Re­duc­ing size of home doesn’t have to mean re­duc­ing life­style

The Palm Beach Post - Residences - - Residences South - Ellen James Martin

It’s not only empty-nesters who are sell­ing large homes and buy­ing smaller ones. Many younger peo­ple fac­ing re­duced in­come and higher ex­penses are trim­ming liv­ing space to re­duce costs.

“Peo­ple are fright­ened eco­nom­i­cally, so they’re cut­ting down, of­ten vol­un­tar­ily. There’s a ma­jor trend to­ward min­i­miza­tion,” said Bev­erly Cog­gins, au­thor of Three Steps to Down­siz­ing to a Smaller Res­i­dence.

Even some peo­ple who can af­ford to live big are down­scal­ing their liv­ing space to sim­plify their lives and to fo­cus on other pri­or­i­ties, ac­cord­ing to Sid Davis, a real es­tate bro­ker and au­thor of A Sur­vival Guide to Sell­ing a Home.

Davis tells how his son re­cently down­sized from a de­tached house with 1,800 square feet of air-con­di­tioned liv­ing space, and a large plot of land, to a 1,300-square-foot town­house with no yard. His mo­ti­va­tion for mov­ing wasn’t money. He sim­ply wanted more time for friends and hob­bies.

The son had lived in the larger house for only three years be­fore putting it on the mar­ket. Nev­er­the­less, he had to cull through many ac­cu­mu­la­tions, in­clud­ing tools and ex­cess fur­ni­ture, be­fore mov­ing.

In­deed, those mov­ing to a liv­ing space with much less square footage and stor­age ca­pac­ity must make tough choices. In many cases, they must de­cide among items they truly want to keep but can’t ac­com­mo­date in the new space, like me­men­toes from fam­ily va­ca­tions.

“When you’re go­ing to a smaller house, you must de­cide which things have the most mean­ing for you,” noted Cog­gins, who runs her own pro­fes­sional or­ga­niz­ing com­pany. A pro­fes­sional or­ga­nizer since 1995, she said she has learned it’s best for those down­siz­ing to break the work into chunks rather than to at­tempt marathon ses­sions.

Here are tips for those plan­ning to move to a smaller domi­cile:

• Free your­self of ex­tra fur­ni­ture early in your tran­si­tion. For most peo­ple, one ma­jor step to­ward down­siz­ing in­volves dis­pens­ing with large pieces of fur­ni­ture. Ex­cept for pre­cious an­tiques and fam­ily heir­looms, many find this process rel­a­tively easy be­cause they don’t have sen­ti­men­tal at­tach­ments to most fur­ni­ture.

Davis ex­plained that one way to clear space and fur­ni­ture quickly is to put it up for sale. He tells how, us­ing clas­si­fied ads in lo­cal news­pa­pers, his son quickly dis­pensed with sev­eral over­size pieces that wouldn’t have worked in his smaller town­house.

If you have valu­able an­tiques to sell, how­ever, you’ll prob­a­bly want to find a rep­utable dealer. How­ever, morerou­tine items of fur­ni­ture, as well as house­hold be­long­ings, can be sold through an in­for­mal sale— or, if that doesn’t work, do­nated.

“Peo­ple are sur­prised at how much money they can make through a lo­cal garage sale,” said Davis.

• Avoid stor­age-unit costs by elim­i­nat­ing su­per­flu­ous items. Many down­siz­ers suc­cumb to the temp­ta­tion to place their be­long­ings in a stor­age unit be­fore they move.

But Cog­gins ad­vises against this course if you can avoid it: “Stor­age units are ex­pen­sive. And for most peo­ple, they’re just an ex­cuse to post­pone mak­ing de­ci­sions on items they need to elim­i­nate.”

When she works with down­siz­ers, Cog­gins en­cour­ages them to dis­pense with many items, in­clud­ing cloth­ing that is too small or large, es­pe­cially if they haven’t used it for a year or longer. The same ap­plies to many other house­hold items.

She said that many peo­ple feel es­pe­cially ner­vous about let­ting go of things given to them as gifts by rel­a­tives or close friends. Cog­gins said that such guilt feel­ings are need­less.

But though you might not be able to take ev­ery­thing you love to your new, smaller place, Cog­gins sug­gests you take pho­tos of the trea­sured items, like a grand piano passed down in the fam­ily. These can be framed and hung up in your new do­main.

• Con­sider us­ing pickup ser­vices of­fered by char­i­ta­ble groups. Many down­siz­ers find it eas­ier to let go of ex­tra be­long­ings if they know they’ll be put to good use. That’s why Cog­gins and other pro­fes­sional or­ga­niz­ers of­ten ad­vo­cate con­tact­ing char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tions that are in­ter­ested in col­lect­ing ser­vice­able items. Of­ten, char­ity groups will pick up items from your home; this is a con­ve­nient way to free your­self of clut­ter. Also, with a pickup ap­point­ment, you’ll have a def­i­nite dead­line for your work; this can serve as a mo­ti­vat­ing fac­tor. (You might even qual­ify for an in­come-tax de­duc­tion.)

• Seek to stay ori­ented to the pos­i­tives in your fu­ture. Nowa­days, the re­al­ity is that many are down­siz­ing be­cause they have to cut ex­penses. Yet many who must move to a smaller home find that do­ing so has its fa­vor­able points, in­clud­ing less fi­nan­cial stress.

Cog­gins notes an­other ben­e­fit of down­siz­ing: With fewer home-up­keep de­mands, you’ll have more time to fo­cus on what’s im­por­tant to you.

Ellen James Martin is a Uni­ver­sal Syn­di­cate colum­nist.

It’s not just older home­own­ers who down­size; for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons, some of them fi­nan­cial, more younger home­own­ers are choos­ing to do so as well.

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