The Property Brothers share their tips and tactics for downsizing without stepping down.
THE PROLIFERATION of home buying and renovating shows on TV proves I’m not alone in my obsession with seeing how other people live, renovate and decorate at different stages of their lives – just married, expecting babies, up- sizing, adding in-law suites, eventually downsizing. Helping my 80-some- thing parents recently move from their 5,000 square foot home of 30 years to a 500-plus square foot apartment was beyond downsizing – more like miniaturizing. I should have spoken to the Property Brothers first for useful solutions to the challenges we all face when moving, both esthetically and practically. And knowing that 85 per cent of us want to age in place, we need to know what to look for so that dream, too, can become reality.
You’ve probably seen identical twin brothers Drew and Jonathan Scott on Property Brothers (shown below), on the W Network or HGTV, in which they help couples at different times of their lives and with disparate budgets buy fixer-uppers with the help of Drew, the real estate agent, then work with Jonathan as their contractor to make that house their dream home. The success of the series has spawned two more shows – Buying & Selling and Brother vs. Brother.
Who better to help with the challenges faced by those downsizing – especially when they are helping their par- ents do that very thing right now?
Minimize Without Miniaturizing
Editing big furniture down to size is one of the biggest hurdles. Sectional furniture can be pulled apart to pro- vide comfortable seating in a new configuration. Armoires can be con- verted from bedroom storage into a new home for the stereo and enter- tainment system. “Most of your fur- niture may be dated and too large for the new space,” says Drew. “My mom became the queen of Craigslist and Kijiji. She made $15,000 – it was ridiculous.” More than enough to buy that perfect piece to fit your new space. Consider double-duty items – an ottoman that stores winter quilts, a coffee table that opens up to become a desk, a drop-leaf table that serves as a sideboard but opens up to seat eight.
According to Jonathan, the original price tag of a bedroom suite should not be a factor in your decision to keep it or lose it. “Forget thinking ‘But I spent so much money on it, I gotta keep it.’ ” My mother was happy to see her oversized bedroom set go to her grandson and his wife, and my sister was ecstatic to take ownership of the dining room furniture, including side- board and china cabinet, which continues to be the setting for Christmas dinners, albeit in a different location.
Aging in place is the boomer’s buzz phrase, but aging in the ideal place should really be the goal. When you consider that moving can be as stressful as divorce, you have to know you’ve made the right move. If you’re changing cities or even ommunities, never feel rushed. “Rent for the first year.”
Jonathan recommends. “You’re changing your life so take your time. Make sure it’s absolutely right for you.”
Living full-time at the cottage may sound ideal when you’re packing to go back to the city after a month on the lake, but check out what the area is like off-season and decide realistically if you will enjoy the slower pace.
According to Jonathan, the biggest mistake is downsizing too far, leaving no room for hobbies or overnight guests. A three-bedroom, two-bathroom home is ideal, but “the minimum is a two-bedroom, allowing space for your hobbies in a room that can be converted for overnight guests.” An ensuite bathroom off the master bedroom allows you a private sanctuary even with out-of-town guests. After all, Drew adds, “Retirement is an opportunity to catch up with old friends.”
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