Downsizing – getting started

A few years ago we decided it was time to downsize even though we don’t plan on moving. Getting started can be the hardest part. I have friends who have been getting rid of one item a day for years.

Deep cleaning and reorganizing one room or area at a time worked for me. Getting rid of one item a day did not work. Trying to do it all at once made it look overwhelming.

I got out a notebook and divided the entire house into areas and each area into sections. Each area was a single room and the sections in it were closets, drawers, chests of drawers or shelves.

Example:

Upstairs bathroom

  • Cabinet under sink
  • Medicine cabinet
  • Linen closet
  • Storage Closet

I scheduled some of the work for each month and then checked it off as I completed each section. In the process, I donated, recycled or sold about a third of our possessions. Items removed ranged from old clothing to extra sets of dishes, and cookware. My children took some of the furniture that belonged to their grandparents.

There were a few things that I was able to “upcycle” and give to friends and family members as gifts. My son has grandma’s old wooden folding chairs sanded and painted and now sitting on his front porch.

Part of the reason for getting rid of the excess is that I didn’t want my family to have to deal with it at some later date.  I feel strongly that each of us should be responsible for his or her own stuff but I know it mostly doesn’t work that way. People die and their heirs have to figure out what to do with the house and the stuff in it.

There is still some stuff in the basement that is being stored for various family members. My goal is to get the excess out of the basement before the end of the year.

Even though my house is smallish I now have plenty of storage space and some empty shelves and drawers.

I have clients who have started the downsizing process two or three years before their planned move. Downsizing is easier when it isn’t an emergency and we can do it on our own terms.

With each item, I remove from my house I have a little more space and feel a little bit freer.

Also, see get your Adult children leave stuff behind

Clean, declutter and eliminate

my socks don’t spark joy

Closure at the closing

In Minnesota, we close at the table.  Money is exchanged for keys and garage door openers and it often happens in a conference room with the sellers on one side of the table and the buyers on the other. There are other options for closings but they are not as fun.

Yesterday I attended a closing where first time home buyers bought a house from a couple who had owned the home for 43 years. They left the house immaculately clean and in good repair. They left a gift along with hoses, cleaning supplies, manuals, instructions, and warranties.

Buyers and sellers exchanged phone numbers and the sellers gave the buyers the names of nearby neighbors.

Even though the home buyers had to sign piles of papers promising to make payments on the 30-year mortgage and take care of the property it was a joyous occasion.

It was lovely to see one generation hand the keys to the next.

 

living room
Move in ready

The three bedroom rambler

I have sold many ramblers over the years. First time home buyers buy them and so do older home buyers.

Ramblers have a lot to offer and some of them still have the original bathroom tiles from the 50’s and 60′ s in shades of pink, yellow, green or orange with thin rows or black tiles for accents.

There is a light above the kitchen sink which has cabinets above it on either side with that scalloped wood trim in between them.

Some have finished basements with a wet bar and a reck room and maybe a bathroom that consists of nothing but a toilet or a shower. Often the homeowner did some or all of the work finishing the basement. I find paneling and flooring that was popular in the 1960s.

The homes had solid oak floors until about 1957 or 1958 when they started using some kind of fiber wood board stuff. Often if the home is still in the hands of the original owner which is not as uncommon as you might think the floors have been covered with carpet since the home was built and are in pristine condition.

These fine one story three bedroom homes can be found almost anywhere in the city but the greatest number of them are in the highland park, upper east side and battle creek neighborhoods.

Some of the ramblers are small like 900-1400 square feet of finished space but there was a time when a family of four could live comfortably in that amount of space and I suppose some were even happy but that was a simpler time.

This rambler is located near White Bear Avenue in St. Paul and has that classic tuck under garage and the awnings.

Rambler with tuck under garage

There are a lot of brick ramblers with attached and detached garages in the highland park neighborhood. Some have fireplaces and shutters, most have large “picture” windows.  Some even have original appliances.

Tappan 4000
Tappan400 – original stove and it still works

 

You might be ready to sell but is your kitchen ready?

Getting a house ready to sell is often about cleaning, painting and small repairs. Your kitchen may need extra attention and deeper cleaning. Here are some suggestions on what you can do to get your kitchen ready.

  1. Clear the countertops.  Remove anything that doesn’t need to be there and about half of the stuff that does need to be there. (My own math but it works)
  2. Clean cupboards inside and out. Put in some shelf liner.
  3. Remove any items from the cupboards that you will not be used during the next six weeks and then remove half of that.
  4. Clean out the fridge. Try to keep it clean with the minimum amount of food in it.
  5. Run the cleaning cycle on your oven(s). If you don’t know how to clean it find the model number, usually inside on the door frame and ask google for instructions. (Don’t ask Facebook, that takes too long.)
  6. Wipe everything down. Make those appliances sparkle. Clean that countertop and the windows too. Scrub the floor.
  7. Find a vanilla scented candle that can be left in the middle of the stove or cooktop during showings.
  8. If your kitchen is smallish remove any throw rugs.

Make sure that all light fixtures have light bulbs in them. Check the walls and ceilings for grease and dirt. Clean them if needed and repaint if necessary. Consider using a plug-in air freshener.

Personally, I like the candles that smell like various baked good or like apple and cinnamon.  Anything vanilla scented will remind the buyer of fresh baked cookies.

Some stagers like to put fake fruit and cookbooks in kitchens. Today’s buyers especially the younger buyers often prefer a more minimalist approach and kitchens with less in them look bigger.

Kitchens really do sell houses, make the most of the space.

kitchen

Small houses and storage

There are some advantages to owning a small house:

  • Less expensive to buy
  • Lower heating and cooling costs
  • Fewer rooms to furnish
  • Less square footage to clean
  • lower maintenance costs

Those are some of the obvious advantages.

Most of us see having less storage space as a disadvantage but it doesn’t have to be.

Do we really need to own a lot of things that we never or rarely ever use but that we store? What about things that have sentimental value that we look at now and then?

Most of us don’t even know what we have or where it is. Have you ever run out and bought something that you already own but couldn’t find?

Living in a smaller house with fewer belongings can be life-changing. Having fewer belongings can mean more freedom. Downsizing from a larger house can be hellish, but is easier if you think in terms of having less stuff rather than about having less storage space.

We have small houses in St. Paul. They were built long ago during a simpler time when people had fewer belongings. People did not need huge walk-in closets. If you are planning on buying a house this year consider thinking small.

Also, see Still obsessed with tiny houses

Plan ahead, downsizing isn’t easy

Minimalists have more space

Will our children ever take their stuff?

Adult children leave stuff behind

Having less is hard work

What is clutter?