Bigger isn't always better. In this episode we discuss the why and how of downsizing your home.
Is downsizing a thing for you?
In addition to the spring cleaning I talked about in episode 186, I’ve also been thinking a lot about downsizing. I’m not necessarily planning to move soon, but we are talking about the possibilities of moving from our very large 5-bedroom house on 20 acres to something smaller, perhaps in another country. It got me thinking about downsizing–the why, the who, and the how–and I thought I'd share with you some of the info I found.
What is downsizing?
Simply put, downsizing is moving from a larger space to a smaller one. When I Googled downsizing, almost all the articles were about company downsizing or job loss! While this might be an interesting topic for a future episode, that’s not what this one’s about. Downsizing can be permanent or temporary, but in this episode we’ll mainly talk about a permanent move to a smaller home.
Why do people downsize?
- Parents become empty nesters and downsize as their children grow up and leave home. They may or may not be retiring around the same time.
- Students move from their parents’ home to a dorm room.
- People move to a city where housing is more expensive and need to find smaller, more affordable places.
- Households combine when individuals go from solo space to shared space, maybe because they're getting married or getting a new roommate, or moving back home to care for ailing parents.
- Reduced income and/or just trying to reduce expenses due to life circumstances such as unemployment or divorce can motivate a move to a smaller home.
- Some people downsize as an intentional lifestyle choice. One example is Courtney Carver’s story in Soulful Simplicity (which we talked about in episode 182).
Benefits of downsizing
- Smaller spaces are usually less expensive.
- Smaller spaces are easier and less time-consuming to clean & maintain, which leaves more time for other activities you care about.
- Smaller spaces force (or at least encourage) decluttering unless you box stuff up and put it in paid storage. (I’d like to challenge you to try downsizing without doing that.)
Challenges of downsizing
Whether downsizing is a voluntary lifestyle choice or a reluctant decision, downsizing can bring some challenges that need to be addressed.
- The psychological adjustment to fitting into smaller space. In the U.S., there seems to be an expectation that growth and expansion are evidence of success, so “shrinking” your living space could be perceived as less success and may require psychological adjustment. In addition, most of us don’t like change anyway, but going from a larger to smaller space may require more mental adjustment.
- Finding privacy if you are in shared space
- Finding space for important activities
- Work (whether for business or household such as paying bills, etc.)
- The angst of deciding what to get rid of
This is a big one for a lot of us. We have memories and emotional attachment linked to our belongings but moving into a smaller space will require you to pare down. Here are a couple ideas on how to do that:
Think about why you’re attached to a particular item; is there a way to honor and retain the memory while letting go of the item?
Ask yourself “What’s the worst that will happen if I get rid of this?”
“The goal of downsizing is to keep items that reflect who you are now, not who you were then.”
Tips for downsizing
- Attitude is everything. Regardless of the reason for downsizing, can you see it as a positive thing? Use it as an opportunity to think intentionally about the stuff taking up space in your home. In Courtney Carver’s book Soulful Simplicity, she reminds us that home is where we live, not where we store stuff. So downsizing can really help you think about why your things are in your home, what purpose they serve, and what value they bring to your life.
“View this process as a positive time when you are creating a new chapter in your life and it is a time to re-invent your lifestyle and your surroundings.”
- Evaluate your new space and decide what you actually have room for. Get a floor plan if you can, and measure things.
- Check out the free tools available to help with planning your room layouts. Ikea offers planning tools. Another option is a tool called Planner 5D. Follow the link to this article for a list of several online tools or Google “free room planning tools.”
- If you’re moving into shared space with a spouse or roommate, compare inventories. Rather than keeping duplicates of things, decide whose couch, whose glassware, whose wall art you’ll keep.
- Start with the big stuff, such as furniture. What can you donate, sell, or give to friends or family?
- This House Beautiful article offers a list of things you should be sure to hang onto and not get rid of in your decluttering blitz.
- Go through every cupboard, closet, drawer. What’s in there that you haven’t used in a year or more? Sort things into piles, bags, or boxes to trash, sell, rehome (to friends/family), donate (to charity), and keep.
- Digitize where you can. Scan papers, photos, manuals etc.
- Ask yourself: What would you certainly replace if you lost everything?
- Make the best use of smaller space
- Keep or buy only furniture pieces that do double duty. For example, get a coffee table with drawers where you can store blankets for guests or a sofa that folds into a bed.
- Make use of vertical space (e.g., wall-mounted shelves), and consider under-bed storage solutions.
- Get some help if you can: Seek a professional or a good friend who’ll be honest about the value of keeping items or whether you should part with it.
What do you think?
Have you downsized (or are you thinking of doing so)? Can you share any tips for making the move from a larger space to a smaller one simpler and less stressful? Please share them in the comments section below this post or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group or send me an email.
Resources and Links
- Managing the Emotional Stress of Downsizing Your Home
- 10 Best Free Online Virtual Room Programs and Tools
- 13 Things to Never Ever Throw Out When You're Downsizing
Soulful Simplicity by Courtney Carver
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