Downsizing done right

An Ontario couple tackles downsizing with a novel and budget-conscious approach.



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Downsizing_322I do not know how to measure this but I am convinced that there are more second hand stores in Victoria, B.C. than in any other place in Canada. These stores sell a wide range of clothing, kitchen wares, sporting goods, electronics and furniture. Some reasons that create both a supply and demand for these stores include

-Great options for downsizing due to the broad selection of condos and apartments

-Estate sales;

-New retiree arrivals find that their furniture either does not fit or is unsuitable for their new home;

-Those leaving Victoria prefer to avoid the expense of shipping off an island;

-University/college town;

-Eclectic nature of island dwellers; and,

-Heightened attention on environment and re-using items on the island.

Recently a friend of mine from Ontario who was in town visiting her mother, dropped by. I recall my friend being a fairly accomplished pack rat and unable to discard her growing children’s library of early readers and baby furniture. However, she and her husband seemed to have tackled the downsizing challenge with a very novel approach.

The last child had completed her first post-secondary degree which was all that the parents agreed to support. In this family, this is the signal to “stand on your own two feet.” The big family home was put up for sale and sold quickly. The youngest was offered moving assistance from her parents to get her stuff out of the house. A deal was struck with a move-it-yourself company to rent a small truck plus get a large storage unit for free for a couple of months.

The moving plan was put into action.  Four “piles”:

  1. Kid’s stuff into the moving van and onward to her new location.
  2. Parents’ stuff not wanted—sold or offered for free on Kijiji.
  3. Parents’ stuff wanted for new and smaller home—moved by professional movers on closing day of house purchase.
  4. Undecided stuff—packed up for storage unit (temporarily).

The storage unit provided some extra time for the downsizers to see how it felt to live in their new place without all their stuff. It also allowed for some breathing room to prove that the extra stuff was unnecessary. However for the downsizing to be completed, the storage unit needed to be viewed as temporary and as an unnecessary expense.

Here’s where the real discipline kicked in. Within two months the large (and free) storage unit was partially cleared. It was downsized to the middle sized unit and monthly payments began (the free period had expired). Two more months of downsizing and they moved the remaining stuff into to the smallest storage unit with a smaller monthly rental fee. Two months later the downsizing was completed and they no longer required a storage unit. This saved both the monthly rental fee and the burden of owning unnecessary stuff.

If you have never experienced downsizing don’t underestimate how difficult it is for most of us. This is a great approach if you can stick with the plan!

Lee Anne Davies has worked as a consultant for insurance, wealth management, banking and financial education companies. She has a PhD in Aging, Health and Well-being and a Masters of Arts (MA) in Gerontology and Health Studies from the University of Waterloo and an MBA from Athabasca University’s Information Technology Management program. She’s also successfully completed the Canadian Securities Course and the Professional Financial Planning Course. To read more from Davies, visit her blog Agenomics.

8 comments on “Downsizing done right

  1. 8th reason for all the second hand stores in Victoria:
    There's no IKEA on the island so people actually have to by proper, solidly-built furniture & home goods. Which means when they no longer need the item, it's still in good condition, so they donate it rather than throwing it in the dumpster.


    • Good point – I hadn’t considered that. I also wonder if it’s the ‘style’ here that encourages reuse. The older furniture fits well with many of the homes around here and possibly island-living creates a greater sense of needing to protect the environment. Since this post I’ve also realized the huge number of churches that have thrift shops.


  2. Thanks for outlining a multi-pronged downsizing plan. If I may offer another motivation for downsizing, it's green: "Recycling" durable goods by donating them to thrift shops, Habitat for Humanity or your younger relations and friends, or by selling them using online clearinghouses (kijiji, craigslist), reduces the amount of newly harvested wood and other materials needed for new furniture. Obtaining new-to-you items for your new home the same way serves the same purpose, and comes with the bonus of reducing expense and getting to know your (possibly) new area as well. — Rachel Adelson, author, Staying Power: Age-Proof Your Home for Comfort, Safety and Style (


    • Agreed Rachel – it is green! Thanks for your comment and link.


  3. Most people believe the pain in downsizing is letting go of your home. That was not my case. The pain was in downsizing my mechanical and woodworking tools. Even though I had not used these for the purpose of livelihood , I had spent much of my leisure time fixing and making. I knew I could keep some hand tools, but selling saws, router, etc. was difficult; however, now I'm glad I did it.


    • I like your point about the challenge of letting go of your mechanical and woodworking tools. Each of us will have something that’s special to us and very difficult to let go of. No one else will really understand how hard it is because the items aren’t special to them. For me it’s fine china – which is a real pain because it is both fragile and heavy. A photo journal can be another option so you’ve got something to help with the memories. But you’re right – once you do it – it feels great to be free of the stuff.


  4. Nice to see your blog, Good info. Keep posting new stuff. Will be visiting this site frequently.


  5. It always scared me to buy anything for my home from these types of stores because they always sell cheap and duplicate items. May be because they want to earn more profits but it's unethical.


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