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An Empty Nester’s Guide to Downsizing

An Empty Nester’s Guide to  Downsizing

It’s time – the kids have taken flight and the nest seems a whole lot bigger than it ever did before. You’re ready to make the transition to a more manageable abode, but after years in a family home, where does one begin? Making the move may seem daunting, but once you make your plan and set it in motion, there’ll be no looking back!

On average, people only take along one-third to one-half of their belongings when moving into a smaller home. You may be thinking of your overflowing closets and stacked-to-the-rafters garage, wondering how you will ever wade through it all…it’s time to hone your small-space living skills, beginning with eliminating clutter. 

First, decide what’s really important.  Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do I love it?
  • Do I need it?
  • Does it reflect “Me”?

And, in a more practical vein:

  • Does it need to be fixed and do I have the time or inclination to do it?
  • If it’s a “go”, will I sell, donate, or give it away?

Here’s a tip: start in rooms that you don’t use as often, such as the attic, garage, or laundry room/storage. It’s a lot easier to sift through items that hold less sentimental attachment. Think of it as a warm-up to get the ball rolling! 

Make a floor plan. Get a blueprint of your new place and measure your furniture. You may even wish to sketch a proportional layout and cut out furniture pieces to scale so that you can play around with different furniture configurations before the big moving day. Knowing what is possible beforehand certainly cuts down on the hassle – and cost – of moving things that you will eventually get rid of anyway due to space limitations.

Consider the style of your existing furniture and your new space. Does it fit, both for size and design?  For example, will your Grandmother’s mahogany dining room table jive with your new contemporary urban loft?

Look for functionality. You won’t have the same wiggle room in your new space, so make sure you choose furniture that offers maximum versatility and convenience.

Think about lifestyle changes. Will you entertain as much or perhaps more? This might affect your furniture choices (i.e. a full dining room table versus a breakfast nook).

Ask for help. Sometimes it takes a friend’s objectivity (i.e. “You haven’t used that in 20 years and you won’t use it in the next 20 either”) for a friendly shove in the right direction.

BE RUTHLESS. Once you make the decision to let go of something, stick with it and get rid of the item as soon as possible (less chance for you to change your mind later). Pack as you go. It’ll make the task seem less arduous.

Scaling down means that you can take your décor up a notch. Maybe the old house was in dire need of a retouch, but you simply didn’t know how to change out of old patterns.  Well, your new, uncluttered space is like a blank canvas: it affords the perfect opportunity to try out new colours, patterns, window treatments, or designs, so go for it! Try out all sorts of clever design tricks – like replacing bedside tables with space-saving sconces in the bedroom – that you may never have considered before and have fun!

If you’re worried about your space feeling claustrophobic after the large family home, try introducing streamlined chrome, metal, mirror or glass pieces, such as end tables or even picture frames, into your décor.  They do wonders when it comes to reflecting light and adding a touch of sophistication or glamour. Consider warm neutral colours for the walls and play with bright accents by way of pillows, artwork, etc. Carefully-chosen window treatments are also a great way to infuse a space with colour, light, and a sense of airiness.

And last but not least, stay positive. It’s all about attitude: you aren’t getting rid of everything you hold dear, but rather, you are simplifying your life and opening a new door onto a world of exciting possibilities.

Enjoy the walk down memory lane as you sort through your belongings, but remember: less is more!

For more small-space design tips, click here.

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