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How This “Open-Nester” Decided Downsizing And Renting Was For Them – Lea Moved Out Of Her House And She Has TIPS

If you’ve followed along our moving journey you know by now that 2024 brought with it a lot of new challenges but also insight into our future or at least what we perceive our future to be given the breadcrumbs 2023 left us.

photo by sage e imagery | from: lea’s open concept pass-through dining room design agony – solved!

My husband was diagnosed with M.S. (Multiple Sclerosis) back in 1999 and thankfully his health has been fairly manageable with just a few bumps in the road. That was until, as life would have it, the day after we closed on our dream aka “forever home” in 2016. As his health continued to decline over the few years we lived there I thought and prayed to please let us get through our daughter’s college graduation plus one year. Well, we didn’t quite make it that “plus one year” but we got close. It was as good a time as any to say goodbye to the little house we called Creekwoodhill. Ahhhh…the memories we made there! It was so bittersweet to leave but don’t feel sad for us because this mom and dad shook the kiddos loose (Ok, not really) and moved further into the city, decided not to buy another car (since our son crashed it last year) and instead moved into a modern loft-style apartment within walking distance to local coffee shops and eateries. We are a $5 Uber ride into downtown or uptown and a plethora of places to shop and dine all around us. We’re enjoying late-night dinners, cocktails on the rooftop, and we love that we’re steps away from all the nature trails Remi’s (our dog) heart could desire. While some people are calling us empty-nesters, we’re referring to ourselves as “open-nesters”. It was important to us that with this lifestyle change both of our adult kids didn’t feel pushed or left out. So although we are downsizing to about half the square feet we had in our house, there will always be a place for them to return to.

photo by sage e imagery | from: lea’s open concept pass-through dining room design agony – solved!

So what were some of the key factors that led us to this journey besides my husband’s health?

Both of our kids are now in their mid-twenties. One was eagerly ready to fly the nest and the other, we suspect, will be right behind her in another year or two. And…to be honest, homeownership is a LOT of work, especially when that falls on one person (me). We decided we didn’t need 3000 sq. ft. with a large yard anymore and instead opted to venture into our second phase of life. AKA life without children at home with less home, less maintenance (or none), more living, more travel, and more financial freedom. We are learning to get by without a car, or at least for now, to see how far we can go without feeling the need to buy one. We are also working on rebranding my styling business (more, really soon!) and begin to align ourselves with our dream of living part-time in Minneapolis and part-time in L.A.

With our move, I learned a TON; I learned I could plan and be as well organized as I wanted to but in the end, there would be outliers that I didn’t factor that dang near brought me to my knees. I learned we wouldn’t walk away with as much financially as I had anticipated due to poor planning in the past but let me be clear. To anyone who is the sole income earner in their household, trying to also run a business, put a kid or two through college, and be a full-time caregiver to a lifelong partner whose health is deteriorating more and more every year I SEE you. There have been many days/nights I have cried myself to sleep, and my family has witnessed me have a full mental breakdown because the weight is just entirely too heavy to bear alone. Yet, anyone who is close enough to know the vulnerable me knows I can go from full-blown meltdown to stone-faced back to business in 3.2 seconds. Is it healthy? No. I’m sure it’s a coping mechanism I learned from the childhood trauma of licking my own wounds. Recently, I heard a quote that read something like I didn’t grow up with role models, instead, I grew up with people I didn’t want to be like. That hit home big time for me. 

Moving on, I learned we don’t NEED a lot of things. Ha! I learned how to get rid of and let go of SO much STUFF. With our daughter moving into her first place, it was easy enough to split things like furnishings and kitchenware with her to get her going. My cousin and his wife had just purchased their first home so they came over and we loaded up most of the garage items such as the lawn mower, snowblower, tools, etc. You know, all of the things a new homeowner needs that they don’t know they need yet.

Some of my styling inventory went to one of the stylists on my team and copious amounts of things went to the thrift store. I think I counted 11 SUV truckloads. My daughter took all of the paint, oil, chemicals, etc. and brought them to a city drop-off site. What remained, I thought, was a piece of cake.

photo by sage e imagery | from: lea’s living room reveal: her pet and family-friendly open concept design agony solved

I called out to friends and family 60 days in advance for boxes, and yes ma’am, they came through! Having that off my task list, I ordered through Amazon packing tape, bubble wrap, newsprint, mattress protector bags, moving bags, and vacuum seal bags. And, of course, with Prime delivering straight to our doorstep that meant less running around for me to do. Additionally, I purchased 7 of these medium-sized bins to hold all of my books because if you’ve ever moved books before you know just how heavy they become and those cardboard moving boxes were not going to do the trick. If you are ever looking to move your coffee table hardcover book collection, this is the bin for you, it’s wide enough on the bottom to hold two stacks, which is also all you need because they get HEAVY. I also bought a couple of these large storage bins because paperbacks could fit easily in those. With picking up the bins, I utilized Target Drive Up which is another moving task/errand hack I love. Listen, I was coming prepared and would make this move the easiest ever! I hired professional movers (we used local Two Men and a Truck) to also make this move easier for me. If you’re an MN reader, I highly recommend them (we actually utilized 4 men and a truck and it was perfect for our household size. Also to get ahead of the game, we asked for a move-in date 2 weeks before our actual move-out/closing (on the house) date so that we could off-load things over there to make the logistical part of the move easier. Funny story! Our new place is in an old commercial building that was renovated for apartments. But when the previous business operated there, my parents both worked and met IN MY BUILDING waaaay back in the early 70s. Pretty cool, right?! Ok, back to the move. I arranged for our daughter to come pick Remi up so she could spend 2 nights with her big sis so that she would not feel the stress/anxiety of the move.

At this point, I’m feeling amazing and living my Project Manager era to the fullest!!!

Next, I lined up friends and family for a half day (aka Move Day Number 1) to move all of the packed boxes that mainly contained all of my fragile items, lamps, art, etc. things that I just couldn’t bear if the movers broke vs. myself breaking them. The other half of the day was bringing things to our storage unit that we would deal with another day because there was nothing we needed/used (mostly, boxes of family photos, things from my dad (who passed away 3 years ago, etc. you catch the drift). That means, all that was left to do was move the furniture and those heavy totes full of books. Move Day Number 2 came and went easy peasy and UNDER budget folks! Yes, I’ll take that win! Again, flying my Project Manager flag LOUD. The movers re-assembled our beds and moved all furniture and rugs into place. At this point, EVERYTHING was moved into the apartment and I was feeling great! I started unpacking everything and had our new place semi-put together in just a couple of hours. Our first night, and speaking of myself, I slept like a baby. Morning came and it was time to go back to the house to clean before the new homeowners took occupancy. Side note: Pack a tote of cleaning supplies and trash bags just for move-out day or better yet, hire a move-out clean with a cleaning service.

Ok…This, my friends, is where Lea lost her ish. This is what I didn’t foresee. While I was busy moving an entire household, I failed to check on my husband’s progress with clearing out the garage after all of the big stuff was off-loaded to my cousins and a few others. This is by far my fault, which likely made me more mad at myself but of course, in the moment I blamed him and probably went in extra, extra hard because you know, it’s the easy thing to do when you are STRESSED. Afterward, I called my realtor and completely bawled my eyes out (thank you, Kathy). 

The garage was full of loads and loads of 7+ years of miscellaneous ahem…THINGS. At this point, we had 2 hours to vacate. Our next-door neighbors turned lifelong friends heard my desperation or psychotic meltdown, whichever story you want to believe, and came and helped me take 11 lawn-sized trash bags out as well as other large left-over building material scraps, remnants of who knows what. We were out with 5 minutes to spare.

Whew! So that is how our move and process went. I hope you check in to hear how we came out on the other side of our move and how we’re adjusting to a smaller space, fewer rooms while still working from home. In the meantime, lucky for you I’ve put together a little checklist if you are planning a move of your own that you may find helpful (or at least I hope you do):

  • Schedule and hire a moving company if it fits your budget – it is so well worth the money spent, things included or to consider:
    • Upfront deposit to secure and confirm your move
    • They wrap all of your furniture with pads and wrap
    • They will crate things if needed and for a fee
    • They will pack all of your belongings (if needed and for a fee)
    • Moving dollies and moving blankets all included
    • They will disassemble your beds and reassemble at the new location
    • They will bag your mattresses (we provided our own bags)
    • They will move your TVs if they are boxed (you can purchase TV boxes through them)
    • Roll up and wrap large area rugs
    • Insured
    • Saves time, your back, and your sanity (all worth value)
    • Check for discounts through AAA memberships and the like
  • Submit your address changes and postal forwarding to your new address
    • Consider credit cards, transfer or stop utilities such as water, trash/recycling, electricity and gas, internet or cable services, and any subscription-based deliveries such as Chewy or Prime.
  • Make piles for donations and get them there 
  • Drop off leftover paint, oil, and chemicals at your city drop-off and recycling site
  • Arrange for friends/family to take what they need but it MUST go (do not hold onto for anyone to pick up “later”)
  • Sell what you want to and consider if you have the time to do so (such as through FBM)
  • Pack and sort room by room for thoroughness
    • Leave yourselves an overnight bag if applicable 
  • Plan to move valuables or precious items yourself and schedule time to do it outside of the “big move day”
  • Check-in with the household members to make sure everyone is tackling their responsibilities and make room/time for tasks that need help
  • Plan ahead and hire a cleaning service for a move-out clean and possibly even a move-in clean
    • Value = Time saver and Sanity saver (think of it as self-care)
    • Assemble and set aside a tote of cleaning supplies/ bags, brushes, vacuum, etc. if you plan to clean yourself
  • Arrange for pets and small children to stay somewhere else during the day or day(s) of the move (bonus if they can stay +1 more day) 
  • Source a home theater technician to re-install or mount TVs, speakers, etc.
  • Pack snacks and water and take breaks!
  • Order grocery delivery to at least get you through that first week after you’ve moved in
    • Consider pet supplies too
  • Final walk-through of move-out space to make sure nothing is left behind or forgotten
  • Order yourselves takeout or delivery dinner especially the day of the move.
    • Add disposable plates, utensils, napkins

I can’t wait to take you along the next steps of downsizing square footage and learning to live with less so that we can live life more.

Until next time!


Opening Image Credits: Photo by Sage E Imagery | From: Lea’s Living Room Reveal: Her Pet And Family-Friendly Open Concept Design Agony SOLVED

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3 days ago

Blessings to you in your new home! May it be filled with joyous memories you make and share! 🙂

One other item to add to your list of recommendations: different colored washi or duct tape to color-code your moving boxes. When I moved to my current home, I assigned each destination room (kitchen, living room, bedroom 1, bedroom 2, basement, etc.) a color, and I stuck tape on each packed box that coordinated with the room where it needed to go at my new home. Then I hung paper with the tape on the wall in the destination room. The movers said it was so helpful, and every box ended up where it was needed!

3 days ago
Reply to  Brie

The color coding is helpful as our unloaders (we had a company paid move) didn’t speak English! We found our glassware four days later in the bathroom haha!

3 days ago
Reply to  Brie

I did the color coding too when I moved in fall 2022, it was so helpful! Everything got where it needed to go.

Kim Malkiewicz
3 days ago

Thanks for taking us along on your moving journey. I was getting kind of stressed reading about it! I’m so looking forward to your new place and how the new arrangement will work for you. Hugs!

3 days ago

This is such a helpful and timely post. We’ll be “open nesting” by this time next year, too, and have been thinking (dreaming, even!) of doing the same, including renting rather than buying. THANK YOU for your insight and best wishes!

3 days ago

This is entirely in service of the person buying your house, but consider checking with your garbage company if they will let the new owner inherit your pails. In my township, you are charged a hefty $200 fee for a new garbage can which you are given when you start a new contract (I.e, when you move into a new house) BUT if you ask, the existing can can transfer to the new owner. Our seller did that for us and I thought it was incredibly considerate.

3 days ago

To the moving checklist I would add: make sure to update the address on record for your pet’s microchip, submit a change of address to the DMV for your driver’s license, and update your address on your bank checking account plus order a new set of checks with your new address. I also keep a Google sheet to track all the home improvements/renovations and regular maintenance we’ve done over the years plus the vendor and cost. I realize we won’t make every dollar back but it is such a useful record.

3 days ago

This is an INVALUABLE post! Thank you, thank you, Lea.
You were so wise to make your move while you still had the where with all to do it. My parents did not and I fear the same thing will happen to my husband and I if we don’t start serious preparations now. It really IS possible to find yourself trapped by stuff that you are no longer able to deal with. You’ve given us a great blueprint that we will be referring to in months/ years ahead.
Best wishes for happiness in your new home

3 days ago

Congratulations! What a huge (and beneficial) accomplishment. I’ve been working on purging decades of stuff in anticipation of a similar move, but without the ticking clock of a necessity I’m not getting very far. You have inspired me to keep going. I love your new place and I can’t wait to see what’s next.

3 days ago

Thank you for sharing with us — I hope your new home lets your creativity shine, and gives you all a fresh start to make new memories and traditions.

E E Deere
3 days ago

Lea, I am with you on this same journey. You are doing a magnificent job.
I have one additional resource to suggest: // This business provides used industrial/business/commercial sturdy boxes. You can order a kit of all the boxes usually used for different sized moves. The boxes and all the other accessories are shipped directly to you. This is fantastic, it ends the zillion trips to a big box hardware store or other to get supplies. I ordered one set for the size house I had, and then one additional batch of smallest size boxes to pack up many books.
I’d say books are the one thing you probably don’t want to pack in bigger boxes or totes. Too heavy!
Again, it’s hard to describe how massive this kind of relocation can be. Lea is doing the right thing for her family, and deserves our admiration.

3 days ago

With two kids entering their teen years, I love – and needed to hear!- your philosophy on “open nest” versus “empty nest”. Thank you! And I hope you and your husband thrive with this new life change you’re making!

3 days ago

I always love a post from Lea! Can’t wait to see what you do with that apartment. You are such an inspiration, in many ways.

3 days ago

lea, you are amazing! you do so much with grace. can’t wait til your next la visit – i want to hear more!!!

3 days ago

Lea, thank you for this timely post and all the organizational tips you have provided as well as the opportunity for readers to add more. We are older than you and “planning” to move but my husband seems to think we can find a new home in a new city and ready this one to sell in a week. We have lived here for 50 years and the attic and garage are full! I shared your article with my husband and hearing the logistics from someone else made more of an impression. Good luck to you and your family in your new home! Can’t wait to see what you do.

3 days ago
Reply to  kai

I’m rolling my eyes at your husband, dopplegang to mine.

3 days ago

Great advice. With regards to removing building supplies, etc ,when we have moved, I have always left spare paint in the garage for the new owners clearly labeled by room on the lid. It is helpful for future touch-ups, particularly if walls get scuffed during the move in.

3 days ago

These are the kinds of stories I come here for! Thank you, Lea, for sharing. All the best to you and your family in your new digs, and looking forward to hearing more about your downsizing adventures.

3 days ago

You’re a good person Lea. You’re definitely the role model for your own kids that you didn’t have.
Hope the next chapter is full of happiness and contentment, and much less stress. It’s what you deserve.

3 days ago

wow…you are carrying so much. Thank you for sharing in this beautifully written piece. Book marking this to share with friends when theyre planning for a move, as it’s an incredible resource.

3 days ago

First, you carry SO much of a load, I hope you have friends, family, to help you sometimes! And happy that you had great neighbors to help last minute (that would totally make me panic too!), and I hope you have another set of wonderful neighbors at your new place! Thank you for this super useful article about moving and I loved your previous home and I’m looking forward to seeing how you make this new place your own.

3 days ago

So much good information, thank you, you brave woman you, Lea. You’re my hero!

2 days ago

I really appreciate all theses tips and can’t wait to see how you’ve adjusted. I feel the need to pare down a lot, but I also have always felt the need to live where I could step into the backyard at any hour of the day or night and where I could feel dirt in my hands. But I want to be a person who could make the choices you have made if needed. Can’t wait to read more about your move, adjustments, and current life!

6 hours ago

It’s an obvious one, but really research moving company reviews, particularly if it is a long distance move. Horror stories abound. A small thing I do for people next to occupy my home is to leave them a gift card to one of my favorite restaurants within walking distance. I hope someone will do the same for me one day as being able to enjoy a dinner out after the stress of moving day is a nice respite.

P.S. If you ever want to skip past all the Kon Mari Method joy questions, pretend you’re going to move and decide what you’re not willing to pack and pay for being relocated. You’d be amazed at how fast the purge may happen.

44 minutes ago

I feel ya, Lea! My husband has MS and I completely understand the extra workload….it’s really comforting to hear of someone else dealing with the same.
I would LOVE a post about how to tackle design when you have a family member with mobility issues. Rugs are a trip hazard, so we avoid them. Chairs must be tall and sturdy to help him get up. Cute side tables are a thing of the past for us. We’ve become extreme minimalists just to keep things easy on maintenance and simple for him to navigate around but I feel like our house is being drained of personality. Help!

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