, so we have to ask them, ‘Does it make you smile when you see it?’ If it does, then maybe they can think of a way to keep it in the family or use if in the new place.”

Mr. Roewer suggested that people start in the perimeter rooms of the house, such as the attic, basement, garage and storage closets.

“Not only do you keep things there that you have forgotten about, but you also store things like a lawn mower that you won’t need in the next place,” Mr. Roewer said. “These rooms can also be more challenging because of the emotionality involved. I recommend that people get everyone involved in the decision making, including grown kids who may or may not want their stuff.”

Mr. Roewer said decisions can be made long distance, with the homeowners photographing items for their offspring to look at.

Once the sorting process is complete, the homeowners need to determine how to get rid of items responsibly.

“County websites have information about how to recycle items, and consumers can also decide whether they want to take the time to sell possessions or donate them,” Ms. Quinlan said. “Goodwill is a perennial favorite, but I also like Joseph’s Coat in Annandale. Many local groups need household items, books and toys.”

Ms. Koneff and Mr. Roewer both recommend A Wider Circle for donations because the items are placed in a warehouse and made available to formerly homeless families.

“Clients can also sell items on eBay and Craigslist, but they need to be aware of the potential complication of shipping or having things picked up,” Ms. Koneff said. “A consignment store is another option, or an estate sale can be arranged. If there are not enough items, sometimes a shared sale can be arranged.”

Organizers recommend measuring every space in the new home to evaluate where furniture and other possessions will fit before moving day.

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