Many empty-nesters, divorcees and widowers are dumbfounded at the inevitable conversation about downsizing and starting all over again. Sure enough, as when you were first starting out, there are things you might not be aware of when looking for a smaller space. It is very important to be able to imagine how you will be living in your new place. If you think you'll be able to bring all of your belongings and fit them in half of the square footage, think again. A word of warning: It can feel overwhelming, so enlist help.
If you are able to part with things collected over the years, fantastic. You have more willpower than most. On the other hand, choosing among years and years of items collected can be hard or nearly impossible because of memories and family history. This daunting task can be handled best by engaging the help of a family member or friend to guide you through the process of editing. Otherwise, an interior designer or decorator will do these kinds of services for a fee or hourly rate.
All items should be written down and categorized for inventory. Valuable furniture and art can be given to children and family members or sold at an auction, estate sale or yard sale to recoup some cash that will be welcome for the move. Items that are sentimental should go in one section, furniture that is comfortable in another, and we all have things that can be given away because they are old, meaningless or just plain ugly.
Downsizing can be an opportunity for new beginnings and the chance for a new chapter of your life. Starting over is the perfect pretext for restyling your life and your lifestyle. Perhaps your old life involved formal dinner parties. So why not consider doing a wine and cheese party instead? Your furnishing requirements may surprise you. The dining table you polished for decades might make it to the living room as a center table onto which you stack towers of books and orchids. Your former china cabinet might be transformed with wooden shelves into a library in a corner of your living room filled with your edited group of books and collectibles.
Aim for a new direction in your decor. With your edited items, create a plan. Draw a floor plan, or have one drawn for you. This should be just a guide that will still allow you to play with things in your new environment. Change is part of the equation. While some of your existing furniture recalls a bit of your past, mix in a couple of new chairs, add a new background wall color, lay a large new area rug or hang a recent art acquisition to help show off the new you. Keep displayed photographs to a minimum -- they often stand in the way of change. Photos are best kept in an album for a rainy nostalgic afternoon.
Good luck with this new phase. Embrace your new home and your new life.
Joseph Pubillones' column, "The Art of Design," can be found at www.creators.com.