Cabin in the woods
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How to downsize your stuff for a move to the cottage

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The time is finally here—you’re packing up your city life, leaving the concrete jungle behind, and making the cottage your permanent home. The only thing now standing between you and the loons on the lake is packing. And, if you’re like most people, your cottage is smaller than your house, which means before you pack, you have to downsize.

Here’s how to make the process easy and efficient.

Start with a couple of questions 

“How often do I use it?” “When did I use it last?” “What purpose does it serve?” Your 16-setting bone china may come in handy at Christmas time, but if you move to the cottage, will you still be hosting enormous family dinners? Think about passing on or selling things that won’t fit into your cottage lifestyle. And if you haven’t used something in a year, chances are you won’t need it at the cottage.

Purge your storeroom

It’s easier to purge stuff that you don’t see (and don’t use) all the time. Plus, the stuff you’re storing probably won’t fit into your scaled-down life. Be brutally honest about whether or not you really need to keep your kids’ dance costumes from third grade.

Be particularly ruthless with unsentimental stuff

Areas like the kitchen and garage are less likely to have objects that mean a great deal, so make these the focus of your biggest purges. You won’t need 10 mixing bowls, three cheese graters, two lawnmowers or that patio set you’ve been meaning to repair for seven years.

Measure and keep a copy of the floor plan handy

Be realistic about what furniture you’re going to be able to fit in a smaller space. You probably won’t have room for two sofas, and your existing formal dining room set might be better off replaced by something more versatile. If you really want to get detail-oriented, plot your furniture and room sizes on the computer or create a diagram on graph paper. (Doing this will also help with furniture placement once you move.)

Don’t even think about tackling the whole house at once

Downsizing is a long process, and can be emotionally overwhelming as well as physically demanding. Do a little bit at a time to avoid getting burned out.

Do something good with your stuff

Don’t just throw your stuff away. Shelters sometimes need toys, sheets or blankets, and pet rescue organizations will often take clean towels. Donating your stuff can help make parting with it easier. (Make sure to call first to see whether what you have is actually needed, and if it isn’t, take it to a charity store that accepts everything.) Of course if it’s stained or broken, the trash is exactly where it should go.

Focus on your favourite pieces

If you’re a collector, you might not have room for your entire collection at the cottage. Likewise, you may not have enough wall space for all those family photos. Winnow your treasures down to your favourite pieces and see if you can sell or give the rest to someone else.

Don’t forget to clear out your cottage, too

If you’re moving in permanently, it’s probably time to get rid of the mismatched mugs, chipped dishes, and ripped vinyl tablecloth on the kitchen table. Don’t forget to do some downsizing at the cottage before you move in so you can unpack and feel at home right away.