The Upside of Downsizing

Jan Johnson and husband, Terry, moved from a 2,400-square foot house into a 1,800-square foot home and it's a perfect fit, she says.

Two fewer bedrooms and 600 less square feet forced them to part with all but "our favorite stuff," she says. But, that's OK. She gives downsizing rave reviews.

TIP

Three things to ask yourself when you're weeding through your lifelong stash:

Is this appropriate for your physical condition or stage of life?

Will it still be useful or functional in your new home?

Will it fit in your new space?

"It's great, it's comfy," she says. "We love it." The smaller house and yard also mean fewer weekend chores.

The Johnsons are among the growing number of empty nesters, retirees, and others who have discovered the upside of downsizing. Folks are trading their two-story sprawling, cluttered family homes for single-story, energy-efficient dwellings, tidy townhouses, compact condominiums and gated communities.

Layout, location and lifestyle affect their choices, says Lori Hawkins of John L. Scott Real Estate in Medford. They are looking for less space and less maintenance, and a lifestyle of convenience, she adds. "They learn to live with less. It saves money, energy and time."

However, the move takes a considerable amount of planning, says Hawkins. She tells clients to ask themselves: Why am I moving? What are my needs?

Downsizing possessions is the most difficult part of the journey from family home to new house, she adds. "It's difficult because you are not just changing house style, you are changing lifestyle."

The first step is the longest — the walk into the closets, the garage, the attic, the basement — into all those deep, dark secret places where junk hides.

The second step is that walk down memory lane where favorite things reside.

Hawkins recommends hiring an interior decorator or an organizational consultant to walk you through the process. "It will make for a smoother transition," she says.

Holly Hill, who owns Simple Organizing in Grants Pass, calls herself "a cheerleader" who reassures her clients that "it is OK to get rid of stuff."

Here are 10 tips for downsizing from Hill and Ian Stephens of Interior Home Solutions:

  • Stay focused on one room (or area) at a time. Have packing supplies, boxes or storage bins on hand, and pack as you go. Divide your "stuff" into the following categories: Need, cherish, donate, sell and throw away.
  • Begin "weeding" in areas that have few sentimental items — like the kitchen or garage. You won't need or have the space for all those pots and pans, tools, gadgets and appliances at the newer, smaller place.
  • Go through closets. Keep only your current wardrobe, and pack away seasonal clothes. Don't store that prom dress you will never wear again, or save outfits for when you lose weight.
  • Recycle all those magazines, and donate books to schools, libraries, book exchanges. Hill says most people have "way too many piles" of magazines and shelves of books "they will never read again."
  • If you are downsizing with children still at home — keep only age-appropriate books, toys and clothes.
  • Give treasured keepsakes and collectibles to family and friends now. "If you plan to do it anyway, why wait until you die?" asks Stephens.
  • Sort through all those shoeboxes of photographs — keep the best ones for gifts, make scrapbooks, or scan them.
  • Have a floor plan of your new house. Try a side-by-side chart in which you compare your current house with the smaller one. Prearrange rooms, closets, drawers, etc. before the move.
  • Keep or buy furniture that has storage space or dual-function. Choose furniture scaled to fit the smaller space.
  • Don't rent a storage unit. You haven't really downsized, and "you are spending money you don't need to spend," says Hill.

Remember the goal is to simplify your life, says Hill. "You want order in your home, and peace in your spirit."


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