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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Bev Shares Downsizing Tips with "Smart Moves" Columnist Ellen James Martin

"Smart Moves" columnist Ellen James Martin wrote "Tips on Moving to a Much Smaller Habitat." I'm honored to be used as a resource for her column. Here's a copy:

It's not only empty nesters who are selling large homes and buying smaller domains. Many younger people facing reduced income and higher expenses are trimming living space to reduce costs.

"People are frightened economically so they're cutting down, often voluntarily. There's a major trend toward minimization," says Beverly Coggins, author of "Three Steps to Downsizing to a Smaller Residence."

Even some who can afford to live big are downscaling their living space to simplify their lives and focus on other priorities, says Sid Davis, a real estate broker and author of "A Survival Guide to Selling a Home."

Davis tells how his son recently downsized from a detached house with 1,800-square-feet of living space and a large plot of land to a 1,300-square-foot condo-townhouse with no yard. His motivation for moving wasn't money. He simply wanted more time for friends and hobbies.

Though he'd lived in the larger house for only three years before putting it on the market, Davis' son had to cull through many accumulations, including tools and excess furniture, before moving. 

Indeed, those moving to a living space with much less square footage and storage capacity must make tough choices. In many cases they must decide among items they truly want to keep but can't accommodate in the new space, like mementos from family vacations and overseas trips.

"When you're going to a smaller house, you must decide which things have the most meaning for you," says Coggins, who runs her own professional organizing company.

A professional organizer since 1995, she says she's learned it's best for those downsizing to break the work into chunks rather than to attempt marathon sessions.

Here are several tips for those planning to move to a smaller domain: 

  • Free yourself of extra furniture early in your transition.

    For most people, one major step toward downsizing involves dispensing with large pieces of furniture. Beyond precious antiques and family heirlooms, many find this process relatively easy because they don't have sentimental attachments to most furniture.

    Davis suggests one way to clear space and furniture quickly is to put it up for sale. He tells how, using classified ads in local newspapers, his son quickly dispensed with several oversized pieces that wouldn't have worked in his townhouse.

    If you have valuable antiques to sell, however, you'll probably want to find a reputable dealer. But more routine items of furniture as well as household belongings can be effectively sold through an informal sale.

    "People are surprised at how much money they can make through a local garage sale," says Davis, who recommends that downsizers work with neighbors to attract more interest to their event.

  • Avoid storage unit costs by eliminating superfluous items.

    Many downsizers succumb to the temptation to place their belongings in a storage unit before they move. But Coggins strongly advises against this course if you can avoid it.

    "Storage units are expensive. And for most people, they're just an excuse to postpone making decisions on stuff they need to eliminate," she says.

    When working with downsizers, Coggins encourages them to dispense with many items, including clothing that's too small or large, especially if they haven't used it for a year or longer. The same applies to many other household items.

    She says many people feel especially anxious about letting go of things given to them as gifts from relatives or close friends. But she says such guilt feelings are needless.

    But while you may not be able to take everything you love to your new, smaller place, Coggins suggests you take photos of the treasured items, like a grand piano passed down in the family. These can be framed and hung up in your new domain.

  • Consider using pickup services offered by charitable groups.

    Many downsizers find it easier to let go of extra belongings if they know they'll go to good use. That's why Coggins and other professional organizers often advocate contacting charitable organizations interested in collecting serviceable items.

    Very often charity groups will pick up items from your home, a convenient way to free yourself of clutter. Also, with a pickup appointment, you'll have a definite deadline for your work, which can serve as a motivating factor.

    The Salvation Army, for example, offers pickup services in many areas. To learn more or schedule a pickup, visit the organization's website, www.salvationarmyusa.org.

  • Seek to stay oriented to the positives in your future.

    Nowadays the reality is that many are downsizing because they have to cut expenses. Yet many who must move to a smaller home find that doing so has its favorable points, including less financial stress.

    Coggins also notes another benefit of downsizing: With fewer home upkeep demands, you'll have more time to focus on the people most important to you.

    "When they downsize, many people realize more fully that it's relationships, not stuff, that brings happiness," she says.

    More on downsizing:
    Three Steps to Downsizing to a Smaller Residence

    You Can't Downsize Memories

    Downsizing - Factors to Consider when Choosing a New Residence