Effective ways to downsize without compromise

Whether you simply need a smaller property, are considering retirement or need to downsize your home due to financial reasons, moving from a large property into a much smaller one can be a big emotional life event. Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa says that there are a number of factors that need to be taken into consideration before a decision to move to a smaller property is made.

“The most important thing to remember, however, is that downsizing doesn’t have to mean exchanging a large home for a cramped space or altering your personal style. While there is a certain amount of compromise that downsizing homeowners will have to make in terms of space, if downsizing is a well evaluated, planned and thought-through process, the sacrifices need not be life-changing,” says Goslett.

To cover the basics, he provides some top tips to help homeowners effectively downsize their homes without too much of a compromise:

Decide what space you can do without

Walk through your current home and carefully assess the usage of each room. As a general rule, rooms that are used less than six times a year can be done without. Homeowners should also take into consideration what rooms can be combined in the new, smaller space. “For example, your home office could double up as a guest room with the inclusion of a sleeper couch, or your kitchen could include a dining space to exclude the need for a separate formal dining area,” says Goslett.

Carefully consider design

In a small space, design elements are more important than ever before. Look out for open-plan living area designs as these tend to create a sense of space. Goslett also points out that when looking at a smaller home, buyers should ensure there are plenty of windows and doors to allow in natural light which will prevent the space from looking dark and cramped. Outside areas such as gardens or balconies also contribute to the overall effect.

Measure up

Downsizing sensibly means adjusting to the new lifestyle a smaller home offers. This means that oversized furniture that suited your old home perfectly, won't allow you to move around freely in a smaller living area. “Get rid of what doesn't work and use the proceeds to finance what will,” says Goslett.  “Once a smaller home has been purchased, owners should measure the space of each room and draft a floor plan or request a floor plan with the necessary measurements. The location of doors and windows will be a major factor in furniture placement. The next step is to measure your furniture to see that it will fit. Sell what doesn’t so that you can replace it with furniture customised to your new living space.”

Assess your new storage areas

While getting room measurements, Goslett says it is a good idea to assess the storage space available as well. He suggests making notes of how many cupboards there are in each room and what their dimensions are and if there is extra storage available in a separate store room or garage area. “This exercise will help to determine how much of their existing items homeowners may need to get rid of or put into storage,” says Goslett. “However, if items have been in storage for more than a year without being used, it’s probably a good sign that they won’t be needed in the future. Sell these items, give them away or donate them to charity.”

Evaluate what you have

Goslett says that is important for homeowners to assess their actual need in order to determine what they can’t live without.  Anyone who walks through their home for a quick assessment of what they have will come across items that are no longer used or needed. “Don’t forget to evaluate the small stuff like clothing and small appliances. Cut out the redundancy, eliminate clutter, and be ruthless with clothing that doesn't fit or is outdated. Throw away items that are broken or have missing parts, because if they haven't been fixed by now, they probably never will.”

Give yourself personal space

Cutting down on space can be tough, so it is not surprising that one of the major complaints from families who have downsized is that they feel like they are living on top of one another and are in each other’s way the whole time. “We all have our own perceptions about what qualifies as sufficient personal space and there is no doubt that it can be hard to adjust to a smaller home,” says Goslett. “A good way to overcome this is to make sure that each family member has a place of their own in the new home, whether it’s a bedroom or even just a cosy reading nook where they can escape to.”
Goslett concludes by saying that even though downsizing does come with challenges and adaptations, but if handled correctly, the process can be fairly streamlined and smooth.
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