How to Downsize From a House to an Apartment

These days, lots of people are downsizing. Financial insecurity often plays a part—people aren’t sure where their next paycheck is coming from, or they have debt more easily paid off with a lower rents and expenses. But the American Dream is so commonly interpreted as finally moving into that big house with a pool and endless closets; how to go in the other direction?

Thoreau said many things, perhaps most comprehensibly, “simplify, simplify.” The guy knew what he was talking about, as he lived in a one-room cabin at the time. When you have a smaller space, the quantity and quality of your belongings comes into focus. You have to evaluate everything you own—is it really worth the space? And by “space,” we don’t just mean physical space, because anything you’re holding onto in the material world is having some kind of effect on your emotional life.

Once you’ve established which things aren’t totally necessary, sell, donate, or dump them. Craigslist and yard sales are both great ways to get a little extra cash  as you unload some of your responsibilities. A smaller place needs less furniture, for one thing. Feeling like you just can’t let go of your stuff? Rent a storage space for a year. After a year, anything in there that you’ve forgotten about can clearly go.

As we’ve written before, small apartments require creativity, figuring out how to make one space work for several different functions. Make a list of the kind of spaces you need—dining room, living room, bedroom, office—and see which could overlap.

One of the best ways to figure out how to downsize is to check out other people’s spaces for good ideas—and to know that it’s possible to live small but stylishly. Apartment Therapy has lots of great photos, but they’re not the only ones. And if you can, visit friends who manage with minimal square footage. (Know anyone in New York City? Those people become masters at making closets look like actual rooms.)

Need more resources? Lucky you: there’s a whole movement starting. Check out Small House Society for more details.

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