Downsizing to a smaller home isn’t about doing less, it’s all about doing more with less.
As a professional organizer, I’ve experienced the joy of helping others downsize from a big house to a smaller space. I say “joy” because downsizing can be one of the most fun home projects. What starts out as a daunting task for some can soon become an exciting undertaking as homeowners begin to grasp the vision of a new, easier lifestyle.
If you’re downsizing your home or preparing to help a family member do so, keep in mind that it will be easier to let go of things when you keep an organizing rule in mind. Your sorting rule is to keep the items that allow you to do what you love to do now. Let go of the things you used to do but don’t any longer.
3 Changes to Make When Downsizing a Kitchen
Sometimes people worry that downsizing will keep them from doing something they’ve always loved to do. One of the biggest changes to make is to shift your mindset about the way things have to be done. Embracing new ways of doing old things is a key to a successful move.
1. Think easy
Since downsizing is all about making life easier, use that core idea as momentum for decision-making. Ask yourself how you can do what you love but in a stress-free way.
- Remember that one way to cook something is all you need when paring down your kitchen appliances. You can cook a hotdog in the microwave, brown it in a skillet, boil it in a pot or throw it on the grill. Do you really need a hotdog cooker?
- Always ask yourself, “If I don’t have this, what could I use instead?”
- Look for the easiest option—even if it means switching to a new method. For example, downsizing to home with a smaller yard doesn’t mean you have to give up grilling. Instead, switch to a smaller electric grill that fits in your outdoor space and fires up quickly and easily.
- Keep appliances that save time, such as a slow cooker or instant pot, and that allow you to get out of the kitchen. Don’t move small appliances that are seldom used and seem like too much effort to haul out, like a salad spinner or food processor.
- Reduce quantities. For example – how many 9×13 casseroles can you imagine baking in one day? Perhaps two would be enough.
2. Embrace entertaining differently
Much of the storage space in a home tends to be devoted to entertaining. There are china cabinets or kitchens full of dishes, trays, glasses and barware for the occasional party.
While downsizing certainly doesn’t mean you have to stop entertaining, it does mean that you’ll likely make changes in how you entertain. You may host more dinners for four or six guests instead of 12. You might not have a formal dining room, but you can still find ways to serve a fun and festive meal.
Why not host a backyard barbecue and fire up the grill? You can still grill up favorites and serve them in a more relaxed atmosphere. If the weather isn’t cooperative—or you don’t have the backyard space—you could opt for a more casual buffet-style meal instead.
Consider how your entertaining style will change and use that information to help you decide what to bring to your new home.
- How many guests do you picture having over for a meal? Maybe you only need to keep a place setting of six of your china. You could gift the remaining pieces to a grandchild or pass them along to a relative or friend who’s just starting out.
- Do you plan to host big holiday meals, or do you expect to go to family members’ homes more often for these events? Perhaps it’s time to let go of large serving items like big platters or punchbowl sets.
- Reduce your supply of drinking glasses, coffee mugs and barware by considering the size of your new place and the number of guests you can accommodate. Would you ever have 24 people over for coffee? If the answer is no, then you don’t need 24 mugs. Eight or so should suffice.
- Remember there are no rules to break, so you can—and should—break up sets of your everyday dishes. Keep as many pieces as you need and sell or donate the rest.
- Don’t forget to sort linens in the same way. Only keep tablecloths that will fit the table at your new space. The same goes for cloths, placemats and napkins. Keep enough only for the number of people you can seat.
3. Reconfigure storage
Just because you kept something in one spot in your old home doesn’t mean you need to replicate that arrangement in the new one. Be open to locating items in different spots in your new kitchen.
- If you use an appliance or tool daily, keep it close at hand. If it’s something you use only occasionally, such as a hand-held mixer, it’s best to store it out of the way.
- Add baskets or pullout drawers to lower cabinets so no one has to get on the floor to hunt for things.
- Use cabinet stackers or organizers to maximize storage space.
- Make use of the inside of cabinet doors or pantry doors with organizers to hold various products such as plastic wrap or stick-on hooks for potholders.
- Keep the countertops as clear as possible to maximize working surface in your smaller kitchen. Only keep out what you use daily, such as a coffeemaker.
Downsizing really can be fun. It’s all about less—and more. It means fewer things to clean, less stuff to put away, less to worry about and more time to enjoy friends, family and activities.
Lea Schneider is a pro organizer who writes for The Home Depot. She provides advice on the easiest way to downsize a kitchen by sharing practical tips on topics such as switching from charcoal grill to an electric grill to have more portability and pairing down your dishes and linens to fit your new space.