Living More Simply Is the Best Revenge

by Lauri Ward for, November 1, 2007

There are many reasons why you might be moving to a smaller home. Maybe your children have left the nest and you’re ready to fly the coop to a smaller, more manageable home, or maybe you’re about to return to the city after living in the suburbs for a couple of decades. Perhaps you’re exchanging one large home for two smaller ones—summer and winter or a suburban condo and a city pied-à- terre. Maybe you’re following the southern and southwestern migration. You might be relocating to accept your dream job or retiring and trying to reallocate your disposable income. Perhaps you just want to simplify your life so that there’s “less work for Mother.” Or you could be downsizing for quite a few other reasons.

Whatever your motivation, moving is always stressful, but downsizing is more about adapting than it is about moving. When you’re telescoping a lifetime’s accumulation of belongings from a larger home into a jewel box, the task can seen overwhelming, and so can your emotions. How do you decide what to pack and what to part with? Where will you put the contents of your attic, basement, and garage? What if the ceilings are lower—or in some cases higher—the windows are smaller, and the living room rug would fill the entire space? How can you use the stuff you’ve got so that it functions well and looks right?

Perhaps you’ve spent your adult life up to this point moving to larger and larger homes. If so, reversing that pattern will be a dramatic change. But I urge you not to look upon it as a compromise. Rather, I want you to embrace it, approach the change positively, and think about what you’ll be gaining, not losing. When you reduce what you have to the best and most loved, your new space will be even more special, and just because you have less space  doesn’t mean that it can’t be even more stylish. In fact, you may actually be upgrading some of your furnishings, your appliances, or other accoutrements.

That said, the emotional component of “letting go” may be more difficult for some than for others. Those of you who clean out your closets regularly and tend to throw things away instead of hanging on to them “just in case” will have an easier time than those who still have a black-and-white television stashed in the attic and the stub from every bill they’ve ever paid. Downsizing is as much about making an emotional commitment to change as it is about figuring out where to put your furniture. It’s about living more simply and calmly, making that choice in advance and living it in the future. It’s about leading a richer life by having less.

My goal for this book is to provide you with all the strategies you’ll need to alleviate your anxiety, overcome emotional barriers, and make sure your new home is as lovely, livable, and low maintenance as possible.

From the moment you find your new space until you’ve been living in it for a year, I will guide you  step- by-step through the mental and physical processes that can make your move cathartic and creative instead of catastrophic. You may not have downsized before, but I’ve helped clients do it hundreds, if not thousands, of times. In fact, as a New York City–based Interior Refiner™ for thirty years, I like to think of myself as an expert on helping  space-challenged clients solve their dilemmas. And now many of my New York clients are downsizing to smaller homes in various states, including Florida (where Use What You Have® also has an office), Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and other locations that are closer to their previous homes. Since I have the experience and expertise to anticipate and avoid problems you may not be aware of, you’ll be benefiting from my accumulated bag of tricks for decorating sleight of hand, camouflage, and storage. You’ll be using what you have, and what I know, to take you from an empty space to a  well- furnished nest, albeit a smaller one, without too many ruffled feathers.

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