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‘Surrounded by our favorite things’

Delaware County couple sheds household burdens for new life

Created date

January 16th, 2015
Tom and Francine Craven in their apartment home at Maris Grove, the Erickson Living community in Delaware County, Pa.
Tom and Francine Craven in their apartment home at

Tom and Francine Craven had talked about moving to Maris Grove in Delaware County, Pa., for quite some time before they joined its priority list in 2012 and selected their ideal apartment home. 

Maris Grove’s not-for-profit status and its 90% refundable entrance deposit, as detailed in the Residence and Care Agreement, appealed to Tom, who was eager to stop mowing the lawn, shoveling the snow, and making repairs to their house in Garnet Valley.

“There’s always pressure [in a house] to fix or upgrade something,” he says. “It’s constant.”

Francine, who wanted to stop cooking, knew from her first campus visit that Maris Grove was for her.

Deciding from experience

Because the community is 97% sold out, the Cravens thought they’d have about three years to downsize and move. 

But the following May, their chosen apartment style became available and the people ahead of the Cravens on the priority list turned it down because they weren’t ready to move.

The Cravens didn’t think they were ready, either. “But we didn’t know when the home would become available again,” says Tom. “If we were serious about moving to Maris Grove, we had to do it right away.” 

Several years ago, Francine and Tom had helped her parents move to a retirement community in her native France. “It was a huge process,” she says. “They had a lot of antiques and knick-knacks to sell.” 

The Cravens didn’t want their son to shoulder a similar burden.

Their favorite things

So in three months, with help and ongoing encouragement from Maris Grove Personal Moving Consultant Suzanne McAllister, they downsized from a four-bedroom house, whose attic, basement, and garage were chock-full of furniture, collectables, and books.

They took an easy, expedient approach to paring down their antiques and collections by using an auction house from McAllister’s list of preferred moving and downsizing professionals. 

They gave away some of their big furniture pieces and most of Tom’s books. 

Francine winnowed 26 shelves of china and teacups down to five, discarded all of her scrapbooking supplies, but kept her counted cross-stitch and samplers. 

“We want to live surrounded by our favorite things,” Tom says. So art and needlework now fill their walls, and their best and much-loved furnishings fill their rooms. 

McAllister says the décor truly represents this young and active couple: “It’s very cute and very French.”

Possibilities ahead

After moving, the Cravens took a year to further downsize and arrange their new home. Now they’re focusing on their new life. 

“We enjoy the rain and snow now for the beauty it brings instead of the work it might involve,” says Tom.

Dinners in the campus restaurants let Francine know immediately that Maris Grove was the right decision. In fact, she celebrated her freedom from cooking by not setting foot in a grocery store for an entire year. 

And when a friend asked her what she doesn’t like about Maris Grove, Francine couldn’t think of a thing.



Francine’s top storage tips

These tried-and-true storage tips from Maris Grove resident Francine Craven will let anyone downsizing to a smaller home realize they can live happily in less space than they thought they needed. 

For the Cravens’ move to Maris Grove, Francine reduced a large assortment of collectibles to a manageable number of favorites. While there are still plenty of things on display, even more are hidden creatively away. 

Here are Francine’s top tips for using floor space, wall space, and closet space for maximum storage efficiency.

1: If a piece of furniture has drawers, bring it! “It’s drawers, drawers, drawers instead of location, location, location,” Francine says.

Furniture that doubles as storage makes it easier to live in a smaller space.

In fact, if you’re discarding old furniture, Francine recommends removing the drawers and bringing them to your new home. Maris Grove’s base kitchen cabinets are tall and deep enough that the drawers can likely help you organize your under-counter storage. 

2: Bring all your organizers that aren’t built in. “They’ll save you from buying new ones, and you can always discard them after you’re settled,” Francine says. 

For example, every Maris Grove apartment home is equipped with a washer and dryer. Francine’s collapsible laundry basket takes up no space until it’s needed.

She expanded the laundry area’s storage capacity by adding cloth-covered wire shelving and a hanging closet organizer to hold paper products and cleaning supplies. Similar units organize things in the Cravens’ closets. 

3: Save large plastic trays. Francine uses them to store DVDs and other flat items. She hides the trays under low furniture.

4: Don’t merely display unique, sentimental, or old-fashioned wooden boxes. Put them to work as storage units.