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The upside to downsizing

Experts help homeowners streamline their lives to find more free time

Created date

October 22nd, 2013

What would you do with all the free time you would gain if you didn’t have a house to maintain?

Think about it: instead of weekends mowing the lawn or raking leaves, you could be playing golf or spending time with your grandkids. And how about all the money you could save in energy bills—heating and cooling all those unused rooms?

More and more people are finding happiness isn’t measured by square footage and are discovering the benefits of downsizing to a smaller home.

“The one thing you quickly discover when you own a home is there’s always something that needs to be done,” says Vera Ballard, personal moving consultant at Charlestown, an Erickson Living community in Catonsville, Md.

“When you remove all that work and responsibility from the equation,” she says, “what you’re left with is more time to do what you love. The one regret most of the people I’ve helped move will you tell you: they wish they did it sooner.”

From A to Z

Ballard provides complimentary in-home consultations for members of the community’s priority list to assess their downsizing needs. Additionally, she works closely with accredited downsizing and staging professionals Let’s Move (, to make each person’s move to Charlestown effortless and stress-free.

“The first step to preparing for the move is deciding what is most important and what will move with you,” says Kim McMahon, president and cofounder of Let’s Move. “We can help with this by working with incoming residents to prioritize, but we don’t stop there; we can also handle everything else.”

In fact, Let’s Move takes care of every logistical aspect of the move—downsizing, organizing, removal of unwanted items, packing, unpacking—so that those moving to Charlestown don’t have to lift a finger, if that’s what they choose.

“My partner Allison Pihl and I started this company because we are passionate about helping people,” says McMahon. “Moving can be an overwhelming event, so we want to make sure we take on that burden so they don’t have to.

“We are sensitive to the fact that people are releasing their history, so we are psychological support as well as physical support when it comes to the actual moving,” says McMahon.

“It’s a hard time for people, and we understand that. Because we are organizers, we can go into their homes and see where their command centers are and what the overall flow is. So when we see them trying to bring things that have more of an emotional attachment as opposed to a practical attachment, we help them work through that. Our main focus is on making the transition to a new home fun and worry-free.”

Personal attention

Bill and Narka Ryan used Let’s Move’s services to coordinate their transition from a four-bedroom colonial in Catonsville to a two-bedroom, Lexington-style apartment home at Charlestown.

“Let’s Move helped us consider what we might take to our new apartment and what we might consider getting rid of,” says Narka. “On moving day, they set up our furniture and unpacked and put everything away in the kitchen beautifully. They even made the beds! Our apartment felt like home from the very first night. And they did everything with such a good attitude and fine humor. We couldn’t have been more pleased.”

Ballard and McMahon recommend downsizing gradually and taking it slowly. And, they say, even if your intention isn’t to move to a community like Charlestown for another year or two, start downsizing now.

“Slowly begin to sort through the belongings in your home,” says McMahon. “Tackle a room a month, so that you don’t overwhelm yourself. If family is involved, assign them tasks. Often children would like to help but don’t know where to start. It’s easier if you invite family to spend a couple of hours going through a small area with you or take a truckload to the local charity than it is if you invite them over for an open-ended downsizing session.”

Another important recommendation from McMahon: focus on bringing only those things that you truly love to your new home.

“Some of our clients prefer to recreate rooms from their previous home, while some prefer to start fresh,” says McMahon. “Either way, make sure that you have brought the possessions, artwork, or memories that will make your new home feel comfortable right from the start.”