De-cluttering offers you freedom from your stuff.

Whether you’re moving into a small house, townhome or apartment, downsizing can bring quite the adventure in editing your current home’s items. A smaller well-tuned home can be such a luxury in many ways. Gosh, as a practical matter, think about the reduced cleaning needs! As a benefit to your social life, smaller spaces offer comfortable spots for enjoying evenings alone and very intimate spaces for conversations with friends. To make this type of move successful, however, you must really assess your new home’s needs—for both your comfort and your sanity!

Deciding what to keep and what to get rid of is a painful and difficult task. I struggle with packing for a weekend, so I am right there with you, gorgeous! I have a marvelous friend, interior designer Mitzi Beach, who owes a good share of her career to lifestyle changes. As a result, she’s become an expert on the art of downsizing. Here is her magical method:

“Downsizing is about determining what is stuff versus what is truly our treasures. This is the key question to ask as to whether we keep, donate or toss our items.”— HYPERLINK ""

The Planning Puzzle

The bottom line is that it’s a challenge to fit all your current stuff into a smaller space. With good space planning, however, you can keep things you really love. Think of the plan as a puzzle you live in. The first thing you must do is measure your new space and draw it out on paper. Math is the only way to find out if the pieces you intend to take to the new home will actually fit. Forget the pretty stuff and focus on the nuts and bolts of fitting the furnishings from one home into another. This takes some work and it will be time consuming, but trust me: carting something over to the new space with a prayer in your heart that it will work is lovely, but foolish!

Once you have drawn up the layout of the new home, then measure all the pieces you are considering moving. The dimensions of the furniture are critical, so take the time to note the width, depth and height of each piece. If you are at all computer savvy, websites such as Bassett Furniture ( HYPERLINK "" and Ethan Allen ( HYPERLINK "" provide space-planning features. If a computer is not your best buddy, cut out pieces of paper in the size of the furniture pieces in 1/2" scale. (The 1/2" scale means that a foot is represented by 1/2". In this case, be sure the floor plan drawing is at the same scale.) Now, tackle those puzzle pieces! Start pushing the paper furniture pieces around the layout. Be sure to consider how you will get the furniture into the rooms, particularly if there are tight corners or narrow hallways. Also keep traffic patterns in mind, leaving about 36" of walking space between furniture items if you can. Sometimes that amount of space is just not possible, but do your best. Please study the space plans provided today with my article.

Space Planning in Action

To see what I mean, I have shared two space plans. The first plan features a home with a living room and designated dining room. The second home, a new and cozier space, still manages to hold all the same furniture with the exception of two dining chairs. (And small chairs such as these, only 17"x19", can usually find a home somewhere so they remain available for dinner parties.) You can see in the examples how the furniture from the larger home will reside nicely in the trimmed down home. The key is doing the math to prove the fit before you make the move!

Color Choices

Now that we have accomplished the nuts and bolts of the move, we may now move forward with the pretty stuff. Yea! The wall color is certainly a very important aspect of the ambience you create in the smaller space. It is well known that lighter paint choices open up the space. If that is your desire, stay with the lighter and less intense paint choices on the paint deck. If you believe, however, that rich tones will create an even more intimate space, look to a darker level of colors. I firmly disagree that darker colors are undesirable for smaller spaces! Saturating a room with a deeper tone can give a smaller home a tender and loving impression. Being wrapped in color can be a very engaging and a wonderful feeling. So make sure you do your paint boards to really evaluate the colors you are considering (I spoke about the boards last week).

Smart Storage and Usage

When relocating into a small abode, you certainly need more creative and efficient methods with storage options. For example, take advantage of the entryway chest to store china or table linens. Or, put it to more practical use for items like dog leashes, hats, gloves and umbrellas. Use the bookcase for open dinnerware storage comingled with stemware and perhaps some great looking cookbooks. (cookbooks that look “company worthy”— not the ones held together with rubber bands!) You get the idea. Use the desk drawers as additional storage for out-of-season throws maybe.

In the smaller space, the repurposed dining room table will most certainly become your office. A portable computer would be the cat’s meow, but if that’s not possible, you will need to become skilled at keeping things tidy since your office now resides in the public domain. If you need to claim the coat closet for office supplies, consider getting a coat tree for the entryway for a quick hang up. It may take a bit of rearranging to pull off a dinner party—you might need to bring the entryway chair in for overflow seating. Perhaps contemplate treating yourself to a house warming gift, add a small ottoman or bench, in upholstery or maybe a sassy leather one. Place your gift at an angle next to the desk now residing as the TV cabinet and put your feet up! You're a real smarty pants, sweetie, so you can make these adjustments! I just know you can!

View downsizing as liberating! De-cluttering offers you freedom from your stuff. Enjoy and embrace your new lighter life!

Come visit me next Saturday!! I'm not sure what we will chat about, but I will find something. Have delightful week!

Jan Colvin has been a professional interior designer for over 25 years (Allied ASID). She accredits her mother Pat Robinson and Lucille Chase for her intense interest and love for design. 

She has taught interior design at the college level and operated her private design business since 2001. Look for her new book soon!

Jan welcomes questions, which will be answered in her columns. Send your questions to: