“Downsizing a home can lead to lots of stress and anxiety for anyone who loves their belongings but hates living in clutter. Seniors, empty nesters or people moving from a suburban home to a city apartment all face the challenge of creating a new living space with limited room for furniture, accessories, clothes and collectibles. But if you come up with a plan before you downsize, you can create a comfortable and stylish environment made for daily living.”
– Jeannie Matteucci, HGTV
“Comfortable” and “stylish” are the key words in the HGTV article and in the downsizing process itself.
I hated the idea of downsizing from two homes in Georgia (with a combined 5,500 square feet) and moving into a 1225-square-foot apartment in Arlington, Virginia.
But I couldn’t be happier now! My place is comfortable and stylish, in a great urban landscape with access to great shops, restaurants and the Metro – and best yet, it’s worry-free!
Downsizing may not be for everyone, but for a growing number of people, regardless of age or reason for downsizing, it’s an ideal way to “reframe” the way they’ll live in the future.
HGTV’s six tips for organizing and/or downsizing:
- Plan ahead. Start planning the move early and establish a time-line and set goals. If you’re part of a family or couple, right off the bat, make sure everyone’s on board.
- Figure out how you want to live, then start imagining it. Do you want to travel? If you have a new home selected, decide what is going to fit. If you’ve spent a lot of money on something, ask yourself if you can imagine parting with it.
- Find purpose. Edit your belongings and recognize that your oversized desk isn’t going to make the cut. Designer Jane Hamilton says many people don’t realize how functional small spaces can be. “With some planning, a shelf can become your whole home office or a corner becomes an art studio.” Regarding sentimental items, it’s helpful (especially to children who feel their losing something)) to take photos of your old home and document all the belongings to preserve memories.
- Keep clutter out. Be creative in storing items that you don’t use often. Eliminate unsightly cables by using a Wi-Fi printer, mount your television on a wall so you can use the floor space for something other than a media center, and store items under a table draped it with a tablecloth to “hide” them.
- Think quality and multipurpose. Get rid of those huge chairs and that bulky sofa because they won’t fit. Instead, choose a great piece of furniture that makes a statement. Find multiple uses for furniture if you’re buying something for the new space. For example, use bedside chests with open and closed storage and ottomans with tops that lift to store blankets or pillows.
- When in doubt, seek an objective opinion. Professional organizers are worth their weight in gold. The National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) has 9,000 members across the country. They’ve been through many organizing and downsizing situations and can help guide you. And consider an estate sale to clear your home of all the items you don’t need in your new streamlined life. Thousands of estate sale specialists across the country are ready to help.
My personal take on HGTV’s tips, told from the perspective of someone who’s gone through this downsizing process:
- Give yourself two years. If you’ve been in your house for a long time and you’re electing to downsize, pace yourself. If you’re being forced to downsize because of divorce or a work-related move to a new city, it’s a whole different ballgame.
- Consider doing “a 180” when styling and furnishing your new place. If you’ve been into country French, consider shifting 180 degrees and “going sleek” with clean-line furniture and complementary art and accessories.
- Have a “mission statement” in mind and repeat it often. “We want to travel more often and need a lock-and-leave condo.” Be proud that you’re reinventing yourself. Never view the term “downsizing” or the process itself in a negative light.
- Clutter is in the eye of the beholder. My small place is full of clutter (in the eyes of a minimalist friend who’s also just downsized). But to my eyes, it’s full of items that I’ve collected or created through the years that I simply can’t part with. While I DID get rid of five sets of china, multiple lamps, chairs, side tables, etc. – and a ton of clothes – I couldn’t part with items that have stories attached to them.
- Multiple purposes for beds? That’s right! We have two beds in the apartment and they have several containers underneath full of off-season clothes, linens, shoes and handbags. Container Store has a lot of my money, and I have a lot of their bins.
- Seek advice sooner rather than later. Downsizing experts are very busy these days, so call and get on their schedule. Most organizers, move managers, and estate sale professionals have worked with dozens of downsizers. Talk to more than one and if you need emotional support and find one who suits your style.
The real estate market is WHITE HOT right now. Interest rates are still low. The sellers’ market we’re in now will help you get top dollar for your house. If you get an offer, it will light a fire under you and you will be on your way to a fun new life!
Downsize today! Enjoy a simpler life for a change.