Downsizing in Charlottesville
Whether you’re an empty nester moving from a house into a condo, or a renter trading in a two-bedroom for a studio, downsizing is hard— a smaller place means you don’t have room for all of your current belongings.
But downsizing is also an opportunity to refresh and start anew. If you get rid of the clutter, you can fill your new place with the things you really love, making it feel like home.
Over time, we tend to accumulate a lot of stuff. We have drawers full with gifts that we’ve never used (and never will), furniture we don’t really need but keep “just in case” and items that we’ve had for years that may be difficult to part with.
Downsizing is an emotional process. You’ll discover items you haven’t seen in years, and you’ll have to decide what to do with them. Give yourself some time to reminisce, and then make a decision.
Keep in mind your space limitations. Take with you what’s truly valuable — only you can decide what you can’t do without. Now is the time to get rid of excess baggage and pare down to the essentials.
Assess your actual needs. Someday, you may take up exercising, but the treadmill is just sitting there. Wouldn’t a good pair of walking/running shoes be more useful and take up less space? Does anyone actually use the dining room table? When was the last time you listened to a record?
Here are some steps for downsizing without sacrificing your meaningful belongings.
Make a plan
Take a trip to your new place and measure the size of your storage space. This will be your guide for how much you can take with you. It’s better to underestimate than overestimate.
Will you have fewer kitchen cupboards? How many closets are there? If you’re moving into an apartment, does it have a storage locker and, if so, what are its dimensions?
Don’t forget hidden storage areas you currently use in your old place. If you place a lot of items above the kitchen cabinets, for example, find out if the cupboards in the new place have storage there as well.
Go through your old storage areas (attics, basements, closets, etc). You’ll be surprised to find out what you’ve put away instead of gotten rid of. Go one room at a time. Plan to do a little bit each day, and leave extra time so you aren’t rushed.
Decide on and measure your furniture . Draw a floor plan of your new place. Going from big to small will give you a better idea how much space you have left to fill. You’ll need to know how it will (or won’t) fit into your new space – particularly large items such as your sofa and bed. Don’t forget about the location of doors and windows as this will be a factor in placement.
Sort your belongings
Deciding what you really need requires a good long look at how you live your life daily. Make room for the things you’ll actually use or couldn’t live well without.
It’s easy to convince yourself you really need that 10-year-old electric egg beater still in the original box. But if you haven’t used it in the past year, it’s likely you never will.
Do you have multiple mixing bowls, or several sets of china? If you can only use one at a time, you don’t need to keep everything.
Don’t forget to go through your bathroom cabinets, kitchen and “junk” drawers. Get rid of empty bottles, expired medicines and beauty products.
Follow a strict yes/no policy —no “maybes” allowed. Make a “yes” pile and a “no” pile, and force yourself to choose. If you aren’t convinced the item deserves a yes, then it’s a “no”.
Recycle your “no” pile. You may not want it anymore, but it may be useful to someone else. Organizations such as Goodwill will take your appliances, furniture and clothes. You may want to give fun and special items of clothing to your local theater group to use in their productions. Join a Freecycle group to give stuff away (www.freecycle.org).
If you live in an apartment building or townhouse complex, notice boards and drop off areas for giving unwanted items to neighbors are sometimes provided.
Call friends and relatives and see what they need. You may be able to enlist their help in the move for a promised dresser/bed/armchair. Used designer clothing can be resold in consignment shops.
For a large number of items, have a yard sale (or a series of yard sales), or if you have a lot to sell quickly, consider a service to take care of it for you. eBay is a good venue for selling collectible items such as old albums, comic books, and figurines. Make sure to take good quality photos of the items and offer good descriptions.
For stuff that you really have a hard time getting rid of, make this agreement with yourself: Put the items in storage. If you don’t need or use them within 6 months, give, sell or throw them away.
Digitize photos to save space. Photo albums take up a lot of room, and how often do you actually go through them? Digitizing your photos not only keeps them safe, but makes them easier to share with family. Pick up a digital frame and enjoy all of your photos in a rotating slideshow.
For items that bring up good memories, but you don’t have room for, take photos. You can look back on the memories without actually keeping the items.
To make sure those treasured items are in good hands, pass them on to your children, grandchildren, or close friends. They will love the gift, and you get to enjoy seeing the items being used.
Give keepsakes a new life. If you love to craft, old movie stubs, letters and photos are perfect for scrapbooking, letting you create a record of your experiences. Or make three-dimensional pieces of art using shadow-boxes. Gathering up your memories in one place will make them easier than ever to enjoy.
Move your furniture into your new home first, according to the plan you made earlier. You’ll have the most energy for this task at the beginning of the move and it will also give you a better indication of where the smaller things will go. If you’ve done your homework correctly, your big items should fit in nicely and already give you a sense of home (and a place to sit while taking a break from all of your hard work!)
Place your storage items in decorative storage boxes that can be moved and placed in the new storage areas without much effort. Plastic bins are great for moving and storing, come in many sizes, are stackable, and the see-through ones make finding what you need easy.
The measurements taken of the new storage areas will ensure a good fit. Come moving day, these boxes will be much easier to deal with and put away as you move in, saving yourself the stress of trying to maneuver through tiny, packed rooms.
Label everything by room and organize boxed items. Your labeled boxes can now be put into their respective rooms and the unpacking can begin. Begin with the bathroom, as that’s the room most likely to be needed immediately.
Organize your space as you unpack. Use closet and cupboard storage solutions as you unpack. This way, more can be stored in these tight spaces and you’ll be setting a precedent for how your new, smaller space will be used.
You’ve now entered the realm of living small. You no longer have to worry about the time draining tasks of maintaining a home too big for your needs and you’ve simplified your life by surrounding yourself with only those things that are most important to you. Just imagine enjoying your new place surrounded by the feeling of home.