Downsizing Case Study: Embrace Clever Design and Live Smarter

Couple Moves From Huge 3-Bedroom Property to a 2-Bedroom Unit and Tackles Multiple Storage Challenges With Ingenious Solutions From Howard’s Storage World.


After years of renovating their huge property in the North-West of Sydney and keeping up a large garden, Tami and Philip decided that they no longer wanted a high-maintenance property, but more of a social life close to infrastructure and amenities. Friends convinced them to spend a week in their apartment in Manly, an iconic beachside suburb on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. After this life-changing experience, they decided to downsize in a year’s time and started to prepare their move. Apart from de-cluttering, storage and space planning were their major challenges. With the help of Howard’s Storage World, they were able to optimise space and create an ingenious home office in a cupboard.


The Challenges

Tami and Philip had bought their property in Eastwood years ago after Tami arrived in Sydney from the US. Their home was surrounded by a big lush natural garden with huge Eucalyptus trees. In the beginning, they enjoyed the natural environment and living in the suburbs. But after a while, the maintenance of the garden was beginning to take over their spare time. They spent most of their weekends trying to keep up with the maintenance of their property. They felt guilty when they could not manage it. “It was like a vicious circle,” Tami explains.

They also renovated each room in their home and came to a point where they were thinking about what they wanted to do next. They felt an urge to move on.

One of their biggest frustrations was the fact that they had to take their car to get anywhere. Living in the middle of the suburbs, it was hard for them to socialise and meet other people. They decided that they no longer wanted a high maintenance property but rather have more of a social life closer to activities and amenities. They wanted to live more connected as they age.

Another frustration was the fact that, after returning from travelling, they would always think about what they had to do next in their home. And as both their aging parents live overseas, they knew that they would have to travel even more in the future. Therefore, it was paramount to be free and to come home to a place where they would not have to worry too much about chores and maintenance. They decided that they did not want to be tied down to a big property any longer. They aimed to make their life easier, more flexible and change their lifestyle completely. “We wanted to lock the door and leave,” Tami stresses.

When they started looking for an appropriate home for the years to come, an area with walking distance to shops, restaurants, doctors and easy transport to the city was on top of their priority list.

Although Tami moved to the Northern Beaches when emigrating from the US in the 80s, she did not consider the area for downsizing.


A Trial Week in Manly

However, their best friends lived in Manly and kept asking them to move to the iconic beachside suburb. “Come to Manly, come to Manly,” they kept insisting, Tami remembers. Despite their friends’ efforts to convince them that Manly was the place to live, they came up with all sorts of reasons against downsizing to the Northern Beaches. Eventually, their friends invited them to stay for one week in their apartment while they were travelling. ‘See what it is like to live there’ her friend said and handed them over the keys.

No sooner said than done. Tami and Philip moved in their friends’ apartment with views to the ferry wharf and the ocean. “It was Easter,” remembers Tami, “And we had a terrific week, walking to shops, restaurants, seeing the ferry coming and going every day, enjoying beautiful views.” After one week, they changed their view about living in Manly. Although they were still a couple of years away from downsizing, they were quite convinced that Manly would become their first choice when the time would come. “Don’t be afraid to consider different avenues, think about places you might never have thought of,” Tami encourages other empty nesters to take the first step towards a new chapter of their life.


One Decision Made all The Difference

Back in their Eastwood home they started to make plans thinking about where and when to buy a property, and what they could afford. They started to visualise their life after downsizing and discussing questions like: Do we want to be in the suburbs again? What is the best thing for us? How do we want to live? How can we make it happen? They realised that they wanted to live greener, use the car less, and reduce stress by not being in traffic all the time.

At some stage, they made the decision that they were going to downsize and that they would do it in twelve months. This clarity worked wonders! They started working back from that timeframe, and everything fell into place.

However, Tami admits that it was a challenge to find the right place. But assessing all their priorities they realized that Manly suited their desired lifestyle. Luckily, they had no pressure to buy an apartment right now; they waited until they had found something suitable. During that time, they did a lot of research and groundwork, and with the help of local friends, real estate agents and their creativity they approached their goal with rapid strides. Tami went as far as doing letterbox drops at apartments with great views in preferred buildings and streets to ask if the owner was going to sell in the near future.


The Solution

Scanning, Shredding, and De-cluttering

As the time for the big move came closer, Tami and Philip needed to start de-cluttering their big home and sorting out their stuff. “First it was denial,” Tami admits, laughing. “But we had lots of discussions how to alleviate the pressure of having so many possessions.”

Philip, who works in IT, loves cables and wires and tends to keep things for a long time. Their huge shed was full of boxes with old paperwork, for example.

To start with they identified what had to go first, duplicates for example. Although they were overwhelmed at first, they soon realised that they had to reduce the amount of possessions they owned and preceded to list everything they could not take with them.  They either sold stuff on eBay or at garage sales or gave away items at Council cleanups and found out that it was rather cathartic to 'streamline' their life. They had eight months to work backwards, and time was running out.

To reduce the amount of paperwork Philip came up with the solution to scan and digitise everything that was important to him. During the next months, he would spend his time scanning and shredding paper. He went through every single page he had stored in boxes, and soon 20 boxes would become 10. And so forth. After tackling the paperwork, they started to go through everything else. “It was clear to me that we needed to tidy up our house if we wanted to sell it,” Tami points out.


Ingenious Storage Design

Asked for their biggest challenges while downsizing, Tami identifies storage as the major topic. They moved from a house with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a double garage and a huge shed to a two-bedroom apartment with one car space in the garage. “Even after reducing the size of our household by over half, storage was the biggest challenge for us,” Tami clarifies.

Philip came up with the idea to build a suspended steel construction above the car where they could keep up to 30 boxes while moving in their new apartment. This intermediate storage solution was so much the important as they renovated the kitchen after moving in and needed space to store things while the renovation went on.

To work around the dominance of the big black TV screen in their small space, they had custom built a unit to hide their television including cables, accessories and remote controls when not in use. The TV can be lifted out and dropped back in the unit by remote control.

As they both work from home and need space to accommodate their computers and files, Tami took on the challenge to come up with a clever solution for their home office. The design of the new kitchen presented the opportunity to create additional floor-to-ceiling cabinetry along the dining room wall, where they integrated their home offices in two cupboards, one of which incorporates a sliding standing desk for Philip. The other two cupboards host storage for less used kitchen items and a pantry.

Within half a day, the team of Howard’s Storage World optimised each of the four cupboards with the use of functional storage containers, cable organisers and pullout drawers. The aim was to fully use the vertical air space between the shelves.


Philip’s Office Cupboard

To manage Philip’s cables, chargers and IT accessories, the Howard’s makeover team installed the Blue Lounge Cable Drop and Blue Lounge Sanctuary, which is a stylish and clever power nap station for mobile devices. His paperwork, pens, markers and desktop accessories found a new home in the beautiful Bamboo Tray, File Holder, Stackable Drawer Organisers and Pen Box. A row of black Neo Storage Baskets – easy accessible and exactly fitting in a lower shelf space at desk height – now hold his cables and chargers neatly organised in plastic pouches with zippers. White metal baskets were used for additional items to store on the upper shelves.


Tami’s Office Cupboard

Being an interior designer and colour consultant, Tami loves colour and style. Her office cupboard was re-organised with the colourful Orla Kiely Magazine File Holders, Multi Stem Storage Boxes and a classy Multi Stem Expander File. A couple of large Flex Boxes at the bottom shelf hold Tami’s colour fan decks and supplier samples. A practical, lightweight foldable footstool is standing on the bottom shelf for easy access to the upper area of the cupboard.


The Pantry

The pantry was quickly re-arranged and transformed using the versatile Mimi organisers suitable for any room and cupboard in the home. Mimi organisers help grouping items in categories and are easy to access and handle. When cleaning the cupboard, Tami just takes out the organisers to get easy access to the upper shelves and pullout drawers at the lower part of the pantry. Using White Magic i-hooks, the Howard’s team installed three Wall Mounted Spice Racks in chrome inside the pantry door. Displaying the spices in these racks gives Tami an instant overview of her stock and has now freed up space in another kitchen drawer.


The Kitchen Utensils Cupboard

The fourth cupboard, which is mainly used to store larger kitchen utensils and items for entertaining like additional plates, vases, glass bottles, wine and beer bottles. Mimi organisers and a wine rack now radiate a sense of order in the upper part of the cupboard. The lower three shelves have been enhanced by installing three large simplehuman Cabinet Organisers, pullout drawers for plates, a decanter, and taller items for entertaining and decorating.


The Howard’s Storage World solutions make a big difference aesthetically and storage-wise in Tami and Philip’s living area. “I love the pullout drawers and the kitchen storage! They make our life so much easier,” Tami points out.


The Results

Lifestyle Goals Achieved

Downsizing had a positive impact on Tami and Philip’s life. After downsizing, their priorities have completely changed. Living with less clutter and stuff, they feel free to do the things that are meaningful and important to them. They love travelling and can just close their door when leaving. They don’t have to worry anymore about the maintenance and chores around a large property, like weeding or mowing the lawn.

Tami and Philip have found the right time to downsize. They are both glad that they did this big step before retirement and managed to overcome their fear of the unknown. They embraced their desire for a change of lifestyle and dived into the opportunity of experiencing a new and thrilling adventure. Now they are settled in Manly and feel quite happy about their new suburb of choice.

By living in a smaller unit, they have simplified their life twofold; one, by choosing an area where everything is walking distance to all of their needs and with easy transport to the city. And two, having such a low-maintenance property gives them more time to focus on the things that are important to them. As Tami explains, ‘it was virtually a no brainer.’ She also feels much safer in the secure apartment building than she felt in her property in the suburbs when Philip travels. As a consequence, she sleeps much better at night.

They now enjoy doing things they never did in the suburbs, like cycling, swimming, snorkeling, walking to restaurants. Tami loves being active and going out to the beach every day. She enjoys mingling with active people, young and old. To chill out and relax at home she has created a lovely sitting area on their nice balcony.

They also became much more social. Tami enjoys meeting the neighbours during the day, having a chat or going out to dinner with them. “In Eastwood, we never saw our neighbours,” Tami reminisces the times gone by. The options in Manly are endless. “We lead a better quality life; downsizing was a no-brainer in retrospect,” Tami summarises the impact of downsizing on their lives. “We are looking at life in a different way. That is priceless!”

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