Catherine Cassidy doesn’t have a hard time getting rid of things. After all, it’s a task she helps clients tackle through her personal-stylist company U*Styled (323-903-7618). So whether it’s a pair of shoes or a still-functional couch, she can let it go if she doesn’t truly have a need for it.
That willingness to purge came in handy when Cassidy, 31, recently moved from a two-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles to a studio apartment near 14th and U streets in Northwest Washington. “I didn’t want to compromise on location, and I wanted a building with amenities,” she says. “I don’t need a lot of things. Sometimes the stuff we have can keep our mind as cluttered as our home.”
Downsizing can occur for financial reasons or, as in Cassidy’s case, in order to secure a pad in a desired location. Some renters just want to simplify, and others might be moving from a larger group house into their own apartment for the first time. No matter what’s driving the decrease, taking a few easy steps makes it easier to deal with shrinking square footage.
Pare down in preparation
There’s no point in moving things you won’t be able to use or store in your new place. Before you pack up, go through your belongings to determine what can be passed on or tossed. Books, furniture, kitchen gadgets — nothing is off limits.
“Ask yourself when was the last time you used it,” says Rachel Rosenthal, owner of local professional-organizing firm Rachel and Co. (301-367-6479). “Use the month before you move to start going through your items, taking one area of your current apartment at a time or working by the hour if that’s better for you.”
And because smaller rentals typically have smaller closets, your clothes might need a once-over, too. “People always have way more pants than they need,” Cassidy says. “Pare down to the ones you really love, that fit the best, and are the best quality.”
Enlist some help
Hiring a pro can help you part with memory-filled-but-ratty college T-shirts or that vase you hate gifted by your great-aunt. If that’s not in your budget, an objective friend can push you past the story behind your things to assess if they’re truly useful or needed.
“You have to eliminate the sentimentality of certain items,” says Silver Spring interior designer Iantha Carley (202-285-2374), who’s helping her daughter, Gabrielle Winick, downsize apartments in West Philadelphia, Pa.
Her daughter has a lot of furniture handed down by her grandmother, but all of the pieces won’t be able to fit in her new place. “They’re just sofas and chairs; nothing miraculous happened on them,” Carley says. “You have to detach yourself.”
In a smaller space, you may have to arrange your furnishings in new ways, pick pieces that do double duty or come up with clever storage solutions. “Look at under-the-bed space, the backs of doors, and other things you might not have had to in a larger apartment,” Rosenthal says.
Don’t forget to look up. “You can get a lot more storage with vertical items,” Carley says. She suggests the Billy bookcases from Ikea, which come in a variety of styles.
Cassidy plans on adding a transportable island in her kitchen and turning a dresser into a media console. “It’s kind of brilliant — it adds style and storage,” she says.
By choosing a studio, Cassidy also opted to downsize her workspace in lieu of shared space: She makes use of her building’s business center and club room when working (her second bedroom in LA had previously been her office).
Consider a storage unit
For pieces you just can’t part with but can’t use at the moment, a storage unit may be your best bet.
Many apartment buildings offer residents some kind of storage area, a resource Cassidy tapped to stash beloved kitchen chairs and mementos she doesn’t need to access regularly. For a 6×6 unit, she pays $50 a month, a price that’s worth it for the convenience and close proximity.
“Most apartments have that as an option, and if it’s decent-sized you can pack it well,” she says. “And I will want to upsize again in the future.”
Don’t approach downsizing as a negative. Instead, consider it a way to start fresh and remove everything unnecessary from your life.
“I think everyone has too much stuff,” Rosenthal says. “Look at it as, if I can simplify my life, I will live better. Why not make your home the most peaceful place in your life?”
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