Some things you will never regret getting rid of when you’re decluttering, downsizing or throwing out stuff for whatever reason. Clothes that are far too big or far too small, broken appliances that you’re going to fix one day when you get around to it, that collection of old yoghurt pottles that might come in handy one day (you never know!!)… All these can be tossed without hesitation. However, there are some things that you may be tempted to get rid of that you will probably regret parting with – and I don’t mean photo albums, your children’s artwork or the outfit you keep for weddings and other special occasions.
According to decorator Lauri Ward, some items of furniture are absolute musts to keep when moving house or downsizing (these ideas plus many others are outlined in her excellent decorating book Downsizing your Home with Style, published in 2007 by Collins).
The first item(s) on the list are one sofa and two armchairs that go with it. What if you’re downsizing and have to choose between two sofas? Follow your heart and take your favourite, but if you still can’t decide, let the space of your new room be the decider. Still no way to choose between them? Get rid of the tattiest one that has frayed arms and/or coffee stains. If all else fails, toss a coin! However, if you do a lot of entertaining and regularly have both sofas filled with people (e.g. you have the guys over for poker/movies every Friday, or your home seems to be the drop-in place for the teenagers in your neighbourhood), it may be wise to keep both. But never be without a sofa – not only is it a place to sit and relax (and sort laundry), it can also make emergency bedding.
Armless dining chairs are the second item on the list. These aren’t just for going around your table. You can also keep these in the bedroom, beside the telephone and in the home office. Sturdy ones can also be used as substitute stepladders for reaching high cupboards, and small children can play “riding horses” on them (facing backwards, but excessive rocking can be disastrous) on rainy afternoons.
Things with closed storage also rate highly on Lauri’s list. A “closed storage” item is anything that contains cupboards or drawers. It also includes trunks, which can double as coffee tables. “Even if…you don’t really like [it], don’t throw it out,” says Lauri. “You m ay be able to use it in a closet or put it in the garage.” One caveat does need to be mentioned here. This writer’s Depression-era grandmother never met a set of drawers or cupboards she didn’t like and kept closed storage to excess – including a set of school lockers (32 lockers in total) salvaged when a school was renovating, at least seven chests of drawers, a vintage cocktail cabinet and a divan that was hollowed out for storage. All this in a house that had more than ample cupboard space. So while keeping closed storage is usually a wise idea, don’t go overboard.
Mirrors are one of the smaller items on Lauri’s list. Mirrors, as Shirley Conran of Superwoman fame pointed out, are not just for checking your makeup in. Mirrors are excellent for making small rooms look larger, even though this is an optical illusion, and they reflect light. Wall to wall full length mirrors like in a boutique changing room – or a funfair – might be a bit over-the-top, but a few strategically placed mirrors work wonders.
Nesting tables also come highly recommended, as they can store away easily when you don’t need them, then be pulled out for use when entertaining.
Bookcases aren’t just for books. Deep ones can be used to store stereos and even office files. They can also be used to display collections, store dry goods (e.g. jams, tins, storage containers of flour and pasta), store CDs, DVDs, cassettes and the like, and to display photo frames or artworks.