It is estimated that we only use 20% of our possessions 80% of the time. You would think that based on those numbers, the idea of moving from a larger home to a smaller space would be a simple task. For many, though, nothing could be further from the truth.
Enter Jane Veldhoven. The Halifax-based professional organizer and certified interior decorator returns for a third season of The Big Downsize.
The five-part television documentary series on VisionTV follows two Nova Scotia households over several weeks, chronicling their downsizing process from beginning to end.
Chosen as part of a casting call by Halifax-based producers Tell Tale Productions, Veldhoven says to make good television they are on the lookout for engaging people with a different story to tell.
She says they found them in this year’s subjects as she helps an artist move from a 3000-square-foot Victorian house in Lunenburg to an apartment and a Dartmouth family from their large family home into a much smaller one.
“Doug Bamford in Lunenburg is an artist, and artists love stuff. I think a lot of people will relate to how he deals with stuff and his stories,” says Veldhoven. “The Sparks family is such an interesting dynamic because I got to work with all four of them. You get the perspective of what it is like to sell the family home and move to a smaller space from both the parent’s and the children’s point of view.”
And although casting is important, Veldhoven says that what really sets The Big Downsize apart from other television shows of its kind comes from following the same people over the entire season. Doing so allows viewers to really get to know the characters in the two households.
As the only professional organizer in Canada who is also a certified interior decorator, Veldhoven already has impressive credentials. But she also thinks her Western European heritage has made her eminently qualified.
I am half-Dutch, and the Dutch are known for being one of the most organized populations in the world. So, it is in the blood.
“I am half-Dutch, and the Dutch are known for being one of the most organized populations in the world,” she says with a laugh. “So, it is in the blood.”
Finding no bigger thrill than helping people let go of years accumulation, Veldhoven says our obsession with collecting goes back centuries.
“This is just my personal opinion, but in general human beings have the propensity to collect stuff,” she says. “If you look back through history, at one time we had to go out and collect food, and I do not think that instinct has ever left us.”
But while our propensity for collecting may be traced back to our role as hunters and gatherers, Veldhoven says, in the modern world, advertising also plays a significant role.
“Buy this new thing, buy that new thing,” she says. “This thing is better than the old thing. Your neighbours have one of these things, so you need this thing. And buy items in bulk because that is better because it is going to save you money.”
After those years of buying into the endless sales pitches, Veldhoven says the process begins with the easy stuff where little emotional attachment has developed.
“The difficult part comes when we get bogged down in things that they might be super sentimental about or something that they have been collecting for years,” she says.
As for that golden 80/20 rule, Veldhoven says it is a near-impossible outcome for most people. “If I get them to get rid of forty-five percent, I have done okay. I love fifty.”
While viewers will watch Veldhoven’s entire process in The Big Downsize, she does have one piece of advice for anyone looking to tackle their own downsizing. Start sooner than you think you need to.
“The worst thing you could do is try to go through a lifetime of possessions with a deadline on top of you,” she says. “It is already a stressful process, and doing it quickly is going to make it a hundred percent worse.”
For those looking for more tips, Veldhoven says The Big Downsize not only provides real insight into the process but is done in a relatable way.
“A lot of reality TV is not real,” she says. “This is real. This is how people feel. This is what they go through, and this is how I work with them.
Season three of The Big Downsize premieres nationally on VisionTV on April 5 and runs until May 3. Check your local listings. Visit The Big Downsize on Facebook for more information.