By Judi Ketteler
WHEN VALERIE RYAN’S four kids left for college, she suddenly found herself with way too
much space. The Cannon Beach, Oregon, Costco
member downsized from 6,400 to 2,400 square
feet—a drastic change that left her pondering
what to do with all of her stuff.
“I started by getting rid of bulky things
that made no sense to keep,” Ryan says. “But
I also thought about ways to maximize every
inch of space.” Ryan brought about 70 percent
of her things with her—and gave the rest to her
kids or to charity.
Today’s empty nesters are wrestling with a
common conundrum: After raising their children they finally have the house to themselves
again—except now it’s too much space to
maintain. “I’ve worked with a lot of empty-nester couples who are moving back to the city
after raising their families in the suburbs,” says
Chicago interior designer Lauren Enslin. “I
always advise them to do three things to make
the transition: Assess, edit and plan.”
Assess by making three lists: ( 1) furniture
or accessories that you definitely have to take;
( 2) pieces you might take; and ( 3) pieces you
definitely don’t need. Hold on to the “maybe”
pile, but donate or sell everything in the third
group. “I always say that when you downsize
into a new space, there’s just no room for dead
weight,” Enslin says.
To plan best, you need two things: the
dimensions of the furniture you want to keep
and the floor plan of your new space. This
helps you look at your situation more objectively. And don’t forget: Just because that
dresser was in your living room at your last
place doesn’t mean it has to stay there. “Throw
your furniture in the air and see where it
lands,” says designer and Costco member Lyn
Peterson, author of Real Life Renovating
(Clarkson Potter, 2006)
“What’s the fun of starting anew if you
don’t get to buy some new pieces?” asks
Peterson. In helping many empty nesters transition, she’s noticed that most don’t have an
appropriate entertainment/TV console unit.
“Getting your husband a great flat-screen TV
will soften the blow of any move. Now he can
be a cool guy! And put the old boxy TV in the
spare room,” Peterson advises.
The Costco Connection
Costco warehouses feature a selection of versatile furniture and décor items this month.
Additional pieces are available at costco.com.
If you’re a computer user (and what better
way is there to stay in touch with family?)
Peterson also recommends investing in an
ergonomically designed computer desk, versus the old table where the keyboard is practically falling off the edge.
It’s probably time to update your bedroom set, too. “Look for a good solid bed
frame that gets the mattress a bit farther off
the floor. This leaves room for storage under
the bed, plus it’s easier to get up into bed than
down into bed,” Peterson says. Think big:
Filling a smaller bedroom with a few large
pieces (versus lots of smaller ones) makes your
space look and feel less cluttered. Case in point:
Instead of dainty bedside tables, get a substantial bedside desk or cabinet that has good storage and ample surface space.
Blending old and new
Maybe now is the time to get that great
piece you’ve always wanted—such as a leather
sofa. However, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to buy all new stuff just to match.
“Nobody matches anymore. It’s so very last century!” Peterson says. Don’t be afraid to blend
types of wood, or set your new, modern-looking
leather piece alongside a beloved antique.
When deciding what to buy and what to
bring (especially those things left over from