Sometimes we are forced to downsize our lifestyle from a house to an apartment because of divorce or loss of income, and sometimes we choose to downsize as empty nesters might do. Now is the time to take that “minimalist” attitude and create a beautiful new smaller home that you can enjoy.
After my divorce, I sold my house and moved to a place I could afford on my own salary – a one-bedroom apartment. During 20 years of marriage I accumulated enough stuff to fill a four-bedroom house. Now I occupy a 954 sq ft apartment. I had to take two radical steps – get rid of unnecessary stuff and create more storage space for my absolutely necessary stuff.
Divide your accumulated stuff into four groups: one group of stuff to throw away, one to give away, one to sell or trade, and one group of absolutely necessary stuff to keep and move.
Stuff to Throw Away
If you see a box you have not opened in the past 3 years, get rid of it. Obviously you don’t need it. If it’s worn out, broken or dusty, don’t bring it to your new place. You want to be surrounded with good stuff.
Stuff to Give Away
You will no longer need the lawn mower and weed eater but to avoid selling them for $3 in a garage sale, give them to someone you care about who will appreciate them like your brother or sister or neighbor. The group of teenagers I hired to clean out my garage was thrilled to take away an old aquarium, old tools, and a huge artificial Christmas tree.
Stuff to Sell
A lot of stuff can go in a garage sale. Things to get rid of would include duplicate sets of anything like dishes, silverware, pots and pans, household tools, second and third bathroom rugs and shower curtains. You only need to keep one set. If you don’t have time for a garage sale, donate them to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. Try selling large or high dollar items through a local newspaper ad or an online site such as Craigslist.
Scale Back Your Furniture
If your furniture won’t fit in your new home, think about trading a piece for a smaller version. I was able to sell my dining room table for 8 to a neighbor and made enough money to buy a cute little bistro table with two chairs that actually fit my apartment’s tiny dining room. I gained 20 sq ft in my bedroom by trading my king-size waterbed to a friend for a queen size mattress/box spring/headboard.
Organize the Absolutely Necessary to Keep Stuff
After you move the absolutely necessary to keep stuff, invest in a few items that will help you organize and declutter your life. Bed, Bath & Beyond or The Container Store has handy, cheap items that can help you find additional storage space in the tops and bottoms of your closet, under the sinks, on the doors of your kitchen cabinets, and inside your cabinets. I have wire shelves that divide my upper kitchen shelves into two levels. I have wire shelf pockets that hang below my shelves in the bathroom and add space. I have one large clear-sided sweater box that holds all my sentimental mementos. It slides under the bed and nobody knows about it but me. Help yourself by choosing clear, see-through boxes to store things you don’t use every day like dressy shoes or office stationery. Stackable wire, mesh or see-through plastic drawers can be useful in any room.
Keep the quantity and size of your stuff to a minimum and your new place will look cool, your cleaning will be minimal, and you’ll have room to accumulate new stuff.