Cut your square footage in half
Careful planning and ruthless purging can mean the difference between your new place fitting like a glove or being a (too) tight squeeze.
Scaling back is the new black.
According to the National Association of Home Builders, houses started in the third quarter of 2008 averaged 2,438 square feet, down from 2,629 feet in the previous quarter. That's a whole extra room — poof!
Could you slice 200 square feet out of your living space without too much pain? Probably. But what about downsizing more, perhaps cutting your square feet in half, by moving from a 3,000-square-foot home to one with 1,500 square feet? What would you keep and what would you toss? Where would you even begin?
Maybe the sour economy is pushing you into much smaller digs. Or maybe it's just personal choice. Regardless of the reason, the move can seem daunting. So here are tips from experts — as well as the advice of people who've already downsized — to guide you.
Prepare for your move
- Get on board. First and foremost, make sure this is something you and your family are prepared to do, says Matt Niemi, senior writer with Unclutterer, a Web site about living more simply. Niemi and his wife recently downscaled from a 3,000-square-foot Victorian to a 1,900-square-foot home. "You don't want to move into a smaller space and find two months later that you're regretting it," Niemi says. "Maybe you have three kids and two of them have to share a room, and soon it's a disaster." In short: This has to be something everyone's mentally prepared to do.
- Give yourself time. After Brian and Colleen Ducey's last child left for college, the Seattle couple made a more dramatic downsize than most: They sold their 2,500-square-foot house in favor of a new, 986-square-foot cottage in architect Ross Chapin's new Greenwood Avenue Cottages development just north of the city line.
Though they had talked about moving for years, the actual purchase was an impulse —and the Duceys say they wished they'd given themselves more time to move. "When you first start thinking about the process of downsizing, that's when you need to start going through your things. We had to go through (belongings) so fast," Colleen Ducey says. "It really was stressful."
How much time should you allow? "Usually plan at least six months ahead," suggests Michael Ivankovich, author of “Home Downsizing in Four Easy Steps.”
- Know your new home's measurements. One of the most common mistakes when downscaling is that "people don't think about measuring properly" before they move, says Lauri Ward, owner of the New York- and Florida-based decorating and interior design firm Use What You Have, and author of “Downsizing Your Home with Style: Living Well In a Smaller Space.” "Don't just take the floor plan of the new house," Ward says; also get exact measurements of walls, doorways, spaces between windows, "because that's where the furniture goes." Write all these numbers down, she insists, because you won't remember them.
- Photograph your furniture.Any furniture that ends up being put in storage should be photographed, with its exact dimensions recorded and then all the pictures placed in a binder or in a computer file. Why? So you know what you have, at your fingertips, says Ward Often, furniture doesn't go straight from one house to another, and it's easy to forget exactly how big things are.
Winnow down your belongings
- What to take — and what to leave: Need some not-so-gentle advice about whether to take that La-Z-Boy to the new house? Author Ward has broken down furniture and furnishings into three categories: Always take it, sometimes take it, never take it:
Always take it with you:
- Anything that has storage in it.
- Pairs of lamps; they add balance.
- Ottomans; create cozy spaces.
- Armless sofas, or ones with lower arms, to make the room feel more spacious. ("Here's a handy rhyme to help you remember: 'Keep a sofa with chairs, or love seats in pairs,' " says Ward.)
- Bookcases; they're visually interesting; they hold lots of stuff, and they can make great room dividers.
- Mirrors; they make a places appear brighter and bigger; lean it on a wall opposite good light and a view, and a mirror will reflect both and make a place feel larger.
- Furniture on wheels or casters; it adds flexibility.
- Nesting tables or furniture that stacks.
Sometimes take it with you:
- Love seats.
- Small desks or writing tables; they can often be used in a kitchen or a guest room.
- Modular seating; it can be reconfigured, or even broken up and used in different rooms.
- Throw pillows; if they're in good condition and work well with the color scheme, they can add comfort and a visual interest.
- Ceiling fans, so long as they hug the ceiling close.
Never take these with you:
- Unloved books.
- Extraneous bric-a-brac.
- Artwork that's not beloved.
- Small, never-used appliances.
- Doubles of anything.
- Square or rectangular glass coffee tables; they're too bulky, says Ward.
- Sofas more than 96 inches in length.
- Big plants and potted trees.
- Unused pianos or other instruments.
- Worn rugs, except expensive Orientals.
- Tired stuff: old audio gear, incomplete dishes, old magazines, worn-out bedding, tax records and receipts more than seven years old.
Great timely article and helpful advice! I happen to be moving from a 2 bedroom apt to a studio by the end of March.
I am getting rid of so much already and have the more valuable stuff listed on Ebay (virtual yard sale). I admit it is a bit easier in my circumstance because I am single and it is apartment not a house.
I rent a small studio apartment (less than 400 sq feet) and I love it! I have been there for two years and the only extra space I wish for is a balcony.
The ability to define each space is key.
I have a sitting area where I read and use my laptop.
I have a dining area, kitchen, bedroom area.
All are well defined spaces without walls or screens.
Multi-use furniture and appliances are certainly a must.
My "cozy chair" folds out to a twin bed for company.
My bedside and end tables are also bookshelves and lamps.
Crates on their side make a desktop and hold books and office type supplies.
Corkboards act as frames for pictures that I change out as well as a place to hang jewelry and keep track of bills. Its vertical/decorative and doesn't take up anymore space than a picture hung on the wall.
Every few months I go through and find more things I am willing to part with because I haven't used them and they are taking up space that I could use for something else.
It's refreshing and it's home.
I highly recommed the HGTV show "Small Space, Big Style" which takes the viewer thru a tour of people's spaces ranging from super-duper tiny up to 1,000 sq feet. I've picked up many fantastic tips and ideas from this show. Enjoy!
8 yrs. ago I realized my 850 s/f apt. was more than sufficient living space & didn't need anything larger. I have an at-home business and rented a cheap, very small (5x10) storage space that holds my inventory/supplies, Xmas decorations, etc. Works perfectly!
The era of the McMansions was foisted on the gullible public by builders, home magazines, and anyone tied to the housing industry. I read what builders tell us the public wants but most of these ideas are the opinions of "experts". The need to impress is sometimes stronger than the reality of what improves our lives. These smaller spaces are bringing us back to a time before people became excessive consumers. So think of down-sizing as coming back to reality instead of giving up something. There is more to life than being house poor. You may find that living your life is much better than having a "life-style".
we bought our house 25 yrs ago and we got a 1250 size home. Had our kids and now there gone. the house is just right for us and with wood heat it stays warm. would not live in a bigger home. who needs a home that you are just heating air space. NOT us.
God bless our troops
Thank you SO much for this! my now husband and I have moved more stuff, so many dang times. My mother died 5 years ago, followed by my husband. I then upped and moved, but had furniture already at the new home. Had her whole apartment, Plus then my husbands things. He collected. Even just got out of a store shed that over 2 years exactly, Ended up costing like $1,600. For, WHAT??? is still our question, it's under the carport and the one thing, if weather gets it to bad, I then do not feel guilty about throwing it Just Away !
But we have just been floundering, we have his stuff when he moved in here also. This article, at least gives me some hope. I'd look at the stuff and get ill. Friends always had a suggestion or 10, but they weren't the ones tackling it. Especially the "yard sale" one. Been there done that, for wear and tear on my body and mind! I want to go thru quickly and then give it away. I agree with you on "freerecyle." I gave away I know, 50 gals of paint and then assorted toxic paint helpers. He came and got them (at my mother in laws house.) formally current husband. But he recycles them the then also gives the paint away to needing people. It worked out great.
Thanks again, I'll shut up!
but have a guiding point now.
I've always lived in a downsized mode after a divorce ... sure I'd like more space, but for me, that would mean "get more" stuff. I'm on over an acre and have a storage shed. Do I have clutter? Yes, I do, but it's all clean clutter. Can it be bothersome? Yes, it in fact is and it's my problem, my own battle to deal with.
I look at it this way: I've saved a fortune in the last 10 years by living well below my means. And because of it, I drive a great car, have expensive clothes, make it to the spa and salon weekly, can go and buy or do whatever I wish when I have the gumption or time.
I personally don't give a rat's rear what others may think as I wouldn't wish to be in debt to live a lie as many others choose to do. My bills get paid in their entirety monthly and I'm not starving so I can offer sums to assist family and to charity; namely homeless pets is my preference and I actually see whom it is that benefits from my provisions.
One day I'll decide to upgrade, but not by much and certainly not while the economy is flailing, but for now this is how it is and if I'm okay with it ... that's all that truly matters.
No, you can't take it with you. Enjoy whatever it is you do have, help out whomever you are able to and thank your lucky stars cause it could all be gone tomorrow.
I've downsized twice in the last 5 years! Once from a large three level home to a two bedroom apartment. Then, from the two bedroom apartment to a one bedroom. Believe me you will be much happier letting go of the things you "think" you need. Three great ways to say goodbye to the surplus is: 1)Yard Sales 2)Ebay 3)Charity. Ideas 1 & 2, removes the clutter and puts money back in your pocket. Idea 3, after-all helps the needy, you feel good removing clutter and it's a tax write off.
Once your in your new place you might find that you need to get rid of more things. My suggestion about that is keep a few empty boxes from the move and on each label them: Save, Sell and Donate. The save box might be for items your still not sure where to put or really want to keep. The other two are self explanatory.
I agree with finfrock, cleaning is a breeze!! Get out and enjoy life instead of spending your weekend tied to a mop and sponge.
Those who mentioned that they have downsized know how nice it is to pay smaller utility bills and rent. I sure do!
This saying entered my head many times before, during and after my downsizing...
"You can't take it with you when you go" This holds true!