First published in “Life Begins At …” Magazine, Autumn 2020
The precise moment in your life when you’re ready to downsize into a smaller home is exactly the same precise moment in your life when you probably own the most stuff.
You’re a fully functioning adult with all the furniture and home objects you need and have accumulated over a lifetime. Chances are by now you’ve also cleared out at least one parent’s home full of their lifetime’s accumulation as well. If you’re the current owner of a large shed, you may also have become a cost-effective storage repository for your adult children or other extended family members.
To get from where you are now to how you dream of living in the future can feel utterly overwhelming. The good thing is, it is definitely possible to achieve and I’m going to offer you some advice and ideas on how to do it.
First up, any stuff in your home that isn’t actually yours needs to be reclaimed and taken away by its rightful owners. If their motivation to do this is somewhat lacking, try sending them a photo of an enormous skip bin parked in your driveway.
One of the toughest areas of downsizing can be having to face making irreversible decisions about furniture and objects you have inherited. It’s important to understand that furniture and objects are just that. They are not the actual person themselves. If you’re struggling to let things go, you may be finding it difficult to make this distinction.
Only keep the furniture and objects that you know will fit into this next phase of your life and will give you genuine pleasure to see and use everyday. And don’t take on any family guilt that may be thrown at you. It’s not anybody’s responsibility to be the family archivist if they don’t want to be.
The next area to focus on is multiples of things. How do you want to entertain in your downsized future? How many overnight visitors are you realistically going to invite into your new home? Trust me, you really don’t need twenty towels, three cutlery sets or nine saucepans.
Keep just your absolute favourites and give the others away. Now is definitely the time of your life to use ‘the good dinner set’ everyday. If not now, when? If you suddenly need fifty champagne flutes for a special occasion in the future, borrow or hire them. We can live big lives in quite small spaces when we don’t have thousands of things we need to store.
Now to the most important part. Who do you want to be, and how do you want to live, now?
You’re about to embark on a major life change. It’s time to take stock. Are you still the person who loves antique furniture or are you ready for a totally new look? It’s time to either renew your vows, or break up with the furniture and objects you own.
You’ve always been someone with shelves overflowing with books. If that still brings you joy, start packing them into boxes ready for their big move. But if they suddenly feel mostly like a burden it might be time to let them go.
Perhaps your decorating style has always been soft and neutral. If you still love that look, keep enjoying it. But if your heart sings when you’re surrounded by icy blues and emerald greens, perhaps it’s time to explore some new sides of yourself.
If you’re building your new downsized home, you have even more flexibility to choose exactly what will suit your future life.
The technology behind contemporary ovens, for example, with vast improvements in temperature control mean you may not need as large an oven as you think. Have a look at how induction cooktops work. Much easier to clean than gas and safe for those inquisitive fingers of grandchildren.
If you’re planning to live in your new home well into your advanced years, preparing now will make any future adjustments so much easier. Ask your builder to put extra studs in your bathroom walls so you can easily install grab rails if ever needed.
Think about buying a higher toilet suite, perhaps one that is designed to incorporate arm rests at a later stage. Don’t panic – I’m not trying to make it look like you live in a hospital! Contemporary sanitaryware designs can absolutely be both stylish and functional.
Consider including a lowered section in your kitchen benchtop to enable anybody who’s in a wheelchair or prefers to prepare food seated, access to a work surface.
Let’s recap on those interior design tips for successful downsizing.
- Get rid of anything you don’t adore and/or use everyday.
- Reflect on who you are now and the styles and colours that bring you pleasure.
- Plan ahead and consider what may be required to support your independence.
If you follow these simple tips your downsized home will support and nurture you for many years to come.