Expert Advice: Shane Meder

Going from jumbo to cozy is a chance to clean house

Illustration by Matthew Hollister

Shane Meder understands the challenges of downsizing, because he just did it. “I was done with my big-house living and ready for a new way to live,” the interior designer says. Going from his “tricked-out” home—complete with in-house theater and gym—to a Buckhead condo, Meder had to pare down decades of acquired furnishings.
Now he helps clients adjust to empty-nester status or just a smaller domicile. “I tell people that it was a different chapter when you lived in a five-bedroom house, and now it’s time for a new chapter in life,” Meder says. People are often happier with fewer things and a cozier space, he adds. “Most people enjoy actually watching TV together in the one family room instead of everyone spread out all over a three-story house.”
The designer’s advice for living with less:

1. Start with the small stuff. “Begin with a collection, like your collection of candlesticks, and just pick a few favorites, then box everything else up,” Meder advises. All the wedding china doesn’t need to be displayed, and almost everyone puts out too many picture frames. “Your daughter is now thirty-five, so do you really need eight photos of her when she was in kindergarten on the piano?”

2. Throw out old decorating ideas. “When you say, ‘I can’t put those lamps in the bedroom because those are my living room lamps,’ you’ve become your mother.”

3. Get outside help. When dividing up furnishings among grown children, sometimes it’s helpful to hire an outsider to be a mediator. Similarly, there are companies that hold estate sales or arrange for donation of unwanted items.

4. Streamline holiday decorating. Go through seasonal decorations and keep only the handmade or truly distinctive items. Give away all the department store Santas, balls, and garlands.

5. Enjoy knowing your donations will be used by someone else. One client donated furnishings to a women’s shelter and ended up getting involved with it. “Sometimes, giving away things leads to a larger purpose,” Meder says.

This article originally appeared in our November 2010 issue.