Moving home is known as one the biggest sources of stress in our lives. If the move also involves downsizing to a smaller place, you can end up overwhelmed with panic!
Together with empty nesters who ended with a big house and suburban people who become city apartment dwellers, expats are the third group that very often face the challenge of recreating a new home with a smaller living space. Lives spent abroad often include dear furniture, collectibles and many memories that we accumulate as time goes by. And our new place generally was not prepared for all.
Luckily, if you come up with a good plan for this challenging move, you can still create a comfortable and stylish environment made for daily living. It is all about being smart.
Here are my tips for downsizing your home to live comfortably in a cozier space.
1.- Reevaluate your lifestyle and needs
Think about what lifestyle you want to embrace as you go forward. This is not a minor question. A move gives you the opportunity to start afresh. Is there something you would like to do as you start this new chapter? What could you let go of? Once you address these questions you can start planning the move room by room, making the big decisions first and then the small ones.
In view of this, it always helps to ask yourself some of these questions and discuss the answers with your partner (if applicable). Have an open conversation about larger or more complicated items before deciding what should be donated, sold or disposed and what goes to your new home.
Do you feel you should keep some pieces of furniture just because they were expensive? If so, is it really worth at this point to keep them?
Do you have any large sentimental items you’ve been holding onto, such as your aunt’s big dresser? Antique armoire? If that is the case, what would make you happier: Taking them with you or are you ready to pass them on to someone else?
Do you have any large collections dear to you? If so, would you prefer to keep, gift or sell them?
Any other large gifts or sentimental items you can’t live without in your new home? In this case, are you truly able to make space for them?
All those questions asked and discussed ahead of time will help you to set your priorities and make an efficient moving plan.
2.- Measure everything
Small spaces require a lot of creativity and precise measurements.
In order to know if your furniture will (or won’t) fit into your new space –particularly large items such as your sofa and your bed– you will need to measure everything.
You will also need to get the room measurements of your new space. Ask if you can take measurements or if there is a floor plan available to you. Make sure to be accurate: your measures should include all the architectural features such as crown moldings, baseboards, air-conditioning units, outlets, and light switches. Once all of these elements are considered, you can start understanding what can really fit.
3.- Prioritize quality over quantity and multipurpose pieces
Give preference to pieces of furniture that make a statement, instead of trying to squeeze too many pieces into a single room.
If you need to invest in new furniture, choose multipurpose furniture pieces. Go for nightstands and side tables with storage and ottomans that offer space inside for blankets or extra pillows.
Also, look for performance fabrics. A smaller home often requires flexible spaces that have to do double duty: as an office, extra bedroom or playroom.
4.- Inspect your storage places carefully
Start looking at what you have multiples of and choose your favorite of each of them. The kitchen usually is full of duplicate items, so it is a perfect room to start the downsizing process.
Remember, don’t focus on what to eliminate. Instead, go through your drawers and cabinets and pull out the pieces you really can’t live without: your sentimental mugs, your well-loved pans and silverware.
Another hotbed for downsizing is your linen closet. Unless you have guests over regularly, you probably really do not need that many sets of towels.
Finally, browse through your closet with your new lifestyle goals in mind. You will be surprised with how much you can get rid of.
5.- Comb through your smaller and sentimental possessions
Once tough decisions about big items are made, it is time to deal with the thousands and thousands of smaller stuffs that make up a home and this is also the time you can get stuck with nostalgia. Old college T shirts, kids’ art, old Xmas cards… that is hard to get rid of. I know.
Decluttering sentimental items can be tough and you can get rid of them or not. This this is a very personal decision that should make you feel good.
At the end of the day, no hard rules are stating you need to declutter all sentimental items to live a minimal and happy life. You should strive to find a balance that works well for you and your family.
Here some tips to let go and how to hold on:
- Think of displaying things! Framing cards and or children’s old artwork can be super fun.
- Use the rule: Keep one, lose the rest.
- Share a sentimental item with another family member who would enjoy the memories just as much as you do.
- Photograph sentimental items for an album if you want to be sure to remember it.
- Sell things and donate the money to a cause you believe in, so you feel good about your choice.
6.- If in doubt, consider professional help
The whole project involves too many decisions and at some point, you many need an objective opinion. A professional organizer can be the right person to help you to make the final decision about what you really need to eliminate or donate to charity. On the matter of organizing, you might find this article helpful.
I know that the thought of downsizing can be nerve-wracking, but I want to invite you to just think of all the good things that can come with it.
As we go through the years, we tend to accumulate weight in our lives. And when life hands us these situations, sometimes it could be a window to a lighter tomorrow. Even a more meaningful one.
A smaller home usually means saving a lot of things – time, money, space – and most importantly it means taking control of our possessions and learning to live life to the fullest with less.