Scaling down

Have you ever thought about scaling down to a smaller system, only to realize after auditioning some smaller music makers you wouldn't be happy for long?
i relax late at night lying in bed with a Tivoli RADIO + subwoofer system on either night-stand. i listen to classical, jazz, rock, and even NPR. Everything sounds good and i can even crank up the volume pretty far. in the living room i have a X00W/channel stereo and it's great and all, but... each recording sounds different (even weird) depending on the quality of the engineering, and this can sometimes almost-ruin my effort to get lost in the MUSIC. this barrier does not present itself in the bedroom. i can listen to a football game and turn down the TV (and not listen to the commercials) or listen to Beethoven; either way the sound doesn't irritate my brain. i can't say the same thing for my SOTA thingy.
i can stay relaxed for hours on end this way or OTOH worry about how a piece is going to make me have to get up after 10 minutes and hit "eject".
my experience w/ a small(er) system is different & more positive that yours: my bedroom system costs <$2K total & I use it very, very often playing my iPod, FM radio, Pandora & some CDs thru it. I listen for hours on end with a great deal of satisfaction. It does not sound like my reference system but, nonetheless, it's very enjoyable.
Not having a really big system, I'd have to say I could be happy if I did some careful and considerate shopping. There were some great sounding, smaller systems at the Newport Audio Show but they weren't cheap.

It would all depend on the size you're re referring to.

All the best,
my take on this is that having just one system doesn't work for me. so i have 4 systems of varying costs and applications. all are very enjoyeable.
"Scaling down" for any other reason than desparate need for money, or moving to a smaller space, is rather foolish IMO.
First, if all the person wants is different sound, then just dumping everything and starting over is silly.
This is the "Gee I liked music when i had a simple setup, so I will go back to that" syndrome. (it does not work...))

Thinking this is too much stuff,, then selling it is taking a huge money bath, plus the wasted time. The smaller system will not please anyway, and eventually the owner of the downsized will go right back to what they had before.. After the fixation with whatever made them downsize passes.

Personally I would suggest just 'ignoring' the stuff. Think of it as another pile of junk you own.. so what. Get over the emotional issue making you want to get rid of the source of the irritation, instead of finding the reason for it being irritating.
The most common so called reasons are displeasure at the result: that is you are not happy with the sound, even though you SPENT $$$, so in a pissed off mood you want to sell it all.
Or, You find a new partner, who does not like the stuff.

Other reasons I have seen are going deaf(er) and out of self spite selling everything (this is the cutting off your nose to spite your face method)

Having to move to a (much) smaller space: this is the one valid reason I can see for moving to a smaller setup.
Though really one can have a pair of giant monoblocks and huge speakers in an 11" by 12" space easy..
The only problem with big electronics in a small spavce may be the amperage available may not be adequate.

So you can see, I am not big on tossing years of effort chasing some pie in the sky ideal of a smaller is better...

As i dream of bigger amps and speakers...
I guess I should have given more of an explanation. I do have three systems if you include the garage one, but the main system in the living room takes up allot of space and we do a fair bit of entertaining. So a more unobtrusive system would better. Moving the turntable, records cleaning machine, etc, etc to the lake spot helped quite a bit but there is still a ton of stuff, 1400 pounds actually.
if your main speakers are panels, replacing them with "boxes" will not make you a happy camper.
A few years ago I scaled down to a pair of ProAc 1SC with a cary 300sei integrated with a good cd player and I was in audio heaven. Had the system for a couple of years and was very happy with it. Good Luck and keep us posted.
I have found the primary focus should always be my enjoyment of the music. Big or small, humble or great. Then even smaller systems can be enjoyable. But for myself as long as I have the space, my big system will always be tops. Life demands sometimes dictate a change in listening habits, but it is hard to go backwards when one has tasted a better apple. Sometimes the sweetest apple is not always the biggest however.
I've had a blast downsizing. My wife decided we needed to move to a smaller house near the beach so I was forced to downsize. After moving from the big room almost five years ago I went through three integrated amps and three sets of speakers before I got the new one right. It took a long time to adjust my listening expectations in the smaller "venue" but now my system/room has strengths that I never had before. I do miss the stadium rock concert effect of the large room sometimes but overall enjoyment of music hasn't suffered at all.
Dump it all except for a TT, int. amp and some nice speakers.
After a certain dollar point, or just being an audiophile for a few decades, the idea of scaling up or downward loses its meaning. I think most people eventually realize they can truly enjoy listening to music on a wide range of equipment. Particularly if attention is paid to setup and speaker/room interactions.
I have to slightly disagree with Elizabeth. I think that if you plan carefully, you can simplify your system, and scale-back while still improving the sound. In my case, I went from a mid-fi 5.1 Home Theater setup to a much simpler 2-channel setup. I started out with a Denon 2807 with NHT Classic 3 Fronts & Center with Paradigm Studio 20/5s for the surround. I moved the Denon to the bedroom, sold the NHTs for a moderate loss, and gave the Paradigms back to my dealer for full value on a better pair of speakers for my "primary" living room system. The loss I took on the NHTs was then "recouped" value-wise on a very clean floor demo Ayre integrated from the dealer. I had earlier picked up a pair of Linn Kan demos from the same dealer, which had been in the bedroom, which I then combined with the Ayre for my "scaled down" Media Room system. The Kans are physically smaller and less expensive than either the NHTs or the Paradigms, and work surprisingly well with the Ayre. In the end, I scaled down from 6 pieces of gear to 3 in the media room, and have much better sound, for about $1000 extra cost compared to my original 6-piece mid-fi Media Room system. The Denon, which I still have, is more than adequate for the bedroom system.
Good point , Courant,. As much as I would like to make things smaller and simpler, I don't want an inferior sounding system.
A friends system interests me, it's a Meridian system, a one box hard drive and two speakers, thats it, and unreal sound, very clean and clear, it's impressed everyone thats heard it.
In comparison when you look at all my riggins it's almost a joke.
does scaling down mean reducing the number of components in a stereo system , or reducing the cost of individual components in a stereo system, e.g., replacing an expensive component with a less expensive one ?
" I think most people eventually realize they can truly enjoy listening to music on a wide range of equipment. Particularly if attention is paid to setup and speaker/room interactions."

Uh oh, the cat's out of the bag.....
I guess " scaling down " leaves a big gap for interpretation. My hopes were for a less imposing and less cluttered system. Cost is of little concern to me at this point in life. Don't take that the wrong way as I still insist on the best gear for the dollar.
TEchnically, my third "system" currently is my Squeezebox Radio. Can't scale down much smaller than that and the sound is very listenable. Works nicely with earphones as well.