Case Study 4 – Downsizers
The clients: Carl and Judy worked hard, raised their children, and now were finally moving to their dream home.. a 1500 sq ft, 2 bedroom Florida condo! With both children graduated from college and now married, their 3500 square foot Connecticut ranch home was no longer needed,and they were ready to move to the sunshine state!
They excitedly purchased their new condo, thinking of sun and fun. They were NOT thinking about the fact that 3500 sq. ft of stuff can’t fit into 1500 square feet! They had a garage sale, said goodbye to their old friends and neighbors, and packed up the moving truck. When they arrived in Florida the movers put everything in the condo… stacks and stacks; boxes and boxes… and the condo was jammed full of boxes and walking space was limited. Now what?
After 2 months of trying to squeeze all of their precious memories, and Connecticut furniture into their condo, they reached out for help.
The issue: No matter what size home you live in, your mind thinks in that size, and your furniture and items fill up the space. This is what happened to Carl and Judy. In their 3500 square feet, they had a beautiful sizeable sofa set, An armoire, and French Pavilion bedroom bench that Judy couldn’t let go of. They had already let go of the den furniture and the children’s bedroom furniture, and even some of the lamps. But they brought with them all of the artwork, their chandelier, their collection of books, and mementos from Carl’s business and Judy’s travels.
When trying to unpack, they discovered they didn’t have enough wall space for all of the pictures, enough floor space for all of the lamps, enough space for their books or mementos… and by the time we got there they were worried they had made a major mistake. “Are we just suppose to get rid of all of our memories?” they lamented.
Here’s the reality that we shared with Carl and Judy. If you have 1500 square feet, you can only fit 1500 square feet worth of things there. Period. The problem is they were thinking like they had 3500 square feet, and they simply had to downsize their thinking.
The process: First we measured all of the space. Floor space, wall space from ceiling to floor, and square footage of each room in their new condo. Then we drew out a floor plan and sat at the table and made decisions, now dealing with the reality of their space issue.
We divided into categories the types of items Carl and Judy had. Furniture, wall hangings, books, mementos, and went one-by-one making decisions of what could go where. Then, using a quadrille pad, we drew out a schematic.
We started with the furniture. We measured (or got measurements online) for each piece of furniture that the couple wanted to keep. We made cutouts to scale, and we placed the furniture around in each room. Once doing that, it was clear to see that all of the furniture couldn’t stay. They called for a salvation army truck and donated two arm chairs, five barstools, a tennis table set, two lamps, and the chandelier right away. They kept the king-size bed, the bedroom lamps, the sofa set (for now), and Carl’s desk, placing it in the second bedroom. After the excess furniture was moved, it was time to decide on pictures and books.
Judy was adamant that she needed all of her recipe and self-help books, and Carl wanted to keep his history and theology books. Special children’s books were saved for the possible future grandchildren, and we decided on two bookshelves; one for the living room, and one for Carl’s office. When the bookshelves were in place, the excess books went to charity.
We measured the pictures. Carl and Judy started with their favorites, and one at a time alternatingly selected a picture and a location. Judy took pictures of the extra pictures and wall-hangings and sent the pictures to the children, asking who wanted which ones. The unselected pictures went to charity, and the ones for the children were placed in the condo storage unit until the next holiday when the children were going to come to Florida to visit.
With the excess furniture, books, wall hangings and lamps gone, it was time to start going through boxes of mementos and other household items. Carl kind of bowed out, and we worked along with Judy sorting kitchen items (and letting go of the excess), linen closet items, toiletries, etc. Judy’s biggest issue was with dish towels. “They’re all mementos, from a special time or holiday.” We convinced her to select no more than three from each holiday, and we found a place for them in the pantry next to the pot holders.
Carl handled the office papers and files. We didn’t have to do anything with those except identify the boxes and put them in the second bedroom.
With almost everything put away, and almost all of the boxes gone, Carl and Judy had to decide on the seven boxes of mementos together. We selected a random number (15 each) that they could identify and keep before we had to make the hard decisions. Carl kept 15 items from his business, and Judy, predictably, selected 15 items from her world travels. Afterwards, it got a lot harder… but they wanted their home to look beautiful and not junky, so they made the tough decisions. Again, Judy took pictures for the children of the things they could let go of, they boxed up and kept the things the children wanted, and sent the rest to charity.
The outcome: This was very hard. Actually, the hardest thing to do in organizing is to go from a larger space to a smaller space. It requires lots of decisions, and lots of letting go. What do Carl and Judy say now? “We could never have done this without your help.,” said Carl. “You just sat there and asked us the tough questions. We knew we had to do it, because we wanted it done. It was up to us. You always left it up to us to make the decisions. It was amazing how something that seemed impossible became possible with focused guidance.” Judy said, “We are so grateful. At times I thought I was going to implode… and then explode… but you kept it going smoothly. The most amazing part was how you gently mediated the decisions that would have caused a major argument! You did an amazing job, and we are very happy with the results!”