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