Downsizing in Style

No need to give up great design when you give up square footage: tales from the trenches on how to downsize your home

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The creamy white daybed had been in a guest room; Freeman covered it with Donghia fabric and now uses it as her main sofa

“It’s a good idea to have a digital inventory of things you own,” continues Hilliard, who offers that service. “I come in, photograph items, write a description including dimensions, and make a pdf to circulate to family and friends, so you can ask, ‘Does anybody want this?’ You can also take it to antique dealers or consignment shops as part of the evaluating process. If you’re frightened of making a mistake, get a small storage unit and you’ll avoid buyer’s remorse in reverse,” she advises. “But do it judiciously. If you’re paying $200 a month for the rest of your life, that’s not downsizing.” 

If you’ve pared down, she says, “the things you kept become more precious. Downsizing also tempers your acquisition of things in the future—not just because you’re limited by space, but because you’ve just gone through the cathartic relief of getting rid of stuff. You don’t want to be owned by your stuff again. We boomers lived such an acquisitive, materialistic lifestyle that having fewer belongings now is liberating.”

For Mia Homan and her husband, Bram Fierstein, letting go of their belongings was easy when they moved from the five-bedroom, 1918 Colonial house in Pelham where they raised their son and daughter. “We lived there for 20 years. It was a beautiful house, and very much a home,” says Homan, who recently moved with her husband into smaller quarters in New Rochelle. “It had four floors, all sorts of charming details. But it was too much space for us. We didn’t want it anymore.” 

The move was geographically short—a mile and half—so that the couple, both 56, would be near their friends and their country club. (Both work in Westchester: Homan in Assemblywoman Amy Paulin’s office, and Fierstein at his real-estate management company.) Their new home, a three-bedroom, 2,000-square-foot apartment with a terrace, is far from cramped, but still, most of their belongings had to go. 

For Homan, that wasn’t such a wrench. “I’ve never been one to hang onto things,” she explains. “Also, I took care of my mother’s things after she died, then my father’s when he went into assisted living, and again after he died. Having to do that three times, I began to feel trapped by our possessions.”



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