On Downsizing, Part 1: The Purge

Thinking about downsizing and just don’t even know where to begin? First off, congratulations! Being able to downsize is an accomplishment. It means you have made it to the next phase of your life, one where you no longer need all the space and all the stuff. You may not be ready to jump right in and start looking for a new house, and that is okay. This is a process that takes time; simply deciding that you need to start taking the next steps to be ready to downsize is big.

There are a million reasons to think about downsizing: you’re an empty nester; the maintenance and upkeep on your home are becoming too much; or you have simply just realized you don’t need all the space. Whatever the reason may be, the process of de-cluttering and purging can seem overwhelming, but fear not! In this two-part series, we will be taking you through Phyllis and Ken’s on-going experience transitioning from an 8,000 SF home to 2,200 SF home. To say the least, this is a huge adjustment. Phyllis and Ken, my parents, for our newer readers, are right there with you and have pulled together some tips on how to make the process a little bit easier. Here’s my mom…



We have lived in our home for 20 years and have raised four children and countless animals here. This home has seen it all, from big milestones like birthdays and graduations, to endless games of basement soccer and high school parties (thanks, Britt!). We have loved every moment living in this house, but as time has passed our children have grown and moved, Ken has aged (okay, maybe me. too…), and we just don’t need the space anymore. The thought of purging and de-cluttering 20 years’ worth of stuff was honestly daunting, so it is our hope to share our experience and insight to help those of you who aren’t far behind us!


Part 1: The Purge

First and foremost, you must accept the fact that you are moving. Emotionally detaching from a home that holds years of memories is hard but know that this is the best decision for you and your family. Only after you have decided to let go can you start the de-cluttering process; without a clear and decisive mind you won’t be able to successfully clear your home.

Realize that living in a big home has allowed you to store things out of sight and out of mind for years and a lot (really, most!) of it is going to have go. But how!?


1. Set a timeline and stick to it!

We literally had a roll-off dumpster delivered into our driveway for one week and one week only. That set amount of time forced us to get moving and start purging.


2. Start with the items you have been storing for years.

These are the items you have likely totally forgotten about or items that have been packed up for a while and you haven’t missed. Tackle the basement corner or deep, back portion of the attic, you know, the places you never go because you just “can’t deal with the mess.” Do those first! Believe it or not, if you have really detached and accepted that you are moving, purging those scary places becomes a breeze because it all goes.


3. Use Marie Kondo’s “KonMari’s” method of de-cluttering.

The idea behind it is to get rid of things that don’t bring you happiness by asking the question “does this item spark joy in my life?” If the answer is no, get rid of it. You will be shocked at how many items in your home are simply taking up space and have no “joy value” to you. (Want to learn more about KonMari? See the links are the end of this post.)


4. But what about the items that do bring joy?

Obviously, there will be personal items that you will want to keep. For me, most of those items were my children’s things, so I bought four extra-large clear storage bins and labeled them with each child’s name. For every item I came across that had sentimental value, I would put it in their bin. We are talking real sentimental things, not runner-up trophies for a sports team you can’t remember or all 25 turkey hands they made in preschool.

Pick out the items that really mean the most and put them in their bin. You can then let them decide what to keep and what to toss. You may be surprised how little they want to keep, but remember these items were boxed up in a basement or attic and had not been looked at in years. Yes, saving all of their fifth grade art projects seemed so sentimental and sweet at the time, but now its clutter. Let them choose the one they remember or like the most and get rid of the rest.


Bottom line

Living in your larger home has allowed you to accumulate and live to the size of your space. The reality is you don’t need as much as you think. We are creatures of habit we use and do the same things over and over again; having more than what we already use and need is not necessary. Get rid of it and I promise you will feel like a weight has been lifted from your shoulders!


For a KonMari overview, click here and here for a checklist.


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Born, raised, and bred in Alexandria, VA, Britt Patterson is a true product of the great state of Virginia. Britt attended Waynewood Elementary (Class of ’96), Carl Sandburg Middle School (Class of ’98) , and West Potomac High School (Class of ’02), she then went on to attend Virginia Tech (go Hokies!) where she majored in Business Marketing and Minored in Real Estate. Britt “officially” joined the family business as a licensed Realtor in 2008 after two years of working the political fundraising field and prides herself on her Alexandria real estate knowledge, alongside her integrity, loyalty, and professionalism as an agent and Vice President for the family business.

The Patterson Group is one of the most experienced and trusted real estate teams in the area, serving Alexandria, VA for over thirty years. We offer professional, hardworking, detailed and friendly service and a large network of contacts and resources accrued over our many years in Alexandria real estate. Comprised of seven Alexandria locals, six of whom are licensed realtors and three of whom are accredited staging professionals, The Patterson Group is passionate and knowledgeable about Alexandria, VA and here for all of your Northern VA real estate needs. Allow us to help you find your home here and discover all that the Alexandria lifestyle has to offer.


400 South Washington Street
Alexandria, VA 22314


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