Downsizing with a smile

How to downsize without losing your sanity

A smaller home or apartment can provide a less stressful and more affordable lifestyle, but getting rid of stuff to move into a smaller space is no easy feat. We talked to folks who have downsized recently to learn from their experiences.

Jenna and Paul Murphy of Salt Lake City recently moved from a 4,300-square-foot home in a bedroom community of Salt Lake City, UT to a 2,200-square-foot historic home near downtown. They rent out the basement apartment and live in 1,100 square feet.

The downsizing made sense after their three grown children moved out. The couple rented a storage unit prior to listing their home for sale.

Think before tossing

“It was a process,” said Jenna. “We had to stick it into storage and think about it for awhile before we just started tossing.”

Once they had a buyer, the couple sold nearly all of their furniture as it was wouldn’t fit into the smaller home. They then bought smaller pieces.

The process was painful, at times.

“One of the things that wouldn’t fit in this house was a 1911 piano that had been in our family before my mother was born,” Jenna said. “I gave it to my niece. It is still in the family, but I had to say good-bye to that.”

Her husband parted with most of his signed music poster collection and record collection. The couple used the money from the music sale to go on a mission trip to Africa where they worked in an orphanage.

“It didn’t feel like we were saying good-bye to those things for nothing,” Jenna said. “He was giving up something he loved to do something really meaningful.”

You can do it

Don’t wait forever to downsize, get started while you are still fit and able

Do it while you can

Nella and Walter Wicker of Waxahachie, TX, both in their 80s, recently sold their house and moved into a two-bedroom apartment.

“We wanted to do it before someone had to do it for us, like our children,” Nella said. To downsize, they had their children come and get anything they wanted from their house. Other items were donated to charity.

The Wickers said they measured their furniture so that they knew what would fit into the apartment. They use self-storage for the rest.

Hold on to keepsakes

Monica Rylant said she, her husband Jack, and their two youngest children moved from a three-bedroom to a two-bedroom apartment to obtain a first-floor apartment due to a son’s medical condition. They are storing a few items in self-storage.

“Stuff that we didn’t feel we were ready to part with, we put into storage,” Rylant said. “It was hard. The hutch that we put in storage has been part of Jack’s family since he was a kid.”

 Having a yard sale is part of the downsizing process for many (Photo Credit: Erin Stevenson O'Connor)

Having a yard sale for items that don’t fit your new home is part of the process for many (Photo Credit: Erin Stevenson O’Connor

Denise Renter of Dallas, TX said she and her husband started downsizing two years ago and involved their daughter, then a junior in high school, in the process.

First the couple sold their 2,400-square-foot Plano, TX home with a pool, big yard and large garage where they had lived for 23 years. The family moved into a smaller rental home nearby where they stayed for two years.

They moved out of the rental home this summer into a 1,200-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment in Uptown and rent an 8×8 self-storage unit on the property.

The transitional home helped them get used to living in a smaller space before they downsized to the apartment and helped prepare them for the eventuality of their daughter leaving for college. Downsizing in steps made the adjustment easier.

“I don’t think I could have left that house after 23 years, have my daughter leave for college and move into the apartment all at the same time. That was too much change,” Renter said.

Don’t look back

The family had four garage sales over six months and gave things to charity. Mementos from her daughter’s school years were difficult to part with but they reduced them fit into one box and also kept their daughter’s high chair, her childhood stool and an American Girl doll.

“Be prepared for people’s reactions,” Renter said. “Some of our friends have moved into bigger houses and just don’t understand it. They are puzzled by it. But there are a lot of people who say, ‘I wish I could simplify and get rid of stuff but I don’t see how I could ever do it’ and they admire what we have done.”

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