How to Stay Downsized

Mary+Michael (13 of 143)

My husband Michael and his antique collection. We've downsized a bit since this picture was taken, but we kept the things we love.

And so, I have downsized. This was one of the goals of moving, and because I had a strict deadline and had to be organized about the whole thing it wasn’t a problem at all. But now that we’re settled, I am a little bit worried about my ability to keep my life — and my décor — streamlined.

My job for my whole entire life has been to collect things. I go out shopping specifically to look for amazing pieces for clients. And for future clients. And for imaginary clients. And, to be honest, for some future Mary Spalding who just might find a use for whatever beautiful knickknack I just picked up at the antique market.

I’ve made the mistake of overbuying so often that I have (I hope!) discovered a few ways to talk myself out of making those same mistakes again. Here are some tricks you can use as you make your new home your own.

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Recognize clutter

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Wait for the perfect object

Recognize clutter.

Clutter is an accumulation, and it happens so gradually that sometimes it’s hard to notice. But you can train yourself to appreciate a cleaner style of décor. I’m not talking full minimalist, but consider showcasing one amazing object rather than grouping a bunch of interesting things together. Limit yourself to one or two collections, and then go for quality rather than quantity. Try to remember that tables are supposed to be workspaces — places for books and bags and cocktails — and not display pedestals for your own personal museum.

Wait for the perfect object.

Don’t look around your spaces and say, “I need something to go there.” Instead, say “I need something exactly so high of exactly this color, but not too chunky, that will reflect my interest in French equestrian history.” If you’re more specific about your needs, you’ll be less likely to fill our new home with imperfect but temporary pieces. I mean, if you need a lamp, then by all means get a lamp, but you probably don’t need a candelabra just because you “need a little something in that corner.”

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Use the one year method.

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Develop new habits

Use the One Year method.

Remember that box of “maybes” that you packed away — things you couldn’t quite bring yourself to get rid of? Well, don’t open it yet. In fact, just write today’s date on it, and if you haven’t had a reason to open it one year from now, just donate the whole thing to a thrift store — without opening it at all. You obviously didn’t need or want anything in there.

Develop new habits.

If you’re changing homes, then you’ve got a chance to change habits. If your new home has a great view, then spend time watching sunsets rather than the TV. If you’ve saved a bunch of books that you love, resolve to read through them again. If you moved your gardening tools, then put them to work! As you weeded through all your possessions when you were packing, you also sorted through your own priorities. Take this opportunity to redecorate every aspect of your life.

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Sammy and Lily and Michael are really all I need.

Be comfortable with who you are.

This may be the biggest secret. A lot of buying and collecting can just be from trying to define who you are or who you want to be. If you’ve developed a personal style, you won’t need an endless parade of objects to help you define it. When you have friends and family and activities filling your life, you won’t need to fill it with a lot of new things all the time. Instead, be happy with the mission of decorating the life you already love.


Mary Spalding is a Nashville based interior designer with over 30 years of experience. She has overseen countless home revitalizations, renovations, and restorations. She can be reached with your projects and ideas at mary@spaldingway.com.

To shop Mary's collection, click here. To read more posts, click hereFor anything else, leave a note in the comment section.  

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