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Downsizing Made Easy

Saturday, 10th July 2010

Who wouldn't want to cut their power bills and housework down by half? Downsizing to an apartment or townhouse has loads of benefits, but the process of paring back the belongings you've collected over a lifetime can be pretty daunting. On top of that, there's the challenge of decorating a home that might be short on space and require multiple uses from a single open-plan area. But don't despair - remember that the most luxurious home isn't necessarily the largest one. It's adaptable, well-organised and peppered with beautiful items - all things that are easily achieved whatever the scale. So get ready to smartsize!

Plan your rooms on paper
You'll probably have considerably less space than you did in your old home, so it's important to make sure your existing furniture fits into your new lifestyle. Make a scale plan of all the rooms, measure your furniture, and position everything on the plan. Does your old furniture fit? Can you move around comfortably? Ask yourself the tough questions - do you really need that three-piece suite in a small open-plan living area? Large pieces of furniture may need to be replaced with smaller ones, and anything you don't have room for should be sold or given away to charity. Be ruthless!

Be adaptable
In a large home, it's easy to designate every room for a different use. In a small home, you'll need to be a little more creative. Where possible, aim to give rooms more than one use - replace that bulky media centre with a mountable television that hangs on the living room wall; position a home office in unused space under the stairs or with a flip-down desk for a laptop in the kitchen; and create a library in the guest room by allocating one wall to floor-to-ceiling shelving.

Give yourself plenty of time
Moving is always stressful and exhausting, but even more so if you need to rationalise your belongings to fit into a smaller home.
Give yourself plenty of time - ideally about three months - to get sorted. Make time every day, even if it's 10 minutes, to sift through your things, working out what to keep, store and get rid of. It's often easier to start with the big things first, such as furniture and large accessories, and then move onto the smaller, more time-consuming ones such as sifting through files of papers and boxes of photos.

Don't be afraid to ask for help
Enlist the help of friends and family with packing and the move, and be realistic about exactly what needs to be done. Make a list in advance so you can work out your requirements - do you need babysitting for kids or pets? Someone to help with the cleaning? Perhaps you have items you can't reach, or require boxes to be carried from a storage unit or garage? It could be something as simple as needing a hot meal for the night.

Keep tabs on where things go
Once you've reached the packing stage, label all your boxes clearly so that you and your movers will know exactly what should go where. Choose whatever labelling system works for you - perhaps colour-coding boxes for each room or labelling them numerically.

A place for everything
A small home will appear larger if it's free from clutter. Find a home for everything so that books, paperwork and bags are not cluttering up the floor or tabletops. Assess your storage requirements - do you need to add built-in cupboards or floor-to-ceiling shelving? Are there any empty spaces that could accommodate storage, such as hollow walls for nooks, or the area under the stairs for a built-in? See whether you can get more bang for your buck from cupboards with special inserts and double and triple hangers.

Small-scale decorating
Most modern apartments and townhouses are well laid out to maximise the feeling of space and airiness, but smart decorating choices will only enhance it. A well-placed mirror will bounce the natural light around a room, and make a space feel considerably larger than it actually is.
While you might be tempted to go out and replace everything to suit your brand new pad, it's important that your home has a sense of history and personality - make space for treasured mementos and showcase your personal history. Give old favourites a new lease of life - re-upholster an armchair in a funky new fabric or repaint or restain wooden items.
And be open about using old things in new ways - a beautiful bowl you once had in the kitchen might be perfect for holding soaps in the guest bathroom, an occasional table from the living room might make a great bedside table.


Georgia Madden

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