The upside of downsizing your home

June 22, 2009 3:53:19 PM PDT
One of the more painful parts of the recession is losing a home and having to move into something smaller, sometimes considerably smaller. But a Bay Area author who wrote a book on downsizing our lives says that pain can be channeled into a new opportunity.

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"What's really interesting, I think, when you begin to think about space in a different way, is what is the purpose?" said author Ciji Ware.

For Sausalito's Ciji Ware, almost everything in her smaller digs has to have more than one purpose -- for example, a living room chair is also used for storage.

"I keep the cushions wherever there is space and I can find them and pull them out and use them," said Ware.

Ware used to live in a 4,000-square foot home in Southern California. But, when she and her husband relocated to Marin County because of a job change, they moved into a tiny 1,200-square foot home. She ended up liking the smaller living space -- eventually -- and wrote a book called "Rightsizing Your Life," about how to live with less.

"You accumulate a lot of things in American society, and people are drowning in their possessions and so when you have to downsize, if you don't know how to do it, it's just wrenching," said Ware.

Ware chose to downsize, but in this economy many people are being forced out of their dream homes and into much smaller rentals by foreclosures and layoffs. Hard as it may seem, Ware says it's important to look at this as an opportunity.

"You say OK, it's a transition, it's not the end of the world; you don't need all this stuff that we all have. I certainly realized how many sets of dishes you can eat off of at one time," said Ware

Interfaith minister and yoga instructor Bardet Wardell is in just such a transitional phase. She's part of a growing trend of people downsizing their living space to save money. The recession forced her to leave a large home for a 500-square foot former pump house for the local water district. She's concentrating on the upside.

"This space has a lot of elements where you don't feel closed in. It has windows on all four sides and the loft has a skylight, so I can see the moon and the stars," said Wardell.

The toughest part of the transition is decluttering -- deciding to keep and what will go in storage, or to charity, or on eBay. For her book, Ware formulated three criteria:

"It was finding out what you love, what do you use, and asking yourself what you got. Is it beautiful, is it sentimental, and is it valuable? And if it's one or two or three of those things then it's probably worth keeping," said Ware.

Ware says we should avoid the temptation to rent a storage space for that clutter. She says it's just putting off the inevitable. If you don't use it and it doesn't meet her criteria of usefulness, beauty, or value -- it's got to go.

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