Living with less: Tips for downsizing

In this Dec. 22, 2015, photo, Stage 3 Properties co-founder Christopher Bledsoe demonstrates a desk that expands into a dining table that can seat up to 12 people inside one of the apartments at the Carmel Place building in New York. As the city-sponsored “micro-apartment” project nears completion, it’s setting an example for tiny dwellings that the nation’s biggest city sees as an aid to easing its affordable housing crunch. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
In this Dec. 22, 2015, photo, Stage 3 Properties co-founder Christopher Bledsoe demonstrates a desk that expands into a dining table that can seat up to 12 people inside one of the apartments at the Carmel Place building in New York. As the city-sponsored “micro-apartment” project nears completion, it’s setting an example for tiny dwellings that the nation’s biggest city sees as an aid to easing its affordable housing crunch. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Wardrobes hidden in closets, a foldaway table and under-the-counter appliances all help to make a 325 square foot model apartment seem roomy at an exhibit called "Making Room: Models for Housing New Yorkers" at the Museum of the City of New York in New York, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013. The exhibit grew out of the city's PlaNYC, which projected the city's population  will grow by about  600,000 people by 2030. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Wardrobes hidden in closets, a foldaway table and under-the-counter appliances all help to make a 325 square foot model apartment seem roomy at an exhibit called “Making Room: Models for Housing New Yorkers” at the Museum of the City of New York in New York, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013. The exhibit grew out of the city’s PlaNYC, which projected the city’s population will grow by about 600,000 people by 2030. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Living in a smaller space means you need to be smarter with design and more creative with storage. Opt for pieces of furniture that serve dual purposes, such as a coffee table that opens up and stores books and blankets, or a sleeper sofa that can double as a guest bed. (Courtesy Gordon Beall)
In this Dec. 22, 2015 photo, Stage 3 Properties co-founder Christopher Bledsoe demonstrates a retractable bed that turns into a sofa when stored inside one of the apartment units at the Carmel Place building in New York. As the city-sponsored “micro-apartment” project nears completion, it’s setting an example for tiny dwellings that the nation’s biggest city sees as an aid to easing its affordable housing crunch. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
In this Dec. 22, 2015 photo, Stage 3 Properties co-founder Christopher Bledsoe demonstrates a retractable bed that turns into a sofa when stored inside one of the apartment units at the Carmel Place building in New York. As the city-sponsored “micro-apartment” project nears completion, it’s setting an example for tiny dwellings that the nation’s biggest city sees as an aid to easing its affordable housing crunch. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
A stemware cabinet behind the TV, stacking tables hidden in an ottoman and a Murphy bed all help to make a 325 square foot model apartment seem roomy at an exhibit called "Making Room: Models for Housing New Yorkers" at the Museum of the City of New York in New York, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013. The exhibit grew out of the city's PlaNYC, which projected the city's population  will grow by about  600,000 people by 2030. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
A stemware cabinet behind the TV, stacking tables hidden in an ottoman and a Murphy bed all help to make a 325 square foot model apartment seem roomy at an exhibit called “Making Room: Models for Housing New Yorkers” at the Museum of the City of New York in New York, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013. The exhibit grew out of the city’s PlaNYC, which projected the city’s population will grow by about 600,000 people by 2030. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
In this Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015 photo, Hilary Lentz, of Pittsburgh, Pa., and her husband Shane leave the tiny house which they rented for a weekend in Croydon, N.H. As the tiny house phenomenon sweeps the nation, Harvard's Millennial Housing Lab thinks a tryout is in order for people toying with radically downsizing their lives. Its new "Getaway" project gives the curious an opportunity to spend a night or two in one of three tiny houses and get a real feel for the lifestyle before taking the plunge. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
In this Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015 photo, Hilary Lentz, of Pittsburgh, Pa., and her husband Shane leave the tiny house which they rented for a weekend in Croydon, N.H. As the tiny house phenomenon sweeps the nation, Harvard’s Millennial Housing Lab thinks a tryout is in order for people toying with radically downsizing their lives. Its new “Getaway” project gives the curious an opportunity to spend a night or two in one of three tiny houses and get a real feel for the lifestyle before taking the plunge. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
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In this Dec. 22, 2015, photo, Stage 3 Properties co-founder Christopher Bledsoe demonstrates a desk that expands into a dining table that can seat up to 12 people inside one of the apartments at the Carmel Place building in New York. As the city-sponsored “micro-apartment” project nears completion, it’s setting an example for tiny dwellings that the nation’s biggest city sees as an aid to easing its affordable housing crunch. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Wardrobes hidden in closets, a foldaway table and under-the-counter appliances all help to make a 325 square foot model apartment seem roomy at an exhibit called "Making Room: Models for Housing New Yorkers" at the Museum of the City of New York in New York, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013. The exhibit grew out of the city's PlaNYC, which projected the city's population  will grow by about  600,000 people by 2030. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
In this Dec. 22, 2015 photo, Stage 3 Properties co-founder Christopher Bledsoe demonstrates a retractable bed that turns into a sofa when stored inside one of the apartment units at the Carmel Place building in New York. As the city-sponsored “micro-apartment” project nears completion, it’s setting an example for tiny dwellings that the nation’s biggest city sees as an aid to easing its affordable housing crunch. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
A stemware cabinet behind the TV, stacking tables hidden in an ottoman and a Murphy bed all help to make a 325 square foot model apartment seem roomy at an exhibit called "Making Room: Models for Housing New Yorkers" at the Museum of the City of New York in New York, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013. The exhibit grew out of the city's PlaNYC, which projected the city's population  will grow by about  600,000 people by 2030. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
In this Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015 photo, Hilary Lentz, of Pittsburgh, Pa., and her husband Shane leave the tiny house which they rented for a weekend in Croydon, N.H. As the tiny house phenomenon sweeps the nation, Harvard's Millennial Housing Lab thinks a tryout is in order for people toying with radically downsizing their lives. Its new "Getaway" project gives the curious an opportunity to spend a night or two in one of three tiny houses and get a real feel for the lifestyle before taking the plunge. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

WASHINGTON Living with less is a big trend these days.

More Americans are trading in square footage for walkable communities and convenient commutes, and popular shows such as HGTV’s “Tiny House Hunters” and “Tiny House, Big Living” put simplified lifestyles in the spotlight.

A recent survey from Trulia even reports that more homeowners would choose a smaller home over a bigger one for their next move.

If you’re dreaming big about a smaller space, designer Anna Gibson says downsizing is totally possible. Here are some of her top tips.

The Benefits

There are a lot of benefits to downsizing, says Gibson, owner and chief designer at AKG Design Studio in Reston, Virginia starting with your wallet.

“A lot of people have big mortgages, and unfortunately, a lot of people like to live outside of their means,” Gibson said.

Trading in your five-bedroom home for something more sensible could save you a lot of money, especially in the D.C. area, where the cost of living is one of the highest in the country.

Downsizing will also save you time if you move to a condo or community where building maintenance and landscaping are included — a perk for many retirees and aging baby boomers.

“You don’t even have to be older — maybe you’re just busy with everything in life and your priorities changed and mowing the yard for four hours every weekend is not what you’re looking to do anymore,” Gibson added.

Finally, condensing your living space could be beneficial to your family dynamic.

“People have to interact. You’re not in 5,000, 6,000 square feet where you don’t see your kids for days,” Gibson said.

Plan Ahead

Once you’ve decided to downsize, Gibson says it’s time to start thinking about what you want out of a new living space. Is it to be closer to the city? Closer to the grandkids? Maybe it’s a country cabin you’re after. Whatever it is, determine your destination.

Next, talk to a real estate agent about the value of your current home. This will give you a better idea of what you can afford for your next residence.

However, the most important part of preparing to downsize, Gibson says, is decluttering.

If you find you need to hang on to childhood art projects and your grandmother’s antique chiffonier, research storage options. 

Take measurements of the furniture you have and see if it makes sense to take items to your new place. (A slimmer, more contemporary sofa may work better than your oversized L-shape lounger in a smaller living room.) Donate or sell what you don’t want to move.

Finally, find out what you really use on a day-to-day basis. Gibson suggests keeping a list each time you go into your closet or your kitchen of the clothes you wear and the tools you use.

“Do you really need 25 glasses? I look in my own kitchen and I have my Dutch oven and my Instant Pot and my Crockpot, but you don’t really need all that,” Gibson said.

Furniture That’s Functional

Living in a smaller space means you need to be smarter with design and more creative with storage. Opt for pieces of furniture that serve dual purposes, such as a coffee table that opens up and stores books and blankets, or a sleeper sofa that can double as a guest bed.

“Often times, because you have less space to pay for, you can afford more luxury,” Gibson said about choosing more functional products for your smaller home.

For example, she says there are high-end kitchen appliances on the market that multitask, such as a convection oven that also works as a speed cooker and a steamer.

“So you don’t need to have the double oven, you don’t need to have the microwave separately,” Gibson said.

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