BY DEBRA KEEFER RAMAGE
Change without pain
Sometimes you know you need a change in your home environment. Kids have moved, your partner has passed away, or your marital status has changed. Your ability level may have changed, or you’re just tired of all the STUFF. You would move to another place for a fresh start but there can be reasons not to. Maybe your kids don’t want to change schools, or you love the neighborhood too much, or the market is not right. Here are some big-impact ideas for remodeling, decluttering, aging in place, reimagining spaces, and more to spark your ideas on what to do. See the streamlined list of resources at the end.
More of decluttering and Swedish Death Cleaning
Our previous No Place Like Home section (May 2023) was all about decluttering. I used less than half the resources I found, which shows what a hot topic it is. Decluttering is by far the least expensive change a person can make, and can even be income-positive. So here are more ideas:
• Have a schedule for when you get rid of things: used sponges and mops, expired foods, herbs and drugs, financial records, greeting cards, toothbrushes, etc.
• Start with things that are easy to part with. Surprisingly, these are often the larger things, like excess chairs or an old computer.
• Make a list of 15-minute tasks and work through it when you have time, items like “organize one closet,” “tackle the junk drawer,” “categorize your pantry,” “organize one category in your pantry,” or “collect a box of tech junk to recycle.”
• Once you have a box or two of things ready, but no time to take them where they need to go (or you’re not sure where to take them), put them in the trunk of your car.
• Don’t worry about how! A two-second google will get you scores of tips and tricks. If even that’s too much to absorb, search for local decluttering consultants.
• Ask for help. Family members might enjoy a day of going through things with you. A friend might be happy to take that problematic heirloom-with-no-heirs off your hands.
A subset of remodeling, which may or may not involve any installation or construction, is to swap rooms, repurpose or reimagine spaces. This can be less expensive than a remodel. Here are some basic ideas in this vein:
• Turn a former bedroom into a home office or vice versa. Or choose another type of room like a den for online gaming. This could be done with a dining room, mud room, or any room you don’t use that much.
• Turn an auxiliary bathroom into a laundry room. This can be an aging-in-place adaptation. Maybe you had kids, and they had their own full bath, and the laundry was in the basement. Swapping that out for a main floor laundry room saves you steps and also gives you new storage or other space in the basement. If it’s large enough, it can also serve for crafts, sewing or hobbies.
Kitchen remodels – the most popular refresh
The biggest change – and the biggest spend in many cases, short of buying a new home – is remodeling your kitchen. The main reasons people give for needing a remodel:
• Not enough or the wrong kind of storage space for food, tools and dishes.
• Appliances old or just wrong.
• Savings on water and electricity.
• Surfaces old, ugly, or hard to clean.
• Need more workspace on countertops.
• Inefficient traffic pattern.
As the biggest change, it has a hefty price tag. Replacing the refrigerator, stove and countertops alone can range from $2,000 to $20,000. Remodel the whole space and you’re looking at $25,000 to over $100,000. Big factors include whether you can do some of the work yourself, the quality of materials, and the state of pre-existing flooring, plumbing and wiring. Check rating services and get multiple bids to compare.
Bathroom additions and/or remodels – the second most popular
Also a big change, but pretty pricey if you hire professionals. Some remodelers specialize only in bathrooms, only kitchens, or both.
Disability and aging-in-place upgrades
The third most popular design upgrades involve accommodations for disability, aging, or new babies. All of these life states have special needs for safety and other reasons.
• Stairlifts on stairs, or the latest thing, compact elevators that can be installed almost anywhere.
• Ramps for outdoor steps, for wheelchairs or strollers.
• Childproofing the kitchen, the electrical outlets, and everything else that is accident-prone. Babycams, also useful for monitoring pets or frail elderly folks.
• Replacing an old bathtub with a walk-in bath or shower.
• Nifty new bidet attachments for toilets.
• Better lighting. More remote controls. Easier window latches. Easy-clean surfaces.
• Adapting beds and chairs for mobility issues.
Bringing the indoors out and vice versa
• Use your garden space for a play structure or obstacle course, and set up an indoor garden with grow-lights.
• Expand your dining space by building an outdoor kitchen and dining area on a covered patio.
• No room for a home office? Convert your garage to one, or add a new shed/office.
• Turn your front porch or an add-on at the back into a year-round conservatory.
ADUs and other radical choices
ADUs (accessory dwelling units) of all kinds are big right now, and tiny houses qualify. (Tiny houses are big, get it?) You can buy them ready to assemble, buy plans and guides, or hire the many contractors springing up that build tiny houses to order. Or, again, convert your garage, unless you need a garage for, like, a car.
Local and online resources
Here is a random list, by no means exhaustive, of advice, ratings, contractors and retailers to help you plan and execute your own projects:
Ratings – checkbook.org, angi.com (formerly Angie’s List).
Decluttering – caringtransitionstccentral.com (Caring Transitions), sharedplanethome.com (Shared Planet Organizing), cantheclutter.com
Can the Clutter), mindfullyminimized.com (Mindfully Minimized).
Remodeling – whitebirchdesignllc.com (White Birch), homecareincremodeling.com (Homecare), castlebri.com (Castle Building and Remodeling).
Kitchen counters – minneapolisgranite.com (Minneapolis Granite).
Tiny houses – jbhomeimprovers.com (J B Home Improvers), yardhomesmn.com (Yard Homes), gosun.co (GoSun, plans for DIY solar tiny trailer).