Call it “streamlining,” “downsizing” or even “voluntary simplicity”—no matter how you describe it, moving from a house to an apartment is not an easy feat. It takes a lot of planning and a sturdy tape measure. Perhaps most important, it requires imagination: the ability to see great things in small spaces.
Even thinking about moving from a house to an apartment can be overwhelming. Unless you’re moving from a small house to a penthouse, you’ll have less space in your new environment. But small spaces don’t have to feel cramped or be cluttered. With the right planning, you can measure once and sell or store the rest. Here’s a handy checklist.
1. First things first: take stock of what’s in your house.
This step might be the most important—and you can do it now, whether you’ve already identified your new apartment or you’re just beginning to consider a move. Take an inventory of what you have in your home, garage and yard. On your list, highlight the items that you MUST keep. For each of the other items, ask yourself: sell, store or donate? Even if you only put a note next to each item, you’ve begun to mentally organize what’s important to you.
2. Get clear on your reasons for downsizing.
If you are having temporary money issues (and let’s face it, everybody does at one time or another), it may be that you sell a few high-value items from #1 on this list and you can make it until things turn around. Perhaps you’re starting a new job or a new chapter of your life and have decided that less (mortgage) is more (savings). In that case, celebrate the change as a huge step forward. If the market is driving your decision, talk with an advisor or trusted friend about long-term risk and opportunity.
3. When you’ve decided that apartment living is for you, you’ll want to…
Shop around in the area you’d like to live, plus a few adjacent areas; set a price range for rent plus utilities and extras like parking; get your credit report; and start looking. Don’t be pressured into signing a lease until you’ve seen at least three places and checked out the neighborhoods. If you have a favorite, take a look at it twice—once in the daylight and once at night—to get a full sense of where you’ll be living.
4. Once you decide on an apartment, get out your measuring tape.
Measure, wall-by-wall, the entire place. Sketch out the dimensions so that you’ll have a good sense of what you can fit into each room.
5. The hardest part: letting go.
There are lots of things that you might own if you live in a house that you won’t need to bring to an apartment—garden tools, patio furniture, window treatments. If you have handyman tools, you may not have a space to put them and you probably won’t need them in an apartment. Considering what to do with that drum set? eBay, my friend. Apartment living doesn’t typically mesh well with loud noises.
6. Sell, store or donate.
If you won’t use it in the next two years (40′ hose) and it’s not a personal treasure, sell it. If an item will maintain its value and you will use it or display it again (your vintage letterpress kit, golf ball collection, sewing machine), store it. For everything else that’s not moving from the house to apartment with you, find a charity you admire and donate.
7. Create your dream space.
Apartments don’t have to be dull. In fact, some of the most sought-after living spaces in cities like Manhattan and San Francisco are apartments. Consider your new apartment as a blank canvas, on which you can create the space that, until now, you’ve only imagined.
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