Downsizing to a new apartment means less stuff, not less style

By Judy Stringer
Plain Dealer, Sunday March 23, 2014

Some people downsize when they move from a house to an apartment, perhaps trading in the responsibilities of home ownership for an easygoing apartment lifestyle. The extra free time affords them time for travel, dining out, going to shows, volunteering or pursuing new educational opportunities. Other times renters downsize when they relocate to a smaller apartment that is more affordable or closer to their favorite hangouts. Either way downsizing often requires a serious pare down of home goods.

It also is a great time to do a bit of style reimaging, if not an outright design makeover.

Luckily you don't have to go it alone. Two local experts - one an organizational guru and the other a design ace - offer renters helpful tips to make the most of a downsize.

Patty Clair, member of the National Association of Professional Organizers and owner of simply put, llc ( in Cleveland:

Downsizing to a new place can be very stressful and emotional as often people are leaving homes they have lived in for 20 to 40 years. Since the new living space will obviously be smaller, it is important to understand that everything cannot go with you. To make the process smoother, downsizers should ask themselves three important questions about their belongings.

"Do I have the space for it?" Measure the rooms in your new place to make sure you do have the space, paying particular attention to where entryways, closets, windows and even radiators, in the case of older apartments/ homes, are located. These can truly alter what furniture will comfortably fit in the new rooms, or if all the pieces will even fit at all. Also, pay attention to how much storage space is available for seasonal items and the other boxes of belongings that were once comfortably stored away in the larger home.

"Do I love, honor, and use it?" If you cannot say "yes" to these three words, then perhaps it is something that should not make the move to the new place.

"Do I want to pay to move it?" Often for empty nester downsizers, this is one of the first times they will be paying for the move themselves, as it is not typically the result of a new job or transfer. Paying professionals for the packing and transfer of boxes of items that will not be needed, utilized or fit in the new space is a waste of time and money. Try to sort through your possessions before the move and donate, discard, sell or give away to a friend or family member, those items that you will not love, honor and use in your new home.

These are three great questions people getting ready to downsize should ask themselves before they even get out the packing tape and boxes!

Tim Kempf, professional interior designer and co-owner of duoHOME (, based in Cleveland Heights:

We often encourage clients to really think about their dream interiors when they downsize. No matter what the reason for the downsizing, be it an empty nester situation, the loss of a spouse, divorce or simply a desire to streamline their lives, we always ask our clients to connect with their design ideals and view downsizing as an opportunity to create the home space they have always wanted.

For example, a couple that are now empty nesters no longer need a sectional in a durable fabric for maximum seating for four kids, all their friends and themselves. Maybe now is the time to finally get that all-white slipcover sofa you have always dreamed about or a pair of Louis XV loveseats rather than a sofa at all. Likewise, there is usually no longer the need for an extension dining table that seats twelve with all three leaves in.

The point is now is the time to get what you like. Look at this as a chance to give yourself what you have always wanted, as well as what you need. A professional designer can help you take inventory of your existing furnishings and work with you to edit/select the pieces that make sense in your new life.

Many times, downsizing also gives clients the chance to redefine and celebrate themselves. You may still be parents, but not 24/7 parents. Take down high school graduation photos and start collecting and displaying art you love. Be it contemporary or French Impressionism, art makes any interior better, and no one will think you a bad parent if your child's high school senior portrait from 1994 is not on display.

Not willing to give up family photos? Then commission a new, up-to-date family photo with children and spouses and grandchildren! Have some beloved family pets? Include them, too.

Also, take this opportunity to treat yourself. We typically notice that empty nesters, in particular, have a bit more disposable income once their children become adults. Indulge yourself by buying a gorgeous bedspread and sleeping on high-end sheets. Furnishings and finishes no longer have to be child-proof (although they might have to be child-friendly if you have grandkids).

Finally, consider removing the classifications of "everyday" and "special" from your lives. Live every day as if it were special. Put that substantial collection of Irish crystal to use as your "everyday" glassware. I cannot honestly say that a diet soft drink tastes any different when enjoyed in a hand-cut, lead crystal tumbler, but you sure do feel better about yourself while you are drinking it!

Downsizing can be a freeing and joyous experience. The first thing we tell clients who are downsizing is to breathe, relax and get ready for a fun, more satisfying life.

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