The dilemma of layoffs: how to deal with a lifetime of property


When Mally Skok was about to downsize from her 25-year home in Massachusetts, she took stock of her possessions. Should she keep the African basket or the dressing table with ceramic floral decorations? How to deal with party dresses and game suits in the closet, or yellowed files reported by the school? For Skok, a textile designer with minimalist tendencies, decisions need to be made about what to keep and what to give up.

In order to “organize” her belongings, Skok hired an expert. In the United States, downsizing—or the less likable “advanced mover”—is an industry where professionals spend money to screen property. “Her task is to figure out what is important and find a home for the things that are not needed. Nowadays, we are all more concerned about where our property ends up,” Skok said.

Excess bedding goes to the homeless shelter, and future heirlooms are stored. The auctioneer had “eyes gleaming” as he evaluated silverware and brown furniture. Significant objects-amateur watercolor paintings, “talking about vacation” baskets-were designated for her new home. “Nothing was lost,” Skok said.

Caroline Hartley (Caroline Hartley) said that carefully planned downsizing is also popular in the UK. Moving her mother away from her home where she had lived for 35 years, and the ensuing “decision and logistical pressure” made Hartley, a former Sotheby’s porcelain expert, believe that there is a niche market for the home sorting business.

Hartley’s clients include descendants of mansions that moved from castles to villas, elderly parents who are “overburdened by cute things” by professionals who are short of time, or empty nesters who can afford 45 pounds an hour. Since last year, the volume of inquiries has increased by 50%.

When Mally Skok moved from her home where she had lived for 25 years to her new home in Cape Cod, she asked an expert to organize her belongings: “Nothing was thrown away,” she said © Sarah Winchester

© Sarah Winchester

Through connections with charities, auction houses and design departments, Hartley’s company Good Sorts relocated everything from the City suit wardrobe given to the unemployed youth charity Suited and Booted to the retro-themed “twiddly tea set”. “The caterers use Instagram. A tower of decorative magazines in the 1960s was assigned to a design writer.

Don’t confuse lifelong property distillation with Kondo Marie-style cleaning. “Cleaning makes people think that property is toxic. I prefer to think of them as accumulation of a fulfilling life,” Hartley said. Compare it, if possible, reduce the scale to hold an exhibition of your life: “Ask yourself, what do you put in it. What do you love? What is your background?”

Focusing on the future, we encourage customers to annotate old photos and keep the antiques that resonate: Opera tickets or grandma’s black grill pan exudes the smell of Sunday barbecue. “Don’t be too clinical,” Hartley said, and she attributed her interest in other people’s lives to her father.

Caroline Hartley, who runs Good Sorts, can help you decide what meaningful items to keep, such as a letter file or a set of Spode Blue Italian porcelain, and what to sell © Caroline Hartley

Max Henry “Fredy” Fisher was a Jewish immigrant from Germany and served as the editor of this newspaper from 1973 to 1980. [about] Chairman of the Federal Reserve. When I complained about my A-level history, he was happy to remind me that history is about people. “

Antique dealer Val Foster also resisted the temptation of “relentless” when replacing the 6,000-square-foot Regency farmhouse with a compact 1930s cottage in Oxfordshire. “We have much less storage now, but I keep some precious porcelain. It is delivered directly to the garage in a labeled box. Now I will pick some odds and ends, such as an evocative 19th century French jug. Using things is a reminder of past lives.”

But she used the intimidating forensic approach to the furniture: “I photographed every piece of furniture and artwork in our farmhouse. Then I sorted them into the room list of the new house. It sounds laborious, but this It means I can understand the appearance of each room and remember how different the proportions are.”

Then, each item is labeled and color coded by its destination room to help porters. Next, she carefully checked her paintings: “I chose those works that encourage you to come closer and take a closer look.” The rest were sent to her antique shop Foster & Gane, “But now there is no trace of sadness.”

Foster and her retired doctor husband joined the wave of homeowners downsizing during the pandemic. Nina Coulter, Savills residential development sales director, said the rush to meet the June stamp duty deadline is an obvious incentive. “But there are other reasons. When the children start to move out, the big house loses its appeal. Some people move closer to their families or return to the place where they grew up.”

Wall Foster's home in Oxfordshire

Val Foster replaced the 6,000 square foot farmhouse with a compact cottage in Oxfordshire (pictured), where she kept some of her favorite items, and the rest will be sold in her antique shop © Harry Lawlor

© Harry Lawler

Kurt pointed out that there has been an increase in rural residents in their 60s buying new apartments in London. “After the second jab, we saw a lot of viewing,” Kurt said, referring specifically to Marylebone, Fitzrovia, the former BBC television centre in West London, or the shiny concierge on the South Bank. The staff triptych (the one-bedroom apartment there) starts at £945,000) as a shrinking hot spot.

“Covid also played a role. It focused people’s attention on the important things: having experienced the responsibility of a big house. Some people just want a simpler life,” Kurt said.

Woodforde Scott’s project manager and chartered surveyor, Tom Scott, pointed out another reason: “Unaffordable house prices mean that first-time home buyers are increasingly relying on the financial help of their parents. As a result, more and more homeowners are downsizing. Release assets.” (Savills estimates that homeowners over 65 have a total value of £175 million and have a debt of only £145 billion.)

Mally Skok offers another point of view: “As our parents live longer, we have to help them move—to a smaller place or nursing home—our attention is focused on how much it takes to downsize. You It takes time and energy to do this correctly and resist throwing things into black bags. You may regret it later. I think this makes people think about downsizing earlier.”

Thomas Jenner-Fust, auctioneer at Chorleys in Gloucestershire, agrees. “Three Ds: Death, debt, and divorce used to be the three reasons people hire appraisers. Now it is likely to be downscaling. Fewer and fewer people are ending their lives in large houses surrounded by ancestral debris. .. For many people, downsizing is closing a chapter in their lives and opening a new chapter,” he said.

He recently auctioned 500 items-from portraits of Hockney to a large number of embroidered Indian coats-belonging to Sir Roy Strong, the former curator of the Victoria and Albert Museum, who is leaving him in Hereford The county has a 23-room house Lasketts.

The embroidered Indian jacket sold by Roy Strong, former curator of the Victoria and Albert Museum, when he left his 23-room house in Herefordshire

The change in decoration space is good news for small tenants who need to sell extra furniture. “We have noticed the return of antiques, especially among young buyers,” said Jenner-Fust, who pays close attention to design trends on social media. The price may not be the “sky price”, but the price that was difficult to change ten years ago has now reached the “reasonable price”.

The brown furniture that was once ridiculed has gained new followers among rural homeowners, who will dress up the parsonage and dowry houses acquired during the exile from town to village triggered by Covid.

Jenner-Fust says there are also shrinkers who “have a short-lived rusty and dusty day-to-day life” that might find the obsession lurking in the attic. The initials of the suitcase, the Constance Spry-style urn or the old-fashioned patterned dinner service resonated with the nostalgic and retro-loving millennials. The relics of one generation become the collections of the next generation.

This is the point of mindfulness movement. Hartley said that downsizing, along with the bittersweet emotions of regret and relief, is never straightforward, “but if you can keep the important things and find a compassionate new owner for the rest, things It will become much easier.” As one client said to her: “You have to deal with not only objects, but also the structure of your life.”

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