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My Year of De-cluttering, Styling, Selling, Downsizing, Moving and Renovating -
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My Year of De-cluttering, Styling, Selling, Downsizing, Moving and Renovating

My Year of De-cluttering, Styling, Selling, Downsizing, Moving and Renovating

Holy Cow what a year I have had! I finally feel ready to share how this whole saga went down. As many of you know, Graham and I decided the time was right to downsize. Not just to reduce our house size, but also the size of our debt, our overhead – our whole operation. We sat down one day and realized there was way more to life than what we were doing. We were almost completely submerged in maintaining our house, managing complex work situations, coping with our (great but let’s face it still a lot of work) children and, most of all, our larger than life debt load. I was in a chronic state of stress. (Graham is always just below decks rowing – so he never worries.)

Anyway, clearly the time was right to make big changes; starting with putting our house up for sale. But that meant a massive de-cluttering exercise; no mean feat for couple of hunter-gatherer-‘collectors’. We boxed up anything not needed for survival, or that did not look cool, and took it over to my parent’s house for temporary storage. We styled our house as best as we could considering that we were still living there. We sold. We bought. We cried. Why? Because this was a huge step for us – leaving behind the home where we raised our family. We had lived in that house for 20 years. We renovated every single room except one bathroom. Leaving home was hard. Our daughter Paisley, the filmmaker, took pictures of everything the day we left. Even Graham was choked.

The duplex we bought hadn’t been updated since it was built in the early 80’s. It had all the earmarks of its era; from the cheesy, sculpted wood panel kitchen cabinets, the orange peel ceilings, to the rinky dink stained glass doors right down to the colonial spindles on the banister. For most people this would be daunting but it was exactly what we were looking for. The last thing we wanted was to pay for somebody else’s taste in ‘updating’. But even though we could visualize the possibilities, moving into the reality was a bit hard to stomach. The reno is well underway and while not quite finished I want to share some thoughts with you. The complete reveal is soon to follow.

Kitchen ‘Before’

Kitchen Before

Before: Looking towards the garden

Before: Stair bannister, spraytex ceiling, mustard coloured walls


Downsizing: How did we deal with moving from 3200 sf worth of stuff to 1800 sf? 

As Graham put it; we are dealing with 5 people’s possessions x 20 years, equaling 100 person-years of stuff. Scary proposition.

The easy stuff:

The easiest problem to deal with was our furniture. We decided what we loved and wanted, or needed to keep, and what we could live without. We kept enough to furnish 3 bedrooms and gave away or sold the rest. We didn’t love our bedroom furniture and knew we’d upgrade in the future but have to sleep on something in the new place. We sold our extra couches, tables, chairs, and anything else that would not fit in the new place. Shedding the big pieces is satisfying because as they exit you realize you won’t have to move or manage them ever again – making you feel lighter as each unloved piece departs.

A Keeper: Our Eames Recliner

All the money we made from selling went into a special back account so we could replace items we needed. We had a large dining room with a huge table that we knew would not fit into our new home so a new dining room table topped our list. A new living room couch was also in our sites.

We said goodbye to our large dining room table and our sideboards.

Extra towels, bedding and clothes went to the women’s shelter. I told one of my daughters if she had a garage sale she could keep the proceeds. She did this and made $600.  This felt good because we were not just dumping and running.


The Tough Stuff:

The meaningful stuff! Going through old pictures, scrapbooks, baby clothes, kids’ artwork, etc. Photographed what I was willing to part with and kept the rest to go through later. Not a great strategy but it was all I could do at this time. As Graham says – Why does something your grade three child produces in 5 minutes have to be stored for a lifetime of guilt?

Graham’s journals full of designs, drawings and thoughts were harder to part with so they came with us for now.



It was a dark and stormy night – no seriously we really did move during a huge rainstorm (the vestiges of an actual Super Typhoon Songda), went through 3 different moving companies (one group showed up drunk. the second group attempted to Shang Hai our truckload of stuff) dragging on for 2 days while moving into a chaotic renovation. It was pretty much a nightmare from start to finish. We had access to the upper floor of our new house, a storage locker and a garage for all our collective stuff. We decided just to paint the peach coloured walls (but not renovate) on the top floor of the new place because we had to live there while finishing the reno of the other floors. So we moved a bed, a couch and a TV into this attic plus many boxes labelled ‘important’.  It was crowded, a bit chaotic, but surprisingly comfortable. The kids were away at school so it was just Graham and I living in the attic. We were so grateful that our old basement sectional couch did not sell because it made our little Garret so comfortable.

Our Books and Architectural Chachkas came with us.

More of our cool stuff that we couldn’t possibly leave behind.

Our collection of KLM Canal Houses





We gutted and updated the kitchen and bathrooms, removed the spraytex (popcorn) ceilings on the main and second floors, replaced the French doors and generally modernized the hell out of the whole place.Fake heritage doors and flimsily slatted bi-folds were replaced with simple single panel swing doors. We squeezed utility and teased elegance out of every square inch of that unit. I managed finagle a walk-in closet out of nothing by optimizing the existing conventional closet + bedroom while drop kicking the redundant en suite access door.   Another good idea was to change the window seat bay windows into fully walkable bays – yielding crucial space back to our use.

The kitchen is now planned within an inch of its’ life with deceptively simple lines that I worked and re-worked using IKEA cabinets.


We learned to live with our carpenters equipment for months.

After: Installing the Ikea kitchen

Before: Master bedroom bay window

After: Removed the window seat and continued the floor.

Two other key elements; installing in a gas fireplace – which took an act of parliament to arrange and opening the ground level living room onto the garden with full-width Eclipse doors. The fireplace added warmth at the click of a remote and the new doors visually expand the room to create a feeling of space that goes way beyond the walls of this modestly sized duplex. Short of mirroring the back wall we used every trick in the book. We can’t wait until Spring to enjoy our new British California alfresco lifestyle.

Our ‘Vision’ Indoor-Outdoor living.

Coming up: Where we saved and where we splurged.

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