Downsizing to a New Home? Think Delightful, Not Depressing

By on April 1, 2014

By Beth Havey −

As a Boomer, one of these days you might face an inevitable event: downsizing. Will it be depressing? No, if from the get-go there are positive thoughts connected with the decision and it’s done at a good time–like when all the signs point to leaving the big house. Because it’s liberating when family members clear out high school keepsakes and memorabilia and that ugly college futon that even your adult children refuse to sleep on. Freedom from clutter and the lightness and openness of the space you eventually occupy (no matter what size it is ) can be delightful. Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote: The bare beauty of the channeled whelk tells me that one answer, and perhaps a first step, is in simplification of life, in cutting out some of the distractions…I must find a balance somewhere, or an alternating rhythm…

Consider: it’s good to be ahead of the game. What if a health issue arises that limits movement or requires hospitalization. Then this major life-project is either indefinitely postponed or put in the hands of someone else. We begged my 90-year-old aunt to move when she was relatively healthily; predictably, she said no. After a broken hip, the cleaning and downsizing was a painful event–all she could do was agree as I asked “Should we give this away?” “Should we throw this away?” Her life! And I had to dispose of it.

fall scents for your home

Many of us have been in the home or apartment of a person who for many reasons didn’t downsize when they left that house with all the bedrooms. Things are jammed into a smaller space that doesn’t allow easy movement. The home feels uncomfortable, like you can’t breathe. With forethought and good advice Boomers today are likely NOT to do this.


1. Condos are usually on one level, like apartments; accessing a condo on an upper floor requires using stairs or an elevator. Negatives: The ability to get outside is limited; you might have a tiny porch or deck with little to no privacy. Positives: Usually condos provide living space on one level.

2. Townhomes offer the opposite choices, often providing that garden or space to get outside, but usually composed of two stories with stairs.

3. When thinking about choosing a future space, cost will probably be a major consideration–but while crunching numbers, consider comfort too. This might be the last home you occupy and there is nothing better for one’s future than comfort–I don’t need to emphasize why.

4. Once you have found that new home, make a floor plan or template, whether it’s one room or something larger. Have your measurements indicate placement of doors, windows, appliances, built-in shelves, linen storage, heater vents, etc. This will allow you to know exactly the space you will have for furniture placement.

5. Give yourself time, like 2-3 months, to go through every drawer and closet in your home. As you do, make a list of those things that hold wonderful memories and you just can’t live without. Those will go with you. The rest will be sold or given away: things you never use, books you’ll never read, items too big or too old, pillows, linens that are stained or torn, uncomfortable chairs, magazines, and any papers you won’t ever need again.

6. Edit every furniture piece in your home. Measurements will help you to decide what will fit in a pleasing way in your new space. Get excited and have fun doing this. Often your pieces can be used in creative and different ways: a dining table loses leaves and becomes a desk; a couch goes into a den; bookshelves are used for china, glassware and art objects. A table’s legs are shortened and voila, a coffee table.

7. Edit the kitchen, basement and garage with gusto! Kitchen items can often be pared down to 2-4 of each utensil and 2 or 3 pans and bowls. Have you used those four jello molds or that Bundt pan? It’s smart to bring tools for minor house repairs, but condo living and often townhouse living probably won’t require mowers, blowers and shovels. Be green and responsible and donate–don’t throw things in the garbage.

8. Lauri Ward’s Downsizing Your Home With Style offers a list of furniture pieces that you should always bring with you ( though the rule, will they fit, needs to be considered): sofa and matching chairs, armless chairs, chairs that swivel, and items with storage. This last is so important as the newer space might have limited shelving and cabinets and you don’t want to overload and clutter this fresh new home. So bring those treasured items (framed photos, your McCoy pottery, your husband’s rock collection)–but  be prepared to only display some of it while storing the rest. And after you have moved and might be looking for a project, digitize the pictures in your photo albums or buy digital frames that display a series of photos.

9. When placing your furniture in your new home, DO utilize storage in plain sight. End tables, coffee tables, storage benches can all be part of your living experience, yet hold various treasures and necessities at the same time. Floor-to-ceiling bookcases and entertainment units can hold your television and stereo systems as well as books, objects of art and photos.

10. Using a similar color pallet on walls and furniture can stretch your smaller space as can a flowing hardwood floor or wall to wall carpeting. Area rugs chop up a space.

11. Stores today advertise smaller scale pieces that fit tight to the wall and thus again increase the space.

12. Tall furniture can emphasize low ceilings as can wainscotting or chair rails. Paint everything in the same shade to stretch the wall upwards. Other clever ways to increase space is to use furniture with legs not skirts and side tables rather than chests of drawers. Glass tables and mirrors bounce light and a low bookcase can become a divider between the living and dining areas.

The bottom line to all of this is personal choice and making those choices can be exciting. Now is the time to fulfill dreams you had to set aside because of children and work situations. Maybe now you are freed from having to live near the train or owning a home with lots of bedrooms. Great! Look around. Dream and dream some more before you take that next step.

Don’t be down about downsizing. And don’t think small. Maybe your new home won’t have as much square footage, but it can be “big” no matter what: big art on the walls; a big table for family when they gather. Measure and measure again. Make a list of things you absolutely have to have. I had to be able to walk outside and dig in a garden. That helped determine what our new adventure would look like.

And it’s still an adventure–requiring me to be creative and think outside the box. And though once in a while, I wonder about some item–whether I gave it away and why and to whom or if it isn’t in the garage in some box!  But truly, our new home is clean and uncluttered, provides us with what we need–books, music, some art on the walls, pottery and photos that I dearly love, pieces of furniture that are keepers –why I guess this new home is just plain delightful.

So when it’s time, go for it!

PS. For more thoughts on downsizing and reducing clutter read this article in the LA TIMES  A quote from that piece:

“I am impressed by the degree to which outer order controls inner calm,” says Rubin. She recalls the friend who told her, “‘I cleaned out my fridge, and now I can change careers.’”

Thanks to Google Images.


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You’ll find creative ways to display your pottery.

Originally posted on Boomer Highway.

About Beth Havey

Beth Havey is a Boomer, member of the sandwich generation, passionate about health and the snags in the fabric of life that affect our children and grandchildren. Help me slow life down on BOOMER HIGHWAY Be sure to stop and to chat with her.

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Downsizing to a New Home? Think Delightful, Not Depressing