Extreme downsizing...need your help!

weedyacresNovember 3, 2013

We're moving next week from our 4500 sf house to a 920 sf 2 bed/1 bath house with a low-overhead basement and no garage. It's "temporary," as we are looking for a larger home for the longer term, but it'll be at least March, and potentially a year, depending on what comes on the market.

We're selling a bunch of furniture, will put what we don't want to part with (sentimental, or expensive) in storage, and have space at my shop to store the garage stuff (Mr. Weedy's mechanical tools). But our big challenge is our "living stuff."

Any tips on how to live in a severely smaller space? In particular, I'm talking about things like going from palatial bathroom to a 5'x7' room with a 24" vanity. And from 12'x18' closet to 2 6' reach-ins. That sort of thing.

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Elraes Miller

One week is the deciding factor here. The 'ole 1/2/3 rule is going to be tough for downsizing this quickly.

Since you are going to have a storage unit, this will help a great deal. I would go through each room and only take what you need/want right now. Limit it to bare necessities. Pack a set of "just in case" boxes for things you may consider wanting later and be sure they are at the front of the storage unit. Definitely get rid of anything with past due dates or on their way to such.

Also pack your boxes with only the contents for each room they will be used in. I used big colored markies and put sticky notes on doors so they coordinated without having to go through reading the room name.

If you are in cold country it will be easy to grab winter clothes requirements. Anything that says "decor" can wait (those boxes marked to go through just in case could hold a few). And of course if you have attachments to items such as family photos, etc., a few should be with you.

You could think of this as a long vacation in a small B&B. What is available to their visitors for living requirements? What would you be comfortable with or without?

While in your temporary living arrangement, I'd try to find a lot of activities to do on a whim so you won't get "cabin fever". Of course you could also spend some time looking through boxes again just to clear anything unwanted that got caught in the foray.

I'd love to be with you going through this in such a short time. Even packing for a move with a month out or just knowing a move is ahead is daunting.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2013 at 11:47AM
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Yowza! That's a bigger change than we ever made. We went from 2000 to 900 one time and I'll tell you what we did that you shouldn't do.

We were only going to be there for a few months while we built a house. That few months turned into 2 years when the developer turned out not to have done everything he needed to do to get the land ready.

We didn't get rid of anything. Our rent house was 2 bedroom and also no garage. We put everything in storage except clothes, toys, beds, sofa, table and chairs, 2 dressers.

In the kitchen I kept dishes & silverware for 4, crock pot, skillet, dutch oven, sauce pan, and a few basic utensils. After all, we were going to be driving 45 miles to our build every day and wouldn't be home, or so we thought.

As the months went by and we saw that the county was in no hurry to approve the plat our land was in, we began to need some of the stuff in storage. But it was packed in there so completely that everything had to come out to get anything. So we brought it all into our little 900 house. Then it was like living in a 2nd hand furniture store, with a path through the middle. But again, we only thought it would be a few more months.

If I had it to do over again, and wanted to keep stuff for a 2000 sq ft house, I would rent 2 storage units, both climate controlled. Ours wasn't and our furniture suffered for it. An antique table crazed and the veneer warped. I would put the furniture in one unit and the boxes on shelves in the other, labeled so you can get the stuff out when you need it, or exchange winter for summer stuff. You can stack Rubbermaid totes to the ceiling, but if you need the one on the bottom, it would be easier if you invested in some metal shelving to line the unit for your boxes.

I would have been much happier if I had been living 2 years with less stuff. Not only was I miserable when at home, and I was a SAHM, we eventually had to go to a lawyer to get the developer moving so we could build. It would all have been easier if that home had been a haven instead of a hoarder's pit.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2013 at 1:59PM
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Thanks for the tips so far. I will assume it'll be a year and plan/pack accordingly. Based on the above, we're going to pack things with colored labels on them: green (need immediately, like toiletries, sheets), yellow (need very soon, like kitchen cooking tools) and red (can live without, send to storage).

We rented a 10x20 climate controlled storage space. I like the idea of shelving along the walls, but we'll have to see how much space we really have.

I should say that fortunately we don't have 4500 sf worth of stuff. We have 4 staged but otherwise unused bedrooms with empty closets. So it's mostly master bedroom/bath, kitchen, and linen & coat closets, and such. And that garage....

I'm working on selling furniture, will purge my wardrobe and make a goodwill run, and will pack away summer clothes in well-labeled boxes.

More tips are welcome.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2013 at 1:04PM
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My rule of thumb has always been: if I haven't used it in the last year or two, get rid of it. Sentimental items being the exception to the rule.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2013 at 8:05PM
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For your clothing, think in outfits.

I was once lucky enough to go to England for 9 months, but could only take two suitcases with me for clothing and toiletries and hair dryers and stuff like that.

So do pack your favorite clothes, but make sure that everything you bring goes with at least two other items of clothing. That blue sweater needs to go with jeans and at least one other pair of pants or a skirt. And maybe two shirts that can go under the sweater, to vary up the looks. Do take some scarves and other accessories with you, as they will help you to vary the look of the same outfit worn for the nth time.

For the bathroom, take just what you need and actually use. One type of shampoo instead of three. Two sets of towels per person, the rest in storage.

If all your clothing was in the closet, will you need a dresser to hold the foldables?

If the house doesn't have much built-in storage, you may have to bring some storage items along with you. Bookcases can be used to store just about anything that will fit on the shelves. Some items can be hidden in boxes or bins.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2013 at 5:22PM
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For a small bathroom put your grooming items in wicker baskets or cloth "purses". These can be kept under the sink and pulled out for use, then put back. Neat and tidy.

You are on the right track on your Goodwill run. Clothes become out of fashion very soon. Keep your basics and store coats and little used items in your storage facility.

Get some under the bed storage containers with wheels. These are great to put your shoes or bedding items in.

You can use the trunks of your cars to store some things you might use (rain ponchos, umbrellas, extra flashlights, etc.,) one day.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2013 at 11:19PM
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Here's what helps in my small home.
Rolling underbed storage
Back of closet shoe organizers for shoes or products (like in linen closet)
Using my favorite Hull vintage dishes everyday, stackable Tupperware plates for very casual.
CD, DVD disc holders (folder style like a photo album)
Style appropriate storage (ie. my dog food and treats are in an antique copper boiler with lid)
Rolling coffee table (large casters I attached). It can be moved easily and with pillows can double as extra seating.
Bench at table it can be positioned o take up less sq feet than all chairs with accessibility.
I have kids so they get 5 categories of toys each to collect in their Rooms. If you have a large hallway an antique dresser can add storage.
We created space when we remodeled. The shower has a shelf in the wall.
For laundry we use collapsible lawn containers. I can crush them down and store them easily.
Label clearly
Choose quality over quantity
Choose wisely, is it useful 1st.
Good luck!

    Bookmark   November 19, 2013 at 11:26PM
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I thought I'd update this thread. We haven't found anything we're ready to pounce on to buy, and in the meantime we may be looking to build a new building for my business a year or two from now, and could use our cash to get that going. I'd rather have a better factory than a larger house, so we've decided in the near term that we're going to stay in our itty bitty cottage and see if we can make do.

So come spring we're going to start sorting through the boxes we've got hither and yon, and yard sale/donate like crazy. Permanent decluttering is the goal. I'm hoping that it will be cathartic and also bring in some cash to add to our factory account.

In the meantime, we've somewhat accidentally stumbled upon a great organizational tool. We had no kitchen when we moved in (had gutted, were in the process of putting back together). I'm building the cabinets, making it slow going. So we put in the sink base and appliances, with a temporary counter, and a folding table on the other side (it's a galley) to hold stuff. All our boxes we opened in the DR, and when we need stuff we scrounge through boxes, and then leave it in the kitchen. So we're discovering what's frequently used and what's not. That has helped in my designing the cabinets, and, when we eventually can populate them, with putting all the stuff away.

We have some things in storage that can eventually go into the basement, once construction is finished. But we have a few pieces of furniture that won't fit and that we don't want to get rid of because of price/sentimental value. I don't know what we'll do once that's all that's left in our $130/month climate controlled storage.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2014 at 6:53PM
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Sounds like you are adjusting well. Just a thought but could you Switch to a smaller climate controlled unit when you're down to the last few pieces or build a small room at your place of work for just those items to be stored?

    Bookmark   January 2, 2014 at 7:02PM
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