If after a lifetime of kids, you’re suddenly faced with a large house and three or four bedrooms you’re no longer using, downsizing may be a good idea. First, you’re paying for more home than you need. Even if your mortgage is paid off, you’re still paying taxes and to maintain the house, to say nothing of cleaning all that space. And maintaining a large, multi-story home will get more difficult as you age, both in terms of your health, and the cost of maintaining it on your retirement income. Whether you’re in the process of downsizing, or trying to decide if this is the right time to make the move, here are some tips that will help you out.
Move When You Can, for the Right Reasons
It is far better to downsize while you’re healthy and active, rather than waiting until physical ailments drive you from your home. It’s also a chance for a new and different lifestyle, because unless you’re wealthy, owning a home ties you to one location and one lifestyle like nothing else. Maybe you moved to the suburbs when the kids hit school age. Would you like to move back to the city? Or have you always dreamed of moving to a small town in the mountains, or a beach house? Downsizing is way to embrace a new life. Set a goal beyond just getting a smaller house.
Don’t Worry About Problems that Don’t Exist, but Plan Wisely
When looking for a new place, you’ll have a list of things you need and things you want. If none of your kids have had kids yet, don’t make room for grandkids a must-have item. Similarly, if you’re in good health, you don’t need to buy a place as if you’re severely disabled, but do consider items that will make it easier to age in place. Look for a condo in an elevator building rather than a third floor walk-up, and find a house that’s all on one level.
No One Loves Your Stuff More than You
If you’re downsizing from four bedrooms to two, you’ll need to cull your belongings. That means furniture, décor, and general stuff. And while there may be items your kids want, truthfully, most of it will need to be sold or donated before you move. Face up to it at the beginning. Create a list of items that are necessary for you, a list that are sentimental and you want to keep, and a third list of everything else. Give your family and friends first pick of that third list, without pressuring them, then make arrangements to sell or donate everything else.
It may be hard to know where to start, but the best advice is start with what’s least accessible. All that stuff in the attic or basement, or shoved into the deepest corners of the closets, is the stuff you’re not using every day. Starting there will let you get rid of thirty year old clothes, spare toasters and camping equipment that hasn’t been used since the Reagan administration. Once you’ve gotten used to getting rid of stuff, it will be easier to face day to day items like furniture, pieces of art and those drawers full of kids’ drawings and school report cards.
You will want to declutter well in advance of putting your home up for sale. An easy way to kick off the decluttering process is to set a new rule: For every new item brought into the house, one or more old items need to go. If you struggle with letting things go, hire help. Professional organizers can help you get a handle on things and work with you to separate the useful and important from extra items, purely sentimental, or broken and damaged things. You can also hire an estate sales company to value and sell items like furniture, china and artwork.
Be Financially Aware
One goal of downsizing should be to have less stuff and more money. Look for a new place that costs less than you can reasonably sell your current home for, or less than the equity in your current home. Don’t forget to take into account the cost of taxes, as well as any capital gains taxes you might owe as the result of selling a home.