BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
“Decide how you really want to live. Picture a routine day in your ‘new life’ and stick to that plan.
Anthony Michael recently moved from a three-story townhouse to a Lake Shore Drive high-rise. The adroit interior designer found out first hand how downsizing can give you a new way to love life. He shared with us effective solutions to the quandary: “What will I do with all this stuff?”
Anthony’s historic 1880s townhouse in Chicago measured 4,500 square feet and featured a yard and a garage. His new condominium offers sweeping views of the lake, valet parking, a doorman, and a pool. It totals 1,600 square feet, but Anthony is feeling free as a bird. His message: Don’t look back!
How difficult was downsizing?
It was not difficult to prioritize. I was tired of living with things that I no longer used, and I had far too many possessions that had followed me around throughout the years. I decided early on that the look and feel of the new place was going to be much more contemporary and clean lined with less clutter. I started pulling out from the old only those things that had special meaning to me; ones that make he happy.
Did you decide to sell many family pieces? That is often a guilt trip.
Basically everything I owned went to auction, including china, antiques, crystal, paintings, and the like, along with vintage clothing and jewelry.
What advantages have you found in downsizing?
Although stressful at times, the entire process became very freeing and was cathartic in the long run. I let go of the past and embraced this new chapter. I feel an emotional but also as though my material burden has been lifted. I no longer feel a prisoner to my possessions and family heirlooms, or anything with negative associations. I only culled out pieces that bring back positive memories or make me happy when I look at them.
I am a single man in my mid-50s with a small dog—I do not need the burden and upkeep of so much space. I have also had a hip replacement, and it is very nice to take an elevator to my floor and have everything on one level within my condo.
The doorman or I walk my tiny dog, Lola, and she has loved the adjustment. She knows the way to the elevator and down the hall to the service entrance. I think we both enjoy our daily walks down my block of Lake Shore Drive and past the Drake Hotel.
I have heard that the only things selling are mid-century modern pieces, not antiques. Did you find that to be true?
No, I had great luck and a few surprises about what sold, as well as what people were willing to pay for certain things. I had many antiques in my previous residence, and my new place is very contemporary.
With very little exception, everything sold. You have to realize early on that you are going to take a loss on certain items but profit financially on other things.
How would you advise people who must downsize to get going?
Again, decide how you really want to live. I feel refreshed and energized. I can picture myself living quite comfortably in this environment as I get older. I feel a new freedom and mobility. I do not have the maintenance of a freestanding home, and I know that everything is secure and watched over. It is a real turn-key operation, and that is enviable as I age.
Do you have any regrets about what you gave away or sold?
I have zero regrets. Things that I have really enjoyed, but no longer used, are now gracing the homes of other people who will appreciate them. It makes me happy to think of someone using my antique porcelain dessert service to entertain, rather than collecting dust in my pantry.
A few pieces went to my staff, who always admired them. It makes me glad that they will continue to be used in newfound ways.
Would it be a good idea for those reluctant to downsize to photograph what they might let go?
Every single item was photographed and catalogued for auction purposes, and my previous home had been professionally photographed for publication, so I can always look back and see how I used to live.
Tell us about the logistics.
Almost everything in the high-rise is new and was ordered in one fell swoop! As a team of movers was packing up the old home, a second set of movers was installing and uncrating pieces at the new place. It was executed with near military precision, and I felt like I was my own interior design client for the first time in my life.
I no longer had a home comprised of beautiful ‘cast offs’ from other design projects or family. I felt very blessed—it was truly like a television show where the new homeowner gets ‘the big reveal’ on installation day!
Why is re-nesting good for us all?
The entire process went better than anticipated. Admittedly, I was a little sad and nostalgic at first, but now I am feeling younger, in a way. I am optimistic and loving my new lifestyle. It seems ‘big city’ and streamlined. I feel refreshed creatively, and I am boldly embracing this next chapter that my re-nesting has opened up.
Thank you, Anthony, for daring us to downsize and showing us how to turn the page to the next chapter.