Downsizing: Getting Started

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I thought we should start the downsizing process by looking at small condos. Our first attempt was a 1440 square foot two-story condo that felt too tiny, had a master bedroom smaller than our guest bedroom and two other bedrooms designed for very young children. There was no yard, only a concrete patio between the house and the two-car garage. It was designed for minimal maintenance and was clean but didn’t appeal to me very much.

The condo was a strikeout, but the winning find was Danica Koppenheffer, a sharp, experienced realtor with Keller Williams, who wanted to help us sell our current house and buy a new one.

img_4206Danica visited our home and made some suggestions for us to consider. First, focus on selling our house. After we sold our house we could think about buying a new one. She didn’t expect we’d have any problem finding something we liked and having the house sell first would mean we’d have cash in hand to buy a new place, putting us in a good position to get the house we wanted.

The most important suggestion Danica made was to get rid of the clutter to sell our house. We were prepared for this advice because we read it over and over in articles about selling your home. Danica recommended we call in a home stager for more specific advice. We agreed and met Sue Kauffman.img_0417

Our idea of getting rid of clutter was about to change dramatically. It was more than just moving a few things off of a countertop.

Sue was brisk and got right to the point. “Would you consider breaking through this wall?” she asked as we brought her into our living room. I suspect she thought we might faint from shock, but we had researched doing this years ago.

“Sorry, no,” I told her. “The contractors we spoke to told us there is so much venting, wiring, and plumbing in the walls that the cost would be prohibitive.”

“Okay,” Sue said, unfazed. Moving from room to room, she suggested furniture removal here and added greenery there. She recommended stripping all the wallpaper that was left in the house and repainting with a more contemporary color. She argued forcefully for renting artwork to show the house at its best.

After Sue and Danica left, Bill and I made some decisions.

Lots of our stuff had to go, we agreed, but we were not about to rent artwork when we had plenty around the house. Our solution was to choose a few quality items, put them in spots that would show them better, and store the rest.

We agreed with the wallpaper removal and painting, too. We got in touch with Linda Millman, the painter who had worked with us for most of the years we lived in the house, and set up a schedule. To get a head start, Bill and I stripped wallpaper from the lower part of the walls in the foyer, dining room, and back hallway. Bill and I are not professionals at this, so Linda repaired any damage we did and painted the walls beige. She also painted the peach colored wood trim a fresh white. Following that, she painted our pale blue living room a cool gray.

After we stripped the wallpaper, but before Linda arrived to paint, we had to decide what to do with everything to be moved out of the house. We agreed that a storage unit was our best bet since we didn’t know where we’d be moving and didn’t know what we would need there.

We also decided to set a more realistic timeline for putting the house on the market. You can’t move 11 years of clutter overnight. I could see that January was too soon to get the house ready, and February didn’t look possible because there was so much painting and moving of “stuff” to do. Danica agreed that March would be a good month to set as our goal.

Now the real work began.

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This blog post is part of a series called Downsizing. It is the chronicle of moving from a 2475 square foot home to one approximately half its size during the first six monthsof 2016. It takes place in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania.

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