6 Rules to Follow When Downsizing Your Belongings

POPSUGAR Photography | Julia Sperling
POPSUGAR Photography | Julia Sperling

If you're a small-space dweller looking to downsize your belongings or if you're just motivated by the season to clean out your clutter, there are a few rules you should consider before you break out the garbage bags. We spoke to expert Jacquie Denny, co-founder of estate-sale website Everything But the House (EBTH). She has an in-depth knowledge of which home items to keep, toss, and resell, as well as how to do it. Check out her great tips for thoughtfully scaling back belongings ahead.

1. Toss Anything You Don't Use 80 Percent of the Time

You have to be ruthless when downsizing. "Stick to the basics," Jacquie recommends. She advises tossing all impulsive or experimental purchases, as well as getting rid of any pieces that are so specific that they're impractical, such as Christmas-themed poached egg cups you got in your stocking seven years ago and never seem to remember to use over the holidays. For the kitchen, Jacquie advises, "what pots, pans, and essentials do you cook with for 80 percent of your meals? Keep those and let go of the rest (i.e. no bread maker that you only use once a year)." Ultimately, less is more.

2. Don't Get a Storage Unit

"I tell everyone I work with that off-site storage is not your friend," says Jacquie. "Often people send things away to storage because they don't truly need them, but they are not ready to say goodbye." And if you've made the mistake of putting something in storage, Jacquie suggests you toss it after a year.

3. Differentiate Between Decoration and Clutter

The line between decor and clutter can get fuzzy — is that a stylish statue or a messy knickknack? — and Jacquie says it has a lot to do with each homeowner's personality. "My rule is that once a shelf gets too busy visually, you have too much. Multiples of an item tend to make it impossible to appreciate the aesthetic of any one thing." In short, if you see more decor than surface area, it's time to clear out.

4. Sell Items With Resale Potential

Now that you've set aside all nonessentials, take a look through what you're getting rid of. Jacquie says books, crystal vases, tableware, and baskets have potential resale value, as do decor vintage items. To gauge if something is trash or treasure, she says to check for a few things: "Is this piece signed by an artist or does it have a significant maker's mark on it? Is this piece one of a kind or is it from a limited-production run? Is this piece made of expensive metals (silver, gold, or platinum)? Is a book a first edition or illustrated by a notable artist?"

5. Sell Art With Value

What you can get money back on when it comes to art may surprise you. "Value in the art market can vary from region to region," says Jacquie. While decorative and mass-produced art doesn't hold up and should be donated, original pieces signed by the artist (even if you've never heard of the artist) consistently resell well, as do prints by first-rate artists like Picasso and Miró. She recommends checking out an online resource, like EBTH, with archives that give examples of what items are currently worth at market.

6. Keep What You Love

KonMari says to keep only the items that spark joy, but Jacquie says something even simpler: "My number-one rule is to always keep what you love. Nothing is worse than holding onto things that are mediocre!"