Summer in Georgetown. The trees and flowers are in full bloom. Earlier this spring, the annual House Tour allowed us a glimpse behind the closed gates and doors of Washington’s oldest neighborhood. Founded in 1751, Georgetown lives on as a charming historic village that is thriving and attracting a new generation of Washington urban dwellers.
As Georgetown resident, councilman and recent mayoral candidate Jack Evans says, “This is the golden age of Georgetown.”
If you are reorganizing your household or moving, the ideas and suggestions below may help you. Downsizing is a subject that we all encounter throughout our lives. It is closely linked to change. A change of job may lead to a change of address, sometimes even a change of climate. A change of family structure — blending families, maturing children, retirement, the loss of a spouse — may all lead to a change in the square footage we occupy. There are so many factors that can trigger the need to downsize and reorganize.
Regardless of the reason, as it relates to living space, change offers us an opportunity to refresh or reset the organization of our lives and also to examine our relationship to the things we hold on to along the way. It offers a chance to take inventory of our lives and to decide what holds the greatest meaning for us with respect to memory, personal history, beauty and value.
Our willingness to meet changes in a positive way will allow for transitions that keep us current with the realities and routines of our lives. Furthermore, it will allow for outward expressions of our own personal style and our need for beauty and order in our surroundings.
Practical questions to consider when downsizing (especially if you are moving):
How long will it take? Your move is imminent, your lead-time is a year or less, your lead-time is three-to-five years. Spend a little time devising a strategy before acting. Have a recipe for success.
What should remain and what should go? Choose one room at a time and look at the objects in it. Rate them according to how much you have used, cherished and enjoyed them in the past year or so.
How much space will I actually have for the things I choose to keep? Is it wishful thinking? Do I love it? Do I use it? Can I live without it? Can it fit and/or be repurposed in my new space? Identify those things and sell, consign, donate or give the rest away to friends, family or charity.
REMEMBER: Sort not by the space you are in, but by the space into which you are moving.
If you get stuck, you can get more information on the internet or hire a professional space arranger. The National Association of Professional Organizers (napo.net) is a nonprofit association with more than 3,300 members throughout the world.
Create a place that actually represents how you live now. Consider the following criteria:
size, condition, value, comfort and aesthetics.
Size: Will the size and proportion of your furniture overcrowd your new space? Edit by removing, consigning, selling or donating furniture that is taking up valuable living space. Establish its value, and if collectible, make sure it finds the most appropriate sales venue, be it consignment, auction or direct sale.
Condition: If a piece of furniture is broken, damaged, worn out or threadbare and you decide to keep it, have it cleaned, repaired, refinished or reupholstered. Otherwise, you will always be reminded of its shortcoming
Value: If the things you own have intrinsic value — such as antique furniture, art, objets d’art, carpets or collections of any sort – make sure that you have appraisal information in your important documents files. While you live with your valuables, keep them in top condition. The information on file will save future generations from opportunistic buyers or, worst-case scenario, having valuables end up in a garage or yard sale.
Comfort: Those chairs in the living room and that sofa in the guest room are beautiful and my grandmother gave them to me. However, they are very uncomfortable. Your justification may be that you rarely sit in the living room or only occasionally have guests. In every instance, ask yourself if you have the luxury of displaying furniture that you avoid using because it is uncomfortable. Everything in your living space should have a useful and aesthetic purpose attached to it.
Aesthetics: Each of us decides for ourselves what we consider beautiful. If a framed poster is more beautiful to you than a dark, brooding oil painting with no value other than that it came from a family member, get the painting out of your space. If you inherited three sets of china and you rarely set a formal table, choose the one that is most pleasing to you. Sell, consign or give away the rest. Unless you have the luxury of unlimited storage space, not choosing sends you down the path of boxing things you like but will rarely (or never) use.
Lastly, we suggest to our readers that good professional help is always available and well worth the expense when measured against the successful results. In the age of the internet, there are endless resources and much shared knowledge at hand.
We spoke with Georgetowners Fran and Ankie Barnes about their experience in downsizing and changing their home and lifestyle.
Q. What advice would you offer someone who is downsizing?
A. Start early and be very organized as to where all your belongings will go. If you know measurements ahead of time, there won’t be unnecessary surprises on moving day. Downsizing makes one really analyze how many things one owns and how many things one can comfortably live without.
Q. Did you have any professional help or advice?
A. I had some design help from my husband’s architectural office Barnes Vanze Architects. We also hired the services of Orchestrated Moves. We had many books to sort through, and we used Book Bliss Online.
For questions or inquiries:
Alla Rogers and Dena Verrill,
principals at Dena Verrill Interiors – DenaVerrillInteriors.com