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Downsizing: The temporary fix


© St. Petersburg Times, published January 30, 2001

It has been more than five years now since my wife and I downsized, moving into a condo with less than half the space we had occupied in our home of 20 years. For the most part, we have been satisfied with our smaller quarters, but we continue to miss the extra bedrooms and, especially, the garage. Things we don't miss (at least I don't), are yard work and swimming pool maintenance.

Nevertheless, after about four years in our smaller digs, we found ourselves casting glances at "for sale" signs when they were posted at somewhat larger units. We even made occasional visits to homes where open house signs were posted.

At one point, we found ourselves seriously considering making an offer on a townhouse that would have provided us with three bedrooms, a garage and a glass-enclosed porch.

But about 48 hours after our initial excitement over the prospect of once again having a guest bedroom and a computer room, we came down to Earth. We were on the verge of getting back to a situation very similar to what we had down-sized from! Once we realized that, it was back to reality and convincing ourselves -- with considerable ease, I might add -- that we really liked where and in what we were living, even if it has limitations.

Then we began seriously considering a project that we had looked at with some interest two or three years ago, then dropped. We have, in addition to our regular living space, what we refer to as a screened porch, although some prefer to use the term lanai. Although we found it an attractive feature of the property at the time of purchase, we seldom use it. Our principal excuse is that it is either too hot or too cold.

The project we had briefly considered was to have the porch/lanai enclosed, with the floor level raised to that of the living room and bedroom. Three sets of sliding-glass doors provide access to the porch from those two rooms, and with the floor leveled, we will have a significant increase in our usable living space.

This won't give us an extra bedroom, but the opportunity to include a futon as part of the furnishings for this new room is at least a step in that direction. Plus we will find ourselves in a position to spread out a bit.

This, in turn, will give my wife a chance to engage in one of her favorite pastimes -- moving furniture. There have been few options for her up until now, but this "extra room" -- its floor at the same level as the living room and bedroom -- will give her new freedom when she feels called to move a couch, chair or table.

We rid ourselves of a lot of furniture, books and doo-dads when we down-sized. But it is amazing, if not disconcerting, how we have begun to rebuild our collection of things.

Now, as we begin planning to use our newly available space, may be a good time to take stock again and do more downsizing. We will have that extra room, but there still is no garage. Those of you who have one know what you value it for most, and it's not necessarily automobile storage.

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- You can write to Jay Horning c/o Seniority, the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Or send e-mail to

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