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6 Key Secrets to Downsizing and Storage – How to avoid the Mistakes I made

Storage Mistakes BestLivingTechI have a simple mission: Transformational Living. I want to improve quality of life through design, especially for seniors and their families. I believe that a home should be a place where great memories are created through company, comfort and conversation.

My name is Lisa Cini and I’m the author of Hive, The Simple Guide to Multigenerational Living, How Our Family Does It and speaker on the subjects of aging, interior design and technology for senior living. In performing my own social experiment for the last 3 years with 4 generations in my home, I set out to understand how we could all live and complement each other while providing the proper respect and boundaries. I completely underestimated the importance of storage and how we would manage it. I discovered very quickly that each generation has their own unique idea of what is public and what is private and this certainly held true in the area of storage and one’s possessions.

What do we do with all this stuff?

Understanding these differences can be really helpful particularly when everyone in the household has his/her own keepsakes which require a storage space that’s not only big enough for keeping all their stuff but is also safe enough for keeping all of those important memories that they never want to lose. According to Wikipedia “There is more than 2.35 billion square feet of self-storage in the U.S.,” that’s an area bit BIGGER than Cleveland, Ohio. Let’s face it, Americans love our stuff and hate getting rid of it so much that we will rent space just to keep things that we may not have used or looked at in years.

The Secrets I am going to revel to you will save you time and money. The investment is small compared to the pain not being able to find what you need, things getting lost, privacy lost or having to pay for a storage unit and dealing with it months later if at all. Storing things that you probably didn’t even want anymore or need. Dealing with this head on makes complete sense, don’t you agree?

If you’re thinking of doing a multi-generational living arrangement or just general downsizing is what you’ve been considering to do for yourself or a loved one, I am going to suggest some of the key secrets that I wished someone had suggested to me. They are very easy to do and will definitely save you complications in the future.

Drum Roll Please….

DO Carefully plan each one’s storage space in advance and assign a separate location for each person / family. This will prevent everything from getting mixed up.

DO be willing to hire professional help. When the space is not enough, here’s what you can do – think of yourself as a better organizer than me! It will also help if you know yourself and the other people in your family mix. I admit that when it comes to storing things, we’re not particularly good at it. My solution? I simply hired an organizer to take care of my own stuff, which has been very helpful. I think everyone else, Mom, Dad, and Grandma, should have hired her as well. She used shelving to take advantage of vertical space that we were not using and organized in bins and labeled everything. *see bottom for links and associations

DO go to Staples, Target or Wal-Mart and purchase bins of different colors for every person, kid or family (each person should get a different color). If only I did this, my level of frustration would have dropped enormously. Here’s some tips: First, find bins that have tops which can snap in and which have a handle on each side to make them more handy. Second, avoid getting those bins that are either big or really big. If you can choose between a really big bin and two smaller-sized ones, choose the two smaller-sized bins. It is definitely a whole lot easier to maneuver smaller bins than carrying larger ones. The weight is also less.

DO Organize garage sales and/or call a charity office and schedule for a pick-up. Usually, there is a local Veterans group, Salvation Army or a charity office of your choice that will pick up your stuff. We didn’t do this. And you know what? When we moved, we still haven’t done it. At present, I am going through the pain of sorting everything into Trash, Give Away, Keep and Sell. And let me tell you, I wish I would have done all this prior to moving!

If you’re comfortable with it, DO EBay|Craigslist|Facebook: The older generations in my family feel nervous about receiving people in the house while they look around. “I think they want to tie us up and then rob us.” “what if they are staking out the home.” It’s amazing to me that my mother has no issue at all with a garage sale though. My generation, as well as the kids are different. We don’t want to be tied down all day Friday and Saturday with a garage sale and all the prep work. It’s much easier to sell online and if your uncomfortable with them coming to your house you can meet them at Starbucks ?. If this is something that you can consider, then you should absolutely sell your stuff on these sites.

DO put everyone’s items in a spot that is very accessible and easy for them to reach for and get to on their own. What we did was we simply placed their stuff in random spots when they moved in as opposed to putting them in strategic places. Moreover, we made the bad move of placing their stuff in our garage attic, which is detached. Now, they need to go outside and look through their things at a place that is not convenient and has weather challenges. This was not a smart decision. Perhaps things would have been better if we hired an interior designer who could have helped us with a bit of space planning. Ha…. yeah, it’s funny we didn’t know someone (for those that missed my intro, I’m a designer) ?

Moving and packing are a pain, right? It’s kind of one of those universal truths like gravity and we that need oxygen to breath. I see it as an emotional and arduous process to do as I am sure you do. However, there are certain things that you can do to make the task a little bit easier and the BEST part is the wonderful feeling you have after the pain of moving and packing is over, the PEACE that comes over you when you are organized and rid of stuff that was just taking up space.

Sorting through, and deciding to discard these things that were earned by someone can lead to some level of resistance and rightly so. Moreover, things can get even harder if these items have good memories anchored to them. It can be seen as devaluing ones’ life and memories so please discuss these treasures and other possessions with a lot of care and respect. It is best to schedule an ideal time to sort things out and come up with a decision. PLEASE do not try to do this when you’re tired or rushed.

If you’re willing to humor me for a moment, image we jumped into a time machine to the future a year from now, imagine how great you feel that you are not burdened with trying to figure out when you’re going to get rid of the storage unit or where the holiday decorations are. You can easily get to what you need and your personal storage is organized, secure and safe.   I want you to learn from my pain, and not have to suffer. Isn’t that what friends and family’s do for each other? Point out where the potholes of life are so you can avoid them.  Now go and organize.

I would love to continue this journey of Embracing Living together and need your support. I promise to give you the honest, best insights I can as I live in learn in my multigenerational experiment and all the best insights in senior living design. All I ask is that we do this together.


Warmest Regards,

P.S. Please follow me at:

Products to help you Embrace Aging

Lisa’s New Book: Hive The Simple Guide To Multigenerational Living, How Our Family Makes It Work

click below to for book:


Other Helpful Links National Association of Senior Move Managers  National Association of Professional Organizers


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Lisa Cini

Lisa M. Cini is the Founder, President and CEO of Mosaic Design Studio. A global commercial design, project management and procurement company, Mosaic’s mission is to "Improve Quality of Life By Design." Lisa is regarded as the leading Alzheimer's and long-term care design expert in the nation, and has been recognized for her contributions in the field. Lisa is most gratified by helping people who are struggling with Alzheimer’s, find ways to cope as individuals, as families, and as communities.

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