'Downsize' Shows You How to Think Big When Living Small

That's my blurb on the bottom left!. (Photo: 'Downsize'/Taunton Press)

In 1907, humorist Gelett Burgess wrote some self-congratulatory comments on the jacket of his new book, purportedly written by a Miss Belinda Blurb. Burgess noted "On the 'jacket' of the 'latest' fiction, we find the blurb; abounding in agile adjectives and adverbs, attesting that this book is the 'sensation of the year.'"

And so the blurb was born, and it became a standard on the back cover of most books.

After writing a few reviews of Sheri Koones' books on TreeHugger (Catie Leary wrote one on MNN) I was asked to write a blurb for her latest book, "Downsize," about a subject we have covered often on MNN. They only used one paragraph, but since I thought it was all blurb-worthy, I'm sharing it here.

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The most important words in Sheri Koones' new book, "Downsize," are her own about downsizing: "in retrospect, I wish we'd made the move years before."

In America today, there are many tens of millions of baby boomers who say they want to "age in place" with all their rooms and their stuff and their maintenance, but Sheri shows page after page of small, flexible homes based on universal design principles where you really can stay as long as you want. Many are Passive house designs, so they will be cheap to operate and always comfortable. I suspect there will be many who will look at these homes and be surprised, thinking, "I could live in that!"

However, downsizing is more than just finding or building a new home; it's a longer process. Sheri has a lot of smart advice about that, the best being, just let it go. "By the time we made the move, we had gotten rid of 90% of everything we had in our house. (People always ask us if we miss any of these things — it's a very definite no.)"

Like all of Sheri's books, there's a logic and consistency to every page. You get a great description, gorgeous photos, plans, lists of features (downsizing and green in this one) and some interesting and useful tidbit of information in a grey box.

These are not "old people's homes." In my favorite, Tessa Smith's Madison Passive, the biggest room in the house is for bike storage. These are homes for active, thoughtful people; homes where they can do the things they want and care about, and everything else is superfluous. It's a good way to think about life as well as about design.

So many people today are rattling around in more space than they need, with more stuff that they can ever use. So many of them will try and stay too long, when the move is too hard, and when all that stuff will end up on the street. The time to downsize is when you still can, and the time to read Sheri's book is right now.