About two years ago, I faced up to the reality that I couldn’t continue living in my pretty bungalow. I could foresee too many repairs on the horizon and not enough income to accomplish them.
Even though I have modest resources, I have strong opinions about how I want to live. When I started shopping for a condo, I made a big wish list of what I thought my perfect place might be and emailed it to my realtor. It made me feel focused and less arbitrary; still, I never expected to get everything on the list.
As we shopped, I found that the most important feature turned out to be the windows. More specifically, I was deeply affected by the amount of natural light coming into the apartment and what I could see outside the windows. I need lots of light and a room with a view. I don’t need a spectacular view – just a pleasing streetscape with trees and neighbourhood activity.
If you think about it, these are two features that can’t be fixed by decorating. Improved, maybe, with clever lighting and concealing drapery; but this is not a fix if you crave natural light and attractive street scenes.
In the end, the condo that I bought has a great number of features from my wish list. As they say, if you don’t know what you want, you’ll never get it.
When it comes to downsizing, establishing priorities is paramount. When choosing a smaller home, you are also considering differences in lifestyle and, usually, eliminating possessions. My list of priorities would be different than yours. In my experience, the process itself was revealing.
When searching the library catalogue for books, if you use a simple keyword search “downsizing”, you get a list that includes many books on business downsizing. More helpful subject searches are “moving household”, “older people housing”, "small rooms decoration", “orderliness” and “simplicity” - depending on your goal.
Here are some books that are definitely worth exploring.
Downsizing your home with style: living well in a smaller space (2007) by Lauri Ward. The reasons for downsizing are varied: empty nesters have too much space, couples merging households, relocating from the suburbs to the inner city, pursuing a dream job in another city or a just a quest to simplify your life.
“Whatever your motivation, moving is always stressful, but downsizing is more about adapting than it is about moving,” says Ward.
She provides a practical handbook for assessing the things you own for your new space. She looks at multifunctional furniture and spaces, repurposing possessions, as well as camouflage and storage. She offers design tips for decorating small spaces and housekeeping tips for maintaining them. Ward has a great blog which you will find on my list of favourites.
The best of the rest: downsizing for boomers and seniors by Doug and Judy Robinson, addresses the options available when the home you are occupying is no longer meeting your needs. They explore downsizing to a small house or condo and supported living. As well, they provide strategies to age in place and examine intergenerational households.
Lighten up: love what you have, have what you need, be happier with less (2011). I love the title of this new book by Peter Walsh that encapsulates his philosophy. “I am going to show you how to live a life of abundance on less in a way that doesn’t plunge you deeper into misery and despair, and my belief is that with a changed mind-set will come a sense of calm, authentic personal identity, and… yes… happiness,” he says. Quite a promise.
Walsh is a “clutter expert” who has been a regular guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show and hosts his own program on her network.
Stop Clutter from Stealing your Life: Discover why you clutter & How You Can Stop by Mike Nelson (2008)
If you are overwhelmed by the stuff of your life, check out this title.
Nelson is a reformed clutterer and zealous about it in the way that reformed people often are. But he has a sense of humor about the problem. In a chapter titled “40 Ways to Leave Your Clutter”, number six on the list is
"Shoot the next person who tells you, “If you haven’t seen it in six months, you don’t need it.” If you haven’t seen it, how do you know you don’t need it? By their reasoning, the lost tomb of Ramses had no value."
Nelson explores the psychological baggage of clutter and provides practical and emotional solutions.
You don’t need to be coy Roy; just get yourself free.
Next week: DECORATE AND UNDECORATE, two new books from bloggers.