Have you been asking yourself lately, is downsizing for me? The kids have grown up, moved out and visit once a year. It’s just you and your partner living in a 4-bedroom, 3,000-square-foot home in the suburbs. But why? Do you enjoy spending your days dusting those knick knacks and cleaning rooms no one ever uses, or wasting your weekends doing yardwork? Maybe you enjoy spending all your money on home repairs and maintenance instead of going on vacation? If so, hey, that’s great, have at it! Who are we to judge? Downsizing can certainly involve some lifestyle adjustments and isn’t necessarily for everyone. But what downsizing can be is a very powerful way of simplifying life so that you have more time (and money) to do the things you truly enjoy.
That being said, it won’t be easy. While letting go of years’ worth of clutter is gratifying, the process can be tedious. And as for moving…whoever enjoyed that?! But don’t let these hurdles get in the way of your end goal. Remember: downsizing can be a lot of work at first, but the end results can really pay off (literally!) A smaller home equals less financial burden and less upkeep, so you can spend your time and money elsewhere, like on that designer handbag you’ve had your eye on, or an African Safari you’ve always dreamed of taking.
As with all big decisions in our lives, it’s important to do your research and ask some key questions to determine what is best for you. To make things a little easier, we’ve come up with 7 questions we think you should consider before you start packing up your home and prepping for a smaller living space:
1. Can I afford my current home?
This is probably one of the most important questions you can ask yourself. Bigger homes tend to come with bigger costs – especially older homes. The way homes were built 60+ years ago certainly isn’t the way homes are built now. Building materials have evolved, building codes have changed, and technology has helped contractors build more efficient and environmentally friendly homes.
Who doesn’t like to save money? Lowering your living expenses can help save you a lot of money each month that you can put to other uses. Don’t let the burden of a big house bring you down by spending your life savings just to 'keep it in the family'.
Bigger homes tend to be more expensive to manage because of all the extra square footage, which means more heat, more energy, and more expense. Not to mention, more items on your ‘to do’ list, more cleaning and lawn work, and a whole lot less time to do the things you enjoy.
2. Can I let go of all this extra space?
Sure, having a big house is nice if you have a large family or if you’re constantly hosting overnight guests, but what’s the point if it’s just the two of you? That being said, maybe you’re looking to get rid of some guests (hint-hint to all adults still living at home) and just want to spend time relaxing or traveling.
Having a bigger home can take up a lot of your valuable time with endless amounts of cleaning, dusting, gardening, and a whole host of never-ending menial tasks to waste away your days with. (Seriously, ask any large homeowner about the work it takes to keep that place running. The list is long.)
Retirement ought to be about enjoying yourself and – I’m sorry – but who has ever enjoyed doing housework over relaxing on the beach or treating yourself to a day at the spa? (Not me, that’s for sure!) Instead of spending all your time tending to your monster home, take back that time to get out there and do what you enjoy. Go on a trip, take a cruise, go…naked ziplining?! Hey – whatever floats your boat! (It beats sitting in your mega home with only the echoes of the thoughts of doing the things you want to do for company!)
On the other hand, some people love larger homes, and the thought of giving up valuable space makes their stomachs churn like a trip down Space Mountain. For all the many benefits of downsizing, if you’re someone who genuinely gleans a lot of joy from your oversized home, you really do need to ask yourself if you could be happy living in a smaller abode. Despite all of the benefits you can realize by jumping on the downsizing bandwagon, adjusting to a smaller space can be an uncomfortable ride for some.
The important thing is to do what makes you happy. If that is cleaning and dusting a mega mansion for all your years, more power to you. Then again, if you’re ok with a few less square feet and you’re ready to embrace the freedom that a smaller home can bring, you can certainly make that move happen.
3. Can I see myself living here forever?
So, you still have a teenager living at home and you host the occasional get together. Does that mean you still need 4 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, a formal living room, den, family room, AND a back yard big enough to comfortably host the Super Bowl?!
Well, maybe you just like it that way…but try to picture your life another 5, 10, 20 years down the line. Will you still need all that space then? Probably not. Will it become more burden than pleasure? Quite possibly. In the here and now, you might be able to live just as comfortably in a smaller home and still have enough space to have people over and enjoy the things you like, just on a slightly smaller scale. Think of it as increasing the density of enjoyment!
Downsizing doesn’t necessarily mean moving into a 745-square-foot home (unless that’s what you want). It’s more about ridding yourself of unnecessary space, such as the large living room no one ever goes in or the formal dining room that only gets used at Christmas. Ask yourself: Am I really making use of the space I have? If not, why have it?
Also, keep in mind, moving takes some time and effort, so don’t put it off for too long. You don’t want to start your retirement dealing with packing and lugging furniture. The earlier you start planning for the future, the better prepared you will be.
4. Am I willing to get rid of stuff?
Let’s face it, we all have too much stuff! You know what I’m talking about: the dreaded closet that you can’t open in fear of being crushed under falling debris, or that junk drawer full of pens, most of which don’t work, at least one of which either doubles as a completely underpowered and useless flashlight, or came from a Disney trip you never actually took. It’s junk. So why keep it?
The answer is often a psychological one, and these answers can be persuasive. Maybe you fear that you’ll get rid of something you might need in the future, perhaps it’s a sentimental attachment, or guilt at the thought of getting rid of something you feel you shouldn’t. And these feelings aren’t easy to shake – just watch an episode of Hoarders on A&E to see the extremes of what people form some sort of emotional connection to!
Of course, just because you don’t want to get rid of your excess stuff doesn’t make you a hoarder. It might just indicate that you’re not ready to downsize, though. So, the question to consider is: what would I need to get rid of if I were to downsize AND am I willing to part with it?
If you’re on the fence, here’s something worth considering: Scientists have proven that surrounding yourself with clutter can have negative psychological effects.
While getting rid of all the excess stuff will help when it comes time to downsizing, the exercise of decluttering is also proven to improve mood and lower stress. Yup, your junk isn’t just clogging up your house, it could also be clogging up your brain. Whether you know it or not, it’s always on your mind – a constant nagging reminder that you have to deal with it, organize it, avoid it…
Once you’ve gotten rid of everything you don’t want/need then you can really determine the amount of space you require. What most people eventually realize is that having extra rooms just to house clutter doesn’t make much sense, mentally or financially, so why burden yourself? Think about what you’d be willing to part with. You can even make some extra money by having a yard sale, which in turn can help with moving costs. And, the less stuff you have, the less stuff you have to move, which can be a real motivator for getting rid of junk.
5. Can I make some money off the sale of my home?
By now your home is probably paid off, or close to being paid off. The price you paid for it 30-40 years ago probably isn’t the price you would pay for it today. So, depending on the condition and location, you could be sitting on a tiny fortune. Typically, homes increase in value with time, especially homes that have been upkept and in hot neighborhoods close to good schools and amenities.
Depending on the amount of equity you have built up, you may be able to sell your current home, buy a smaller one, and still have some money left over to put away for a rainy day or save for retirement. Living without a mortgage will also help free up extra cash as well as give you piece of mind.
6. Am I willing to leave my neighbourhood?
Okay, you’re convinced that moving into a smaller home sounds swell and all, but what about location? Houses in your neighbourhood may not be for sale, or perhaps they’re out of your price range. Homes in older, more established neighbourhoods tend to come with higher price tags, especially if they’re close to schools and other conveniences.
So, how tied are you to your neighborhood? Are you willing to say goodbye to your neighbours, your grocery store, your favorite coffee shop?
Look at the flip side. Moving might be a blessing in disguise. If your kids have moved away and you’d like to be closer to them (or, maybe you’re trying to get away from them – we won’t judge), a move could be just the ticket. Have you dreamed about living abroad or being closer to college friends you only see once a year? This could be the ‘push’ you were looking for!
Keep in mind too that your priorities might change in the future and you may want to consider living close to services you may need, such as healthcare.
7. Can I afford to move?
Last but certainly not least, you need to think about moving costs and whether or not you can afford it. The goal here is to save money, not spend more, but moving isn’t necessarily cheap. Professional moving services can be pricey and even if you are planning to move yourself, things like boxes, packing tape, bubble wrap, and renting moving truck… it all adds up. So, do some research, determine what the costs will be and factor it in to the whole downsizing package
Be sure to shop around and call several moving companies, get quotes and compare pricing – and don’t forget to ask for references! Keep in mind, you get what you pay for, so don’t necessarily go with the lowest quote based on price alone. Sure, price is an important factor when deciding, but you don’t want a company that’s careless and will damage your possessions.
And cost considerations don’t end with the move, but also extend to the home itself. The hope with downsizing would be that the large house you are leaving is of higher value than the smaller one you’re moving into, but of course it isn’t always that simple. Factors like the age and condition of the home, the type of home, and the location all factor into price, so make sure you aren’t jumping out of a large frying pan and into a small fire, so to speak!
In the end, you need to determine what is best for you. If you find yourself answering ‘no’ to most of these questions, then maybe downsizing isn’t for you. If you’re answering a resounding ‘Yes’ then you may want to give it some more thought. Just remember, it isn’t going to be easy. So, prepare yourself to be challenged both mentally and physically (my back already hurts just thinking about it!) Keep your end goal in mind, talk it through with your family, and create a plan of action! Being prepared and organized will help make the transition smoother.