Help us downsize! Moving from 2400 sq ft to 1200 sq ft and .25 acres to .00000000025 acres.
February 22, 2012 4:34 PM   Subscribe

Help us downsize! Moving from 2400 sq ft to 1200 sq ft and .25 acres to .00000000025 acres.

Question says it all. Moving from a house to a condo w/ half the square footage and losing our yard. What'd you do when you had to drastically downsize? I'm going to miss the garden and the dogs won't have room to run (but there is a dog park very near and the wife won't be working). There is also a severe lack of storage. Any tips on using space efficiently are welcomed.
posted by no bueno to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
My advice would be do start from scratch with furniture specific for the new location, there's a good chance your stuff from 2400 sq ft will look huge. This also means less stuff to move, sell the old furniture off. Work your way up from essentials.

Furniture that doesn't hug the floors will give an appearance of more open space.

Now's also a time to get rid of all those CDs, DVDs, and maybe cut your book collection down to one case or less. Get rid of magazines, get rid of cruft.

Our new place didn't have storage in the master bedroom, so we got two sets of Ikea PAX wardrobes, and I have to say, it's better than any closet I've ever owned in my life.
posted by furtive at 4:42 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Bedroom storage is ok. It's just that we have no room for ski's, bikes, outdoor stuff, or any other of our "things".
posted by no bueno at 4:49 PM on February 22, 2012

We'd really need to see a floorplan to help you. You very likely do have room, unless it's a weirdly designed 1200 sq ft house. How many people of what ages are residing in this home?
posted by DarlingBri at 4:53 PM on February 22, 2012

I think the main advice is get rid of stuff. Don't try to cram it all into the new house and don't fall into the "we'll put it in storage and think about it later" trap. That's just throwing money into a hole in the ground. Two years later you'll go to the storage unit and look at the stuff and think "why didn't we just take most of this to the dump?"

As for stuff you actually will use but which is hard to store: get creative about storing things in compact spaces. Under the bed can hold a lot: maybe prioritize getting a nice high bed that you can put wheeled bins under? Are there common areas in the condo where your bikes can safely go? If not, there are all kinds of apartment bike racks available.

But the main thing is to be ruthless about which "things" you actually need to keep and which can be sold/given away/dumped.
posted by yoink at 4:57 PM on February 22, 2012

Does your new condo have a garage? Storage in the garage? I live in a condo and the secured garage has storage units for every tenant. We store all of our random outdoor stuff in there in addition to our suitcases and pet equipment (and it by no means looks large enough to store that stuff but you can shove a lot of crap in there when you don't need to walk in and can use all the vertical space). My husband locks his bike up to a large pole that we park next to - he bought a long chain and connected it around the pole with a lock and then he u-locks to that chain.
posted by kthxbi at 5:01 PM on February 22, 2012

Wife and I and soon to be a baby. Don't have a floor plan right now but it is set up quite oddly. office on the first floor, kitchen completely enclosed and tiny, dining room/living room are 22x15 w/a 5x12' alcove on the west side. Sorry this isn't much help. Wish I had the pics on me. Here are some from the web listing
posted by no bueno at 5:02 PM on February 22, 2012

No garage. Fairly safe neighborhood and the old owners used to hang their bikes from a hook on the porch. Can't say I trust it enough to store mine out there.
posted by no bueno at 5:04 PM on February 22, 2012

We downsized like this when we moved overseas. It was awesome. Here's what we did:

(1) Armed with a diagram and dimensions of the new place we were moving into, we made a list of everything we would actually need. Deciding what one "needs" is kind of arbitrary, but these were things that were actually used: mattress, dresser, silverware, towels, shower curtain. We erred on the side of needing less stuff. It also helped us that we had to fit everything we were taking in a 20 foot container, so we knew we had a hard limit we were up against.

(2) Started systematically going through our stuff. We divided into things we planned to take, things we would throw away/recycle, and things we'd give away or sell. We erred on the side of being aggressive with what we'd give away/sell. If we had reservations about these things, we put them downstairs in a basement room for a week, and would make a decision about them then. I would say 95% of the time, we ended up getting rid of the stuff even though it caused a little bit of heartburn at the time when we were choosing.

(3) We had two garage sales. This could be more trouble than it it's worth, but we had a lot of stuff to sell--electronics, tools, and so on that our new lifestyle wouldn't allow us to use. If your time is more valuable than the things you have to sell, I'd just give them away.

(4) Then we organized our "give away" things to be picked up; I can't remember the charitable organization that did it.

(5) We did the same thing with our trash/junked things. We paid $150 or so for someone to haul the stuff away.

(6) The thing that mattered the most was deciding up front that our lives were changing, and the changes were choosing had consequences: we were choosing to have less stuff. So it wasn't about "fitting as much stuff in our new place as possible," it was about "finding ways to get rid of this stuff that isn't as important to our new lifestyle."
posted by MoonOrb at 5:10 PM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

Cute place! You can always lock your bike to the porch railing.

People will chime in with their favorite, but I say read Apartment Therapy for ideas that you would never think of in a million years. Also, start a container garden, you should be able to put plenty of containers around the porch area and it looks like it gets alot of sun there.
posted by cabingirl at 5:16 PM on February 22, 2012

We have two St Bernards who love to eat about anything green outside so the containers inside our porch are a no go. The garden area is a community garden that I need to look into to see if there is still space.
posted by no bueno at 5:23 PM on February 22, 2012

Thanks for Apt Therarpy. Kind of forgot about it.
posted by no bueno at 6:05 PM on February 22, 2012

1. Get rid of as much stuff as you can stand.

2. Figure out how much storage space you've got at the new place. Then figure out how much you'll need. Then, if you can afford it, get built-ins to make up the difference. A monolithic wall of storage leaves the room feeling airier and is easier to clean around than a bunch of bookcases and armoires.

3. Draw out your floor plans, then draw out the space required by your furniture, and drag it around to figure out how it will fit. If you know how to use Sketchup, you're way ahead of the game. Then discover to your dismay how crowded things will be. Get rid of more stuff. When my wife and I consolidated households and moved, we had mapped out where every (remaining) stick of furniture would go.

4. When you buy new furniture, go for stuff that works as both a desert topping and a floor wax.
posted by adamrice at 6:29 PM on February 22, 2012

We downsized from a 2500 sq ft, tri-level house with 2-car detached garage to a 400 sq ft fifth-wheel trailer, so we could travel the country full time. My advice -- cull ruthlessly.

Look at your current house, its furnishings and "things" as a shopping center. You are shopping for what you need for the next stage of your life. It's far too tempting to look at some "thing" and think, "I paid X dollars for that and it's perfectly good, so we need to find a place for it" or "My grandmother gave me that, so I can't part with it." If it helps, attach a replacement price tag to every item to force yourself to think about whether it is REALLY essential to give it space in your new place.

Remember, in a smaller space, your needs will change. If you're at all like we were, you'll find you have multiples of common household items like brooms, mops, vacuums, even plastic buckets, just because it was easy and convenient to stash them. Take only one of each. You have a cabinet or two full of pots and pans, but really only use three or four favorites day to day and a few others for special dishes. Take only what you really use. You have the waffle iron that you only used twice in the past five years, the food processor that seemed like such a good idea at the time, or that huge roasting pan that only comes out when you host Thanksgiving dinner? Give these little used items to someone who will loan them back if the need arises.

Then get rid of everything else. Garage sale, charitable contribution, Craigslist, donations to the local library, whatever. If you haven't used it within the past year, it needs to go. Keep telling yourself, "I won't ever have to clean THAT again! I'll never worry about the dogs breaking that! That's one more thing we don't have to pack and move!"

IF you choose to rent a storage space for things you just can't part with, make it the smallest you can find, as close to the new place as possible. Organize it so you can quickly find and access any item that goes in; otherwise, the effort to go get something will discourage you from using it. Multiply the monthly rent by the number of months you expect to live in the smaller space. Then make sure the total replacement value of the items you put there is at least DOUBLE what you'll spend over time to rent the space.

Because it will be there longer than you think it will. We expected to travel for two to three years. Eight years later, when we settled again in another house, it made me purely ill when we paid $2,500 to move the contents of our storage unit, for which we had paid nearly $8,000 in rent over the years, and discover as it was unpacked that we no longer liked the furniture, no longer needed the files, had never missed the many single-use household items, and most of the electronics had become obsolete. The only things that could never be replaced, family keepsakes, could have been enjoyed for all that time by other family members, who would have happily returned them to us when we settled.

Once you start living in the new space, you'll find a place for what's essential. No front closet? Pick up a stunning designer coat rack. Not enough kitchen cabinet space? Mount a spice rack behind the stove or an under-cabinet display for the wine glasses. No counter space for the knife block? Add a magnetic strip inside a cabinet door. Use the proceeds from your garage sale(s) to add shelves to the pantry, rolling under-bed storage boxes, or a special who-knew-they-made-that? solution you'll find on-line somewhere.

Parting with some things will sting; cumulatively, the many pinpricks can feel traumatic. Trust me -- ultimately, the freedom will be liberating.
posted by peakcomm at 6:54 PM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

We've dropped about 1/3 of our square footage over three moves and the answer is editing ruthlessly. This in particular is crucial: It's far too tempting to look at some "thing" and think, "I paid X dollars for that and it's perfectly good, so we need to find a place for it" or "My grandmother gave me that, so I can't part with it." Be ruthless with these things. Every time I've ditched one of those things we don't need, even if it is an antique my mother gave me, I've been happier and felt lighter.
posted by immlass at 7:39 PM on February 22, 2012

What is going on under the stairs or whatever is shown in photo #5? Can that be knocked through and converted to closets for ground floor bike and ski storage? Does the ground floor office have a closet? Because let me tell you, you can totally run a home office without a closet, so if there is one, you can utilize that.

In general I would tell you to start with the mindset that you are taking nothing, and add items into your move critically. If you have not used it in the last two years, you do not need it. (We moved into a much, much smaller house, unpacked some boxes and left the rest in a bedroom. They were all just this week moved to the loft, unopened. Whatever is in them, I clearly do not need it.) Additionally, nothing makes a house look smaller than a room crammed with furniture and nicknacks, so be frugal in your choices.

In our tiny house (so tiny), we paid a lot of attention to a couch that is the correct length, arm chairs with a smaller footprint, and a correctly sized dining table. My house is about 12 feet wide and it is not remotely cramped to be in, until you put more than 6 people in it. If we can do this well, you can do this well.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:33 AM on February 23, 2012

I am a mover by trade and the biggest mistake I see is the decision to move way to much into a small space. You can't bring it all to your new place then deal with it.

Get a storage unit (large, very large for now) close to where your moving to. Pack carefully and label all boxes methodically. Boxes labeled misc. or her junk mean take a break.

The advice to ruthlessly cull can be done methodically if you only bring the bare necessities to your new place. Once your settled in and everything is unpacked then you can consider that other dresser or another bookcase and books whether you have the closet space for extra clothing....

When thats done and everthing you want is in your home get a smaller storage space for the things you really want to save and/or have that garage sale. Then donate or pitch whats left.
posted by pianomover at 1:10 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree that you should be ruthless. If you have a friend who has a small place or even can just be the heavy, get them to help. It's nice to have someone there to just say, you don't really wear that ever or you never use that. Every item you move takes up physical and mental space. If it's clothes and it's something you don't like wearing, every time you end up wearing it and washing it and drying it and ironing it and hanging it up, you could be going through that same process with something you actually like. Wouldn't you rather do that?

Do you have high ceilings? Can you build high shelves and store stuff in boxes there? That said, if you need to store stuff out of sight, I'd really consider just getting rid of it. If you only need it occasionally, do you really need it? I need to think this way myself but like, we have an air mattress because people visit occasionally. However, I could just as easily borrow an air mattress from a friend when they come to visit, or tell them to bring their own air mattress or sleeping bag.

I don't know if this is an issue for you but I'd encourage you if possible to really work to purge books and book collections. I think people develop emotional attachments to books and sure, they're easy to store but if you're just going to store it and not look at it again, what's the point?
posted by kat518 at 6:54 AM on February 23, 2012

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