Change is never easy. Whether you are transitioning from a large house to an apartment, or moving from an apartment to a smaller apartment, it takes planning, thought and organization. Downsizing can be an overwhelming task, but there is an upside because it can be extremely satisfying if you tackle it with a plan and positive attitude.

When George and Pauline Henaut first started thinking about making a move from their Terrace Street, New Glasgow home of 35 years, their initial thought was, “How do we get rid of all this stuff?” Organized people by nature, they got down to work by making a compartmentalized list with three objectives – Must Keep, Might Keep, and Not Keeping. This basic formula helped them as they sorted through pieces of their life and either packed them up for the move, passed them on to family friends who were setting up a first-time home or donated them to the local Salvation Army.

The Henauts were packing up their brick ranch style home and only moving a kilometer away to The Willows, a 60-unit apartment building in New Glasgow. When they decided on this apartment complex they had the luxury of seeing their space during the construction phase of the building. They picked a spacious three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment on the 4th floor, overlooking the East River with a welcoming green space in the back yard of this friendly neighbourhood. George and Pauline say that having a good peek at the inside allowed them to map out the layout of their furniture and help them determine what would fit and what they needed to pass on. Between their list and mapping out the layout, very few mistakes were made. The apartment also has fabulous storage and with the help of shelving and totes they feel very comfortable with making everything “fit” and organized.

The Henauts made sure that things that really mattered to them made the cut – a large dining table to host guests, artwork with history, a room set up for practicing music and dramas, as well as a den that lends itself well to writing and reading. Being surrounded by the things they loved made the new space (even though it was much smaller) feel like home for George and Pauline.

Different stages of life are often dictated by square footage and a yearning for simplicity. Small spaces cry out for simplification and even an approach to minimalism. As the Henauts had 35 years of life to redistribute and resettle, STFX student Caitlin Playfair was looking for a place where she had the convenience of everything being just an arms reach away but have high functionality and appeal to her sense of style. The idea of micro-living is just for her. Last fall, Caitlin enrolled in the accelerated nursing program at STFX and moved into a downtown Antigonish micro-apartment that is only 217 square feet. The modern aesthetic and contemporary vibe appealed to her. When dealing with such a small space, it needs to really multi-task – a bed that turns into a sofa, built-in storage around the fold-up bed and mirrored closet doors that reflects light around the tiny space. The apartment has a fresh, modern feel to it, giving it an edge that you wouldn’t find in many rentals in a college town.

Prior to moving into her tiny apartment Caitlin was a little worried that downsizing would be challenging even without a lot of possessions as a student.

Student Caitlin Playfair makes the most of her micro apartment in Antigonish and believes that when it comes to living but not learning “less is more.” Photo by Steve Smith, VisionFire Studios

“Downsizing was something that seemed impossible when I first thought about it, however as I broke it down, it became much easier. Furniture was easy, in the Micro Boutiques all furniture is provided and is there when you move in. When it came to my clothing, I found it was refreshing to go through and donate clothes that I may have never considered giving away and ultimately would have sat in my closet anyway. Despite there only being 217 square feet, there is ample storage and shelving that makes it easier when deciding what you can bring with you and not. Even now I find there are several storage units in the space that have nothing accumulated in them.”

Janine Young, a local certified KonMari consultant, finds that most people do get overwhelmed at the prospect of having to downsize or even just decluttering their home. But Janine says, “The KonMari Method provides a clear and easy to follow guide for achieving not only a home that is void of clutter, but also a sanctuary of joy and comfort.” The unconventional way of determining what stays and what remains of asking one simple question, “Does this item bring me joy?” This mantra has proved successful for many who are downsizing. The thought of only being surrounded by items that bring joy makes the thought of downsizing less overwhelming and more appealing, making the KonMari method very popular and successful.

As the Henauts settle into life in their new home, they are fortunate to still be in the same neighbourhood, shopping at the same grocery store and taking their regular walks on the same streets. Their apprehension of living in an apartment building has been put to rest by the wonderful community they find themselves in and the activities they fill their days with are the same one they have always enjoyed, music, dramas and writing, without the workload of owning a home. Even though they miss their award-winning gardens, they still find ways to surround themselves with plants and flowers, regardless of the smaller space. Apartment life has benefits like underground parking, on-site gym and neighbours you can visit without taking off your slippers.

As I recently watched my parents downsize from our family farm into a one bedroom bungalow, I am brought back to some words that Pauline shared about their own move. “It was time to make a change before change was thrust upon us.” As a child watching my parents sort through years worth of memories, I was thankful this was their choice and that they are healthy enough to enjoy this next stage of life. The boxes and things are simply just that, yes, there are memories packed up in the nooks and crannies of every house. But don’t let the items hold you back from living a life better suited to where you are in your journey.

Whether you are a college student looking to live a simpler lifestyle, or a retired couple moving onto the next stage of life, downsizing can be an exercise of letting go and surrounding yourself with the things that bring you joy.

Janine Young offered these specific tips, based on the KonMari Method, to downsizing your home.

  • Don’t tidy by room, but rather by specific category (i.e., clothing, books, paper, etc). This ensures thorough decluttering (or tidying).
  • When going through specific categories, bring all related items together to allow for a full visual inventory of first the volume of belongings, but also as an easy way to compare one item against another. Keep belongings that first bring you joy or simply make you happy and consider how many of any particular item is beneficial or realistic to keep.
  • Do not keep things for “someday”. This can be such a culprit of clutter.
  • For specific things you are holding on to for your children, have the conversation with them. You may find you are storing things that they have no interest in acquiring.
  • Keep storage and organization as simple as possible, this maintains order in the home.