‘Stick your toe in the water,’ and other advice for downsizing

‘Stick your toe in the water,’ and other advice for downsizing

Throughout her career, Rita Wilkins has many times found herself in the middle of husbands and wives who couldn’t agree on whether to sell their family home for something smaller—an apartment, condo, or cottage perhaps, in the city, near grandchildren or somewhere else.

Wilkins has learned to embrace this role of middleman helping couples reconcile what they both want so everyone wins.

“I tell couples they can have it all,” says Wilkins, an interior designer and author of “Downsize Your Life, Upgrade Your Lifestyle.” “All they have to do is figure out what having it all means to them and what compromises they are willing to make.”

For couples who find themselves on opposite sides of their own “downsizing war,” Wilkins suggests:

  • Coming up with a firm idea of what your downsizing vision is: A two-bedroom apartment, a condo, a townhome? Then do a reality check on which items you could realistically take with you.
  • Sticking your toe in the water. If you always wanted to live in Charleston, S.C., but have never visited, plan a several-week vacation there to see if you like it.
  • Consider renting in the new place to keep your options open and tamp down the fear of making a change one or both of you will regret.

In her own downsizing journey, Wilkins gave away 95 percent of her belongings when she downsized from 5,000 square feet to an 867 square-foot apartment. The experience led her to write her book.

Selling their home doesn’t have to lead to a “downsizing war” between couples, says Ruth Wilkins, an expert on the subject.