by Deborah Ross of Hannaford Ross Interior Design
I have worked with a large number of clients over the years who have been in the process of downsizing. In some cases, it’s because they have become “empty nesters” and no longer need a large home with lots of bedrooms and for others it is part of retirement plan. This is what I have learnt from them.
It is an exciting time but also one that is fraught with decisions, emotions and a very large To Do List! One of the biggest issues that they have all had to face is whether their old furniture is going to work in their new home. Trust me - in the majority of cases it won’t.
Some clients I have worked with have tried for up to 5 years to move things around or combine new and old but eventually they have had to face reality – it’s not going to work. For most of us it’s a difficult process to undertake – there are pieces that were saved for and loved, pieces that were given to you and have emotional attachment and pieces that are still quite new and in good condition. So why won’t it work? It’s not just the quantity of furniture it is also the style and the size of the furniture. It is likely that you have bought the new property "off plan" or it is an apartment or townhouse that was built in the last 20 years. As such it will be a contemporary style with nice fixtures and fittings but not a lot of storage and probably only standard height ceilings. How is that big old chesterfield sofa going to look - can you let it go?
What can you do with your old stuff?
Depending on your situation (and the condition of the pieces) you have a number of options at your disposal:
Pass it on to younger family members – there is a growing trend (particularly with millennials) to upcycle older pieces
Give to charities such as St Vincent de Paul or Lifeline or the Salvos
Try a consignment seller if it is a particularly good piece such as an antique or a luxury brand
Sell or give away on Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree – you may not make a lot of money but better to sell and have it collected than pay to have it taken to the tip
What you should take To make if feel like home you may want to pack some items that have real value to you in either a practical or sentimental sense. Here are some of the things that clients have told me worked for them:
The bed/mattress providing it fits the room but make sure to allow for reasonable size side tables on both sides
Artwork if you love it and will suit the new modern environment
Pot plants if they are healthy and you have a good size balcony
Photos in frames (although you may need to change the frames)
Books - limit these unless you are going to have a lot of storage in the new home
Vases and ornaments - maybe take all of the ones you love until you move in and decide whether to keep them once the furniture is in place
So if you can afford to start completely fresh then be ruthless. I know some clients that have literally started again with nothing but a coffee machine. However if you are on a budget and need to make some big items fit then make sure you measure the areas at least three times and cull as much as possible. It can actually be extremely cathartic to let go of old things and you certainly don't want to spend money on moving anything that is going to be redundant.
Downsizing is really an opportunity to live more simply and clutter free and it should be a wonderful time in your life!
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