5 Practical Strategies to Downsize Your Storage into a 55+ Lifestyle Community New Home
Your 4-bedroom suburban Upper Arlington home is so quiet now. No kids running around. No fights between Michael, David and Lisa to officiate. Now it’s just you and Henry in this big old house with tons of memories and all the stuff you’ve accumulated over the last 20 years. How did your clothes, shoes, tools, and yard equipment get so gigantic? It must be Henry’s fault for being on a first name basis with the guy at Home Depot! (OK – maybe you should take some blame for all your trips to Nordstrom’s).
The decision to downsize into a 55+ lifestyle community in Westerville wasn’t easy, but with Henry’s upcoming hip surgery the thought of him up on the ladder taking leaves out of the gutters one more Fall season was too much to fathom (certainly an accident waiting to happen). What’s funny is you still don’t think of yourself as an “active adult.” It seems like your crazy antics with your sorority sisters was just a couple of years ago, (unfortunately that gray hair you dye every few months tells you otherwise!).
Your new one level ranch home is going to be slick with its large kitchen and open floor plan. Entertaining will be so much fun. One big challenge of the new home though is where are you going to store all your stuff? The closets, pantry, garage and basement in your 4-bedroom home are already stuffed to the gills. The wire closets in your new home bedrooms and pantry closet are going to be no match for your stuff. And what are you going to do with no basement? You only have a garage to store everything else. Something’s gotta give!
If your situation is similar to Rose and Henry’s above (i.e. downsizing from your suburban family home and “rightsizing” – now that sounds politically correct – into a 55+ community) you’re not alone. There were a lot of people born in the baby boom generation. To successfully make this transition you’ll need a game plan and strategies to declutter the old home and efficient ways to store things in your new place. Read these 5 critical storage strategies to make your upcoming move less stressful and more enjoyable. With the right planning and storage systems you’ll be able to find things in your less cluttered new home way easier than your old home (imagine that!).
Strategy #1 – Take out the machete and declutter aggressively
You’re moving from a suburban home with 4 bedrooms into a lifestyle home with 2 bedrooms and no basement. You do the math on your storage situation (2 bedrooms – 4 bedrooms – 1 basement = 3 lost storage places). As my Dad used to say, “You can’t fit 10 lbs. of s*** into a 5-lb. bag!” So, you’ve got to declutter your 4-bedroom home before you’re going to be prepared to move the things you really need into your new lifestyle community residence.
I would recommend you start your decluttering in the “kids” (although they’re pretty big kids by now – ha! ha!) bedrooms. Give them a date to reclaim what they want and then begin to donate (or transfer to a family member or friend) most the contents of this room. Resist the urge to be shy about moving stuff out. If you find this process is too painful for you call in a professional organizer. They can help you both physically – and psychologically – through this sometimes-painful process.
Go into the “great land of the unknown” (AKA your basement) to start digging through the rubble of little-used things. In my home the basement is where furniture, old books, unused kitchen utensils come to die! At least our cats keep these things company because their litter boxes are down there. Remember during this process if you have no basement in your new home, then everything in your current basement either has to go in the garage or another room in the new house.
If you’re unsure if any of these old tables, books, lamps etc. has value bring in an auction house to identify your gems (the things of value may be different than you think) and sell them for you. Another idea (if you have the time) is to offer the best items for sale on EBay. Take a journey into the garage and identify tools and yard equipment you won’t be needing because someone else will be doing most the maintenance for you (yah!). Donate or discard.
Go through your personal closet, pantry and linen closets and discard or donate everything which doesn’t fit, you haven’t worn in a year, is out of style or you don’t use. If you’re debating whether you should keep something or if it should go – it should go.
Strategy #2 – You’ll need to learn a few new “tricks” to manage your clothes in the master closet of your 55+ lifestyle home
If you’re like most people your current closet is overfilled with shoes on the floor, clothes jammed together on the closet rods and stacks of sweaters and sweatshirts toppling over on the shelves. Now is the time to ask, “Is there a better way to manage my closet organization in the new home?” Use the following 3 tips for a better organized (and more ergonomically friendly) closet.
- Tip 1 – Shoes off the ground, shoes off the ground (and onto flat closet shelves). This tip not only makes it simple to see your shoes by storing them on flat shelves off the ground, but it’s also less stress on the back since you don’t have to bend over and try to find them in the dark under your hanging clothes.
- Tip 2 – More drawers and less hangers – Did you know you can get 2 times more clothes on shelves than in the same space on hangers? Designing your closet with more drawers and less hanging space will allow you to more efficiently use your master closet space. The other advantage is drawers give your closet a custom look with a neater minimalist flair.
- Tip 3 – Use inexpensive vertical dividers to keep folded stacks from sagging over. Get simple plastic dividers and place them between piles of clothes you have on open shelves. This inexpensive product will keep piles nice and neat for a change.
Strategy #3 – Change the name (and your thinking) about the garage. It is now a “multi-purpose” room!
In your 55+ lifestyle home you can no longer think of your garage as the “Rodney Dangerfield” space of your home. This large area with high ceilings is now way too valuable to be considered a throw-away. With the addition of some sleek looking garage cabinetry and storage systems you can use your garage to do some of the following things:
- Provide a workbench area you used to have in your old basement – Whether it’s tinkering with a small appliance or putting a model airplane together with your grandson, it is nice to still have a place all his own to work on projects or small repairs.
- Additional bulk and seasonal storage – You still want to display your holiday cheer but where are your Christmas decorations going to go? Also, where are you going to put light bulky goods you like to buy in large quantities at Sam’s or Costco? An excellent place is in an overhead storage bin in the garage. This type of storage can put the height and volume of your garage to work!
- Recycling bin storage – While you still want to do your part for the environment where are you going to put these large bins? With a recycling storage cabinet in the garage you’ll keep them neatly stowed away and out of sight! What’s also nice is there is an opening at the side of these garage cabinets so you can slide recyclables in without leaving the inside of your home (this can be particularly good during those cold Columbus winter nights).
Strategy #4 – Let ergonomics and universal design be your friend
I remember when I was younger I could jump out of bed and start my morning run immediately (note- I’m a crazy 1 hour a day runner). Now I’ve got to do the proper stretching exercises and be thoughtful of where I’m running just in case I fall. This getting old thing can be a pain in the butt!
What I just “did” (i.e. running before stretching) before now requires thought and planning. The same strategy also needs to be applied to how we store things in our homes. As we age (and yes, I have to admit I’m in this 55+ category also) the need for thoughtful design is critical. Good design makes life easier and requires less effort to find and grab the clothes, tools or kitchen items you need. Here’s a few ideas which will make your storage areas simpler and work better over the long-haul.
- Slide out shelving – Why be forced to bend over to get things out of the pantry when you know Henry’s back isn’t what it used to be. A smart idea is to use slide out shelving so your fruits and vegetables come to you.
- Pull down closet rods – Pull down rods can be an excellent idea if you’re either vertically challenged (that the politically correct term for short!) or if mobility is a challenge. With these rods your top clothes rod will be available by pulling down the handle.
- Extra lighting – Ever notice when your grandkids come over they can almost read in the dark. When you go out to a restaurant now you’re adjusting the menu back and forth just to figure out what the heck you’re going to order? Unfortunately, our eyesight doesn’t get better as we get older. It’s nice to know there are storage strategies you can use to take care of this problem and add light. Consider installing a privacy window in your closet (either obscure glass or glass block window will work well) or add additional lighting in the wardrobe rods or LED’s in the drawers or around the tops shelves.
Strategy #5 – Use your walls and vertical space
Sometimes it’s easy to miss storage opportunities which are right in front of us. Walls and areas near the ceiling are two overlooked storage locations. Check out these opportunities to improve your usage of walls and the upper regions of your closet, pantry and laundry room storage:
- Vertical spaces at the top of your reach in closet or panty – The reason it’s tough to use the top shelf of a reach in closet in the spare bedroom is the shelving is often too deep. By changing the standard 14” deep shelves to a 12” top shelf it becomes easier to reach and use. Now you can use this top shelf for light items like pillows and blankets (in the closet) or little-used Tupperware or baskets (in the pantry).
- Cabinets above the washer and dryer – Granted the space above the washer and dryer is not the easiest to get to, but it helps to use this space to store detergents you don’t want the grandkids to get their hands on or little used candles or plates you just use on the holidays.
- Slat wall organizing systems in the garage with baskets – If you’re looking for places to keep small balls when the grandkids come over, tennis racquets or paper towels, a basket attached to an organization wall in the garage can provide more storage on an unused wall.
Moving from a large suburban home into a 55+ lifestyle community can not only be psychologically challenging, it can be difficult trying to figure out where you’re going to put all the stuff you’ve accumulated over the years. I hope these 5 strategies have given you practical ideas to improve storage for your new home. If I can provide you with additional design insights or a quote for a Columbus closet organizer system, garage cabinetry or a pantry closet please call us at the numbers below.
In Columbus call Innovate Home Org at 614-545-6888 or for a Cleveland closet design 216-658-1290.
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