A recent study suggests that the era of the large American home may be coming to an end.

The 2022 American Home Size Index looked into roughly half-a-million property listings, both single-family homes and condo units, on Zillow. It found that the median home size nationwide was 2,014 square feet. That’s a nearly 20% decrease from 2015, when the median home size was at its largest at 2,467 square feet.

The decrease is quite gradual, as the top ten states where home sizes increased did so by between 23% and 54%, whereas states, where home sizes decreased, were only by up to 16%. Again, COVID is a factor, as the rise of remote work has prompted Americans to move to places where they can pay less per square foot. West Virginia has the cheapest at under USD$120 per square foot.

A small home isn’t that bad, especially if you live alone or with a small family. Aside from being less costly to build, it’s also less costly to maintain. Then again, transitioning from a big house to a small one will entail plenty of sacrifices. You can make your move to a smaller home seamless with some below tips.

Prepare To Declutter

Prepare To Declutter

You’ve probably seen this coming, but it’s the inevitable first step. Unless you’re confident you can make the small living space work, you’ll have to let go of some or most of your belongings. 

Industry experts state that the run-up to the move is an excellent opportunity to take stock of all you have, but it can also be the most stressful. It pays to understand that the moving individual always has control over what they want and don’t want in their lives. If it helps, they recommend calling ‘moving’ by a different term, such as ‘revamping.’

A healthy mindset is a prerequisite to the actual task, much so if you’re a graduate of the Marie Kondo school of decluttering. There are six rules you need to remember about it.

  1. Commit to tidying up.
  2. Imagine the ideal lifestyle.
  3. Prioritize discarding first.
  4. Tidy by category, not by location.
  5. Start tidying from easy to hard.
  6. Ask if an item ‘sparks joy.’

Ultimately, decluttering should be done before packing (at least six months ahead) as it helps estimate the correct number of boxes and packing tape. Additionally, as moving companies like Big Boy Movers and others usually charge by the number of personnel deployed and man-hours utilized, fewer boxes to move can result in significant savings. 

As for the stuff not coming to your new home, selling them is a great way to generate extra cash for rainy days. But, of course, this also applies to selling old appliances and buying new, more efficient ones as soon as you move into your new pad.

Don’t Rent Storage (Without A Good Reason)

Don't Rent Storage

First, let’s get one thing out of the way: most people rent a storage unit before the move, which isn’t necessarily bad. A storage unit can help hold move-in items until the new home is ready to be occupied. Some storage unit providers even allow short or long-term vehicle storage when the new home doesn’t have space for a car or motorcycle.

Sadly, experts say some people abuse storage units to keep belongings they should’ve otherwise discarded. At between USD$60 and USD$200 monthly, depending on the unit size, storage units don’t come cheap. So it can be tempting to rent as many storage units as possible to hold onto stuff you don’t want to let go because you may find some use for it later.

Unless you have a good reason, resist the urge to rent a storage unit when preparing to move. If you’re worried about regrets that might come later, minimalist experts swear by a few good rules of thumb when decluttering. These include:

90/90 Rule

Not to be confused with an inside joke in computer programming. According to New York Times bestseller minimalist authors Joshua Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, this rule states that deciding to keep or discard an item depends on two questions. 

Have you used the item in the last 90 days? If not, how likely will you use it in the next 90?

Letting an item go is probably a good idea if you answer ‘no’ to both questions. They also stated that it doesn’t strictly have to be 90 days, as 120 or 180 days are also acceptable. It all boils down to being honest with yourself.

20/20 Rule

Another rule by Millburn and Nicodemus is the 20/20 Rule, designed to sort through ‘just-in-case’ items. Similar to the 90/90 Rule, this one also asks two questions. First, can you replace that item for less than USD$20? If yes, can you do it within 20 minutes of where you’ll move?

If both result in a ‘yes,’ then letting that item go won’t hurt. Millburn and Nicodemus swear by its effectiveness, working ‘99% of the time for 99% of all items and 99% of all people.’ As exaggerated as such a claim sounds, it’s hard to deny its sense.

The Container Concept

This rule comes from decluttering author Dana White, whose once-messy home held her writing career back. Mainly used for going through clothes or fabric, the Container Concept only keeps as much stuff as a dresser allows. Anything that won’t fit in the dresser anymore must be discarded, no ifs or buts.

On a related note, resist the temptation of putting away too much stuff in a property’s storage places like the attic or shed, if there’s any. Most small homes are recent builds that may have done away with the attic to save on construction and maintenance. The space between the roof and ceiling still exists but is no longer large enough for storage.

Measure Furniture

Measure Furniture

Of all of a person’s belongings, nothing’s more worrisome and tedious than moving their current furniture. However, it isn’t so much the disassembly and hauling as when the furniture arrives at the new home that worries most people. Imagine moving a bulky sofa for miles, only to realize there’s hardly any room for it. 

Interior design experts believe living room furniture should be 30 inches apart to enable seamless movement. Place a table too far from the couch, and both might appear ‘floating’ or out of place. It can also be beneficial from a practical standpoint; reaching for snacks won’t be a hassle.

Experts advise at least 24 inches of space between the bed and bedside furniture for the bedroom to help make the bed easier. They also suggest a 36-inch gap between the bed and the door, or the former will block the latter. 

Ensuring an ideal fit will require a bit of math and much planning. Getting details about the new property’s floor space, namely the shape, and dimensions, is essential. Some properties may have floor plans included in the listings, but you can run online tools if the listing doesn’t have one. Also, remember to take measurements of the furniture.

You’ll be surprised at how floor plans can spare the hassle of moving bulky furniture. Movers use equipment and disposables to handle furniture throughout the move, so not having to move one leads to reduced costs. Even better if you decide to sell or donate them. 

If It Can’t Be Sold, Donate

If It Can't Be Sold, Donate

As sound as selling everything that can’t be taken sounds, know that not everything can be sold for a profit—and even that’s debatable. For example, you may have made extra cash selling an antique sofa set, but is the time spent worth the effort?

Minimalists like Joshua Becker, founder of the Becoming Minimalist blog, stress that selling an item comes with several frustrations, from marketing to no-show buyers wasting a seller’s time. Decluttering is a months-long process, but reselling can be much longer. Eventually, it becomes a hiccup to your move as it forces you to spend for its upkeep until sold.

Clothes are one prevalent example. While some people will pay for out-of-season fashion, the return is usually not worth the marketing effort. No exact number exists, but one estimate says you can sell them for up to 40% of the original price. Then again, imagine taking photos of every piece of clothing and thinking about how much to sell.

When reselling doesn’t make sense, donating to charities and nonprofits is the next best thing. You won’t find a better win-win situation than this: you get rid of stuff you no longer need, while cash-strapped charities won’t have to spend on needed supplies. As a bonus, this act of generosity can be inspiring enough to do it again.

The back of a moving truck loaded with furniture


Based on current trends, downsizing will likely be prevalent in the coming years. A shaky post-COVID economy has prompted many to cut spending wherever possible, including their choice of real estate. However, only time will tell if house sizes will continue to decline below 2,000 square feet.

However, transitioning from big to small isn’t as simple as shoving everything in every nook and cranny. Without decluttering and planning, any new life in a smaller home will be nothing short of nightmarish. So, if you plan to move in the next several months, it’s prudent to start now. 

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