Three things you should be doing now if you plan on downsizing in 2018

 I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your loved ones. We spent a cozy day in our downsized little apartment with our family. Was it the Pinterest perfect Thanksgiving with the perfectly decorated table? Not by a long shot. Was it a fun day full of family and love? Absolutely.

We are fully into the holiday season and no one wants to think about downsizing during the holidays but if you are planning on downsizing in 2018 these are my three tips for what you should be doing now during the holiday season.

1.Savoir every moment. Even though last year at this time we had not yet decided to sell our home, I had a gut feeling it would be the last holiday season we celebrated there. I took the time to go all out with my decorating and I spent many hours admiring and enjoying the fruits of my labor. I sat in front of our tree every night with a glass of wine and soaked in every moment.

Christmas tree 2016

If you think this might be your last holiday season in your home then be consciously grateful everyday during the holidays. Last year at this time we knew we were ready to move on so I silently said goodbye to all the things I had enjoyed about having a large house during the holidays; my formal dining room, my large family room that held a tall full tree, my big kitchen and my large extended table that held all my guests along with all the food. I even went all out decorating for Christmas breakfast and it was just the four of us! In years past we had just eaten in the family room while opening gifts. 

Christmas 2016

2.Donate, toss or sell holiday decor NOW! I know I sound like the Grinch talking but this is the reality of down sizing reguarding holiday decor. Unless you have the perfect scenario where your adult children have recently bought a home and want to deck it out for the holidays and are thrilled to take all your decorations (most likely not the case) you must sell or donate now or risk missing your window of opportunity. Very few people are interested in holiday decor after the celebrating is over so you will have little to no luck selling things on Craigslist, eBay or whatever market place you use. Also, most charities either no longer take holiday decor or they only take it in the months of November and December. You don’t want to be in a panic next Spring when your only option is to pay for storage or throw your decorations away. 

After thirty plus years of collecting (everything from vintage Christmas snow globes to nutcrackers and ornaments) I had over 16 large boxes of holiday decor. It pained me terribly to donate what I spent so much time collecting but I knew I couldn’t take 16 boxes with me to our small apartment. Make a decision how much you can realistically take with you when you downsize. In my case it I thought I could take three boxes. In reality, it’s half of one box. We will most likely only have a small table tree and maybe a decoration or two on the coffee table and small kitchen table. I’m in the process now of letting go of the rest.

3.Take photos, lot’s of photos. One of my regrets is that I was so busy with clients and anxious to get the house ready to put on the market that I never took photos before the house was turned upside down for staging. Once it was staged it looked very little like how it did when we lived there. I do have the Real Estate photos but it’s a staged house with no personality. Get out your camera and document everything. You won’t realize how much you will enjoy looking back on your previous life in your big home. 

I will admit, the holidays are difficult after you’ve drastically downsized like we have. There is no room for my sons to spend the night on Christmas eve, no decorating the front yard trees with white lights and my traditional baking of Christmas cookies will be simply too difficult with no counter space in my small kitchen.

Given the choice though I would not go back to living in a big house. The benefits of our new small living lifestyle far outweighs the few things I miss around the holidays. I also think it will get easier every year.

I’d love to hear from you if you’ve downsized. Did you find the holidays challenging?

 

 

 

I want this to be over with!

Three more days. Three more days till we say goodbye to our big beautiful home forever. We are 90% packed and now it’s more or less waiting around until the movers come. I can’t seem to get anything done work wise but I guess that’s understandable because my office looks like this

and my studio looks like this

It is almost soul crushing to be in the house this last week with everything packed up for the move. I fluctuate between depression and anxiety about leaving and excitement and optimism about what lies ahead. Today it is cold and rainy and I am feeling somewhat melancholy that our house will soon no longer be ours. 

I honestly didn’t think I would be this emotional, after all it was my idea to downsize. I think it’s not so much about selling the house but the fact that this long chapter of our parenting life is over. Our kids are grown and living on their own and never again will we have the big beautiful family home. I know new and exciting things are ahead but there is still a sadness to moving on and letting go of so many once treasured possessions and memories. I know it’s just “stuff” but it’s the memories behind the stuff that makes it hard to let go. Bottom line, downsizing is emotional and anyone that tells you it’s not, is lying.

Our dining room which had so many happy family dinners is now filled with boxes ready to go. The memories are still there but having to see it all stripped bare is tough.

I will be taking some time off next week from blogging in order to get settled in our new apartment.  I hope to report back that all this stress of downsizing and all the sadness of purging and letting go of so many our possessions was all worth it. I’m looking forward to walking down the street to get a cup of coffee and sitting outside at a local restaurant with a Summer cocktail. I’m looking forward to feeling free and I’m looking forward to living with less but doing more living.

For all of you who have told me you are planning to downsize within the next couple of years, I have one word of advice..Start now! In hind sight we needed six more months…more about that later. In the mean time, I wish all my US friends a great long weekend. I’ll be spending the weekend doing my best to make our new little white box a home. Follow me on IG for photo updates.

Downsizing to a white box

In less than two days I fly out to High Point NC for Spring Market. Although I have no business leaving town right now because of the house sale, but High Point Market is one of the high lights of my year and there is no way I would miss it. I get to reconnect with designer friends from all over the country and see all the latest furniture, lighting, accessories and design trends. I also get to spend some quality time with my Boston area designer friends and we have lot’s of catching up to do!

The good news on the house is that we have accepted an offer. As long as the home inspection goes smoothly and the purchase and sales agreement is signed we are on our way to our downsizing life style. We visited the apartment complex again last week. I wanted to take some measurements to see what we can and can’t take with us. Bottom line, it’s small….very small. One half my brain is filled with excitement about our soon to be carefree life style but the other side of my brain is screaming, “are you freaking crazy”?

Here is our future home. It’s basically a white box. To give you an idea of size, that back wall is only 9′ wide and I am standing with my back pressed against the glass door on the other side of the room. To the left of the kitchen is a 10′ x 10′ room that will be my office. Upstairs are two small bedrooms. It is exactly the spaces we need it’s just that all the spaces are very small.

Here is the other side of the unit. The glass door is the only natural light in the living/dining area. Also, don’t let that railing outside the door fool you into thinking there is a balcony. It’s only a safety railing so the occupants don’t fall (or jump) out. 

Even though the apartment is small we chose it for the location. It is a six minute drive to my husband’s job (and that’s with traffic) and it’s within walking distance of stores, restaurants, and coffee shops. The biggest plus for me is that driving to down town Boston will take about 20 mins vs. the 60-90+ mins it takes from where we live now. 

I am thinking of ideas for decorating it. I seem to remember HGTV had a designer white box challenge so I will have to see if I can find any of the episodes online for inspiration. Unfortunately I am not allowed to paint the walls. On the plus side though, look at all that blank wall space for artwork! I promise to share everything I do to make this white box feel like home. 

So what do you think? Exciting or crazy? I’ve heard both opinions within the past week so I promise you won’t offend me.

 I will be at High Point next week so I will not post my usual Tuesday blog. To see all the cool new things from Market be sure to follow me on Instagram  where I will be posting daily.

My lucky red Feng Shui closet

After I mentioned our red closet in last week’s post and explained how it has brought me so much luck after following Feng Shui recommendations, I received multiple requests asking to please show the closet.

In case you missed last weeks post, here is a quick recap. I hired a Feng Shui consultant to come and do a walk through of our house shortly after we purchased it (12 years ago). It turned out our “wealth area” on the Feng Shui bagua map was our master closet. At the time of purchase, the walls were never painted, just primed matte white and they were all scuffed up. The closet had cheap wire shelving along one wall and as soon as we moved in, it became an unorganized mess. I wish I had a before photo but I will tell you it was bad. 

Here is our closet today.

My side of the closet

Now, just to remind you, the closet is staged for putting the house on the market. It’s usually clean with very little clutter but not this clean nor this uncluttered. My shoes are stored in those hat boxes because they looked too messy on the shelves.

Hubby’s side of closet

The first change our Feng Shui consultant told us to make to increase the good vibes of our home’s wealth area was to paint the walls red. He then suggested cabinetry to keep it clean and organized. Finally, he advised us to keep symbols of wealth in plain view such as jewelry, a glass jar filled with coins, and vacation photos. We did every single thing he suggested and for the past twelve years I have won more contests and have had better luck than I ever had before. 

So there you have it. Our lucky red closet. 

Several of you also asked where the “wealth area” is located. I am not a Feng Shui expert by any means but from what I understand, the wealth area is the farthest left corner of the house (as you are facing the front door) and that is where our closet is located.

I’m going to miss several things about our current house but I think I will miss my closet the most.

 

 

Could a red envelope and what’s inside help sell our house?

It’s been quite a month. Between traveling to Spain with Tile of Spain and then immediately heading cross country to LA to attend the Design Bloggers Conference, I have been MIA these past two weeks and I apologize. Add in the huge stress I have been under as we finish up purging and cleaning to get our house ready to list and it’s amazing I am still standing. (Well Last week I wasn’t but I won’t get into that).

Today I have a great story for you. Twelve years ago when we first bought our house (the same one we are now selling) I met a guy who was a Feng Shui master. Since we bought our house from a family with a very sick child I asked him if he would come do a cleansing and give it some good mojo. I knew very little about Feng Shui at the time other than the basics. He did his thing and told me the house actually had great energy and made a few suggestions for what would improve it even more. The biggest change we made was to our walk in master closet.

It turned out that our “wealth center” on the Feng Shui bagua map was our cluttered, and messy master closet.  When he said our closet was stifling us financially, I told him I would do anything required to fix that! I did every thing he told me to do including major organization, painting the inside walls red, putting some jewelry on display and filling a jar with extra pocket change. I also put a large amethyst and some photos on the shelf that represented abundance. At the time I didn’t know what would happen but I figured I had nothing to loose so why not?

Well one week later almost to the day of finishing up with all the master closet changes I won a $1,000 gas card. Up until then, I had never won a single thing in my life! Two weeks after winning the free gas I won a $500 Amex gift card and shortly after that I won both a business raffle and a free dinner for two. It was flipping crazy but the honest to God truth. To this day I continue to be “lucky” and my family jokes that it’s all because the master closet. 

So, this brings me to the red envelope story. While at the Design Bloggers Conference I roomed with my friend Amanda Gates. Amanda specializes in Feng Shui so I asked her if she had any Feng Shui tips to help get the house sold. She told me to take something from the kitchen (a screw from a cabinet) and mail it to her in red envelope. Okay, I’m sure you think this is voodoo crazy but after my master closet experience I didn’t even question it. 

This past weekend we took a small screw out of the back of a cabinet. Amanda said I needed to mail it in a red envelope but I had no idea where I would find a single red envelope. Now this is where is gets freaky. I have an old shoe box filled with one of a kind notes and pretty cards that I pick up here and there. I don’t know why I didn’t put the box it into storage because I rarely write personal notes but for some reason I didn’t. I thought I would at least look inside but I highly doubted there was a red envelope in the box. When I took the lid off  the box this is what I saw.

I KID YOU NOT! I had chills all over my body and couldn’t text Amanda fast enough. I have absolutely no memory of this red envelope and it was even stranger because there was no accompanying card, just a single red envelope sitting right on top of the pile. I know there is absolutely no explaining this or even making sense out of it. Amanda though, took it all in stride and texted back, “On one hand extraordinary on the other hand, welcome to my world of magic”.

So this morning I mailed my red envelope with a kitchen cabinet screw inside. I sent it with love and intention and soon it will be in Amanda’s hands. Our house goes on the market in less than two weeks so we are grateful for whatever help Amanda can give us. I will be sure to keep you updated as to what happens with the sale. If it sells quickly, Amanda might have a side line business to incorporate into her practice!

Speaking of Amanda, she has a book coming out soon called “Detoxing Clutter with Feng Shui”. If you’re interested in getting on the list for copy just click HERE.  Amanda told me she has a chapter on dealing with family heirlooms that need to be honored and not simply tossed or randomly donated. I have a storage locker filled with that kind of stuff so I can’t wait!

How about you? Do you practice Feng Shui or have a story to share?

We might be crazy but we’re really doing this!

My husband and I, like almost every other baby boomer I know have been talking about downsizing. For the past three or four years we have wanted to unload our big house in the country/burbs and the responsibilities of cleaning, gardening and the maintenance that goes along with it. Let’s be real here, two people and a dog do not need this much house.

our home

our home

The reason why we have only been talking about moving and not taking action is simple. We could not decide where we wanted to move even though I have spent more time on realtor.com than I care to admit. Here’s the problem, the towns we would like to buy a smaller home in are either too expensive (real estate has surged 50% or more in the past five years in towns close to Boston) or the towns are too far from my husband’s job.

So on new years day, after a weekend of discussing the feasibility of moving (for the umpteen time) we made a radical decision to sell our home without knowing where we will buy next. What’s that saying? ” jump and the net will appear”? We called the realtor and set a list date. Then we came up with an even more radical idea. Donate 60-70% of our belongings to charity, put another 20% in storage and move into a small apartment that is within walking or bike riding distance to my husband’s job. Crazy or brilliant?

On the plus side we unburden ourselves from the big house and the responsibilities that go along with it. Just as important, we take a huge amount of stress off my husband who currently has an hour plus commute each day, each way, in bumper to bumper traffic. Being close to work is going to be life changing for him.

On the other hand, can we really be happy living in a small apartment? Can we deal with getting in an elevator each time the dog wants/needs to go out? Will I be okay not being able to make any changes in the design or even paint the walls?

Now that we have committed to this plan I fluctuate between excitement of the future and anxiety that we are making a huge mistake. We are forging ahead though and tackling the hardest part….purging for the downsize. I have had so many friends tell me how great I will feel after it is done but I will tell you right now I don’t feel great at all. I feel overwhelmed and even somewhat depressed. Sorting through a life time of memories, family heirlooms, books, art work, photos and several china and glassware collections and deciding what stays and what goes is daunting. We have A LOT OF STUFF!!!

We are now three weeks into the process and this is what I have learned so far

  1. Purging takes time. We actually started the decluttering process over a year ago after reading Marie Condor’s book about decluttering, “The life-changing magic of tidying up”. We got rid of what seemed like half of our stuff. We were only fooling ourselves though because we realize now we only scratched the surface. When there is more than one person involved in the decision making purging can take longer and be even more stressful. For example, I donated 53 boxes of old books to the library and I didn’t give it a second thought. A box of my son’s artwork though from second grade and my shell collection is impossible to let go of. My husband on the other hand has no trouble donating any of our furniture, china or glassware yet refuses to part with old tools and some (fugly) art work that belonged to his parents.
  2. Just GET OVER how much the value is (was) of what you are selling, tossing or donating. We made a decision at the start of our process that we would not try to sell, consign, auction or have a yard sale.Each situation is different and you might decide to sell your stuff and that’s great but in our experience (and we have done everyone of those things) the amount of work and time involved is not worth the pennies on the dollar we would ultimately receive. Instead, we picked three local charities that we are donating everything to. (I did end up listing two things on Craigslist but only because they were too big and heavy to donate, and yes, I received a fraction of what they were worth).
  3. Have a safe place to store things that you can’t make a decision on for a predetermined length of time. One thing that has kept me from completely going bonkers is that we rented a storage locker for one year. Small living may or may not work for us so if after a year we decide to buy another house we will not have to repurchase everything. Plus some of the family heirlooms along with our bikes, skies and most of our artwork we plan to keep but there will be no room in a small apartment.
  4. Allow yourself time to mourn. The purging process can feel freeing but also very sad. Some of the things we are letting go of have great emotional attachment. Marie Kondo says to touch everything and see if it brings you joy. In my case, most things we own bring me joy so I have to be even more selective. The two questions I ask myself are #1. Why am I holding on to this? and #2. When I am gone will my children want this? If I don’t have a really good answer for #1 and the answer to #2 is NO, then it goes. BTW, fooling myself into thinking that maybe some day I will have a grandchild and maybe that grandchild will want…X… is NOT an acceptable reason to hold on to something. Bye bye Beanie Babies!
  5. Your kids don’t want your stuff. I have talked to many friends and acquaintances who have already gone through this process and in almost all cases, the kids don’t want your stuff. Mine don’t and even if they did, they are both living in small Boston apartments so have no space for it. So if it’s truly something they may want some day when they have a home of their own, put it into storage and decide how long you want to pay rent to hold on to it.

Finally, I believe you owe it to your kids to declutter before it’s too late. My mom passed away after living in the same house for 55 years and seemingly never threw a single thing out. To this day I am still traumatized remembering the amount of work and the toll it took on me to go through her house, large attic and a full basement and sort through generations of stuff. It was a nightmare I vowed I would never do to my kids.

I know small living isn’t for everyone and it may not work out for us. We are giving it a try though because to simplify our lives by living with less is the best way I can think of to up level our lives going forward.

I’d love to hear your opinions. Would you consider doing this or do you think we are crazy?

The home trend that has nothing to do with decorating

There is a growing trend happening in home interiors. Shelter magazines, decorating blogs and news show are all abuzz over it. What is it you ask? It is the desire to free ourselves from excess “stuff” and simplify our life by decluttering or “tidying”.

In case you haven’t heard, this is the bombshell book that has rocked the world and caused millions to jump on the “tidying” bandwagon.

Tidying book image

Marie Kondo’s book came into my life at the perfect time because a diagnosis of Cancer has a way of shifting one’s mind set. I thought back to when my mom and also my husband’s mom passed away from Cancer and my husband and I were responsible for cleaning out two entire households of belongings. It took us years and years (over ten to be exact) to finally sort through and deal with everything. It wasn’t the furniture that was the problem but all the stuff (crap) that was stored in the closets, cabinets, bookcases, attic and basement. When I think back on all the wasted time, expense and energy we devoted to first moving then storing and then moving that stuff again, it sickens me. I vowed I would NEVER do that to my kids so if not now, when?

Now let me be clear, my husband and I are not striving to live a minimalist life style which is what Kondo’s book basically advocates. Instead, we simply want to unburden ourselves and ultimately our sons of way more stuff than we need or use. I believe her book has become such a phenomenon because the over consumerism that most of us have fully enjoyed due to cheap labor has run it’s course. Boomers are looking to downsize, gen X’ers are interested in locally made quality goods and millennials prefer spending their paychecks on experiences rather than cheaply made throw away items.

Kondo’s message is very powerful and after reading her book and then having my husband read her book, we decided we were ready to take action and purge or as Kondo refers to it, “detox” our home. Kondo’s process is not about deciding what to get rid of but rather what to keep.The criteria for keeping an item is to hold it in your hands and ask yourself does it spark joy in your heart? Is it useful and if so, do you use it? Rather than go room by room Kondo’s method is to declutter by category. Clothes first followed by books then papers, then miscellaneous items and finally sentimental items.

Since my husband was off work between Christmas and the New Year we spent a good chunk of that week beginning Kondo’s tidying process. Clothing was a breeze because I have very little attachment to clothes nor does he. The final clothing donate pile was four feet high and eight feet long. The photo below are just my husband’s donations.

clothing donation

seven large trash bags of clothes were donated

Books were a little more painful as I am a book lover. Nevertheless we let go of 8 big boxes of books. We spent two full days on papers and then moved to miscellaneous and started with kitchen items.

Until I actually touched everything we owned I had no idea how many things did not spark joy in my heart and how many things I no longer used or needed. I was surprised to see we owned four Pyrex measuring cups, twenty three sets of chop sticks (we rarely use chop sticks) and a waffle iron that I forgot I even owned.

kitchen clutter

Cuisinart, pots and pans and misc. items are just some of the kitchen items we purged

Interestingly, Kondo talks in the book about how this detoxing process can cause actual physical illness. A few days after we started purging my husband who very rarely gets sick had flu like symptoms. I didn’t get sick but that whole week I felt like I was coming down with something.

Our house detoxing is far from complete but we are making progress. One half of our garage is now completely filled with donations. I will admit that I had remorse several times over the monetary valuable of some of the things were we letting go but I stayed strong. Freedom from clutter that doesn’t spark joy is more important right now as I look forward to good health, travel, and eventually downsizing.

We still have many weeks of work on the miscellaneous items and then the really challenging work will begin…the sentimental items. Kondo says her average client takes about six months to completely detox their home. We are shooting for completion by Summer so that sounds about right.

Wish me luck and I will be sure to update you with our progress.

 

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