The story of my book: Downsize With Style

A few years ago I came across Steve Jobs' 2005 Stanford Commencement speech. I couldn’t help but keep on listening as he inspired the students to never give up looking for what they really want to do in their lives. He encouraged them to keep searching until they have found what they love to do. He said that when you do this, eventually the ‘dots will connect’.

I could so much relate to this after I had moved to Australia in 2008.

I was born and raised in Germany. After finishing high school I tried to figure out what I would like to do in my life. I loved art and decorating and to surround myself with beautiful things. There was a time when I was looking into studying interior architecture but as nobody really encouraged me to pursue this career I decided to take the ‘safe’ way and instead studied business administration. This led me into a career in public relations where I worked for sixteen years. Life was pretty good.

Then my mother passed away with cancer at the age of 57. I was in my early thirties and reflected on her life. She had often told me that due to circumstances, when she’d left school she’d ended up doing something she didn’t particularly like. And then she had to leave this world too early! This made me think about my life so far and if I was really doing something I wanted to do. And when my husband got an offer to start a new job in Sydney, I agreed to take this first step into a new chapter of our life, without knowing exactly where I would end. I left everything behind that meant something to me – my family, my friends, my career and our beautifully renovated house.

I decided to be open to the opportunities that come with such a change and this decision changed my life completely. On moving to Australia I rediscovered my love for colour and interiors and decided to follow my passion. I enrolled at art and design schools and after graduating, I worked in a furniture store for a year before downsizing from the corporate world to run my own interior styling business.

I was starting from scratch at the age of 46, with no previous experience in the industry. Luckily, I soon realised I could capitalise on all my assets from my previous professional life – project management, organisation, leadership and editorial skills – and combine them with my passion for colour and interiors. I was ‘connecting the dots’, so to speak.

downsize_with_style_floorplan Floor plan Illustration: Joaquín Gonzalez Dorao

The idea for my book was born when I read about the major physical changes Australian cities are going through. More and more people prefer an urban lifestyle close to amenities. They choose to live in low maintenance apartments rather than big houses for various reasons – simplifying their lifestyle, saving money on furnishings, appliances and energy, gaining more time for travelling and hobbies or, like me, downsizing to start a new chapter of their life.

I researched the book market and found that there were no practical guides or ‘how to’ books for empty nesters to manage their downsizing project, or to create a stylish and functional home in a smaller space. So, I started writing and within six months had self-published Downsize With Style.

One of the important parts of my book is that while researching I found that downsizing is often associated with negative feelings and emotions. With Downsize With Style I want to encourage empty nesters to see it differently, to live with an attitude of gratitude, and to be open to the change and the opportunities that come with it.

Bettina Deda is an interior stylist, colour consultant, author & speaker, based in Sydney. You can find her here.