If you’re retiring, looking to cut back on expenses, or perhaps have a bit too much extra space now that the kids have flown the coop, downsizing to a smaller home might be a smart choice.
Regardless of your reasons for downsizing, it’s enough to make you wish there was someone who could do the hard work for you and make the whole process that much easier (like, say, a REALTOR®).
Whether you or your older relatives have decided it’s time for you to move to a smaller home, or you’re just curious to learn more about the process, read on to get the low down on downsizing.
When is it time to downsize?
Making the choice to downsize can be complicated, but identifying the tell-tale signs—and understanding the new freedom and lifestyle that comes with living in a smaller space—can make your decision easier.
Time to cash in
If you’ve owned a larger home for an extended amount of time, your property has likely appreciated considerably over the years, and moving from your large house to a smaller home or condo more suitable to your current and future needs can help provide financial freedom.
Too much upkeep
If you’ve noticed maintaining your larger home is beginning to take its toll on you, it may be time to consider downsizing. Whether you’re tired of cleaning rooms and fixing or attending to aging appliances or home finishes regularly – or overpaying someone else to do it for you – moving to a smaller home can lessen the workload.
As your children grow up and move out, they leave behind their unused rooms and old belongings. While it’s certainly hard to leave a family home due to sentimental attachment, downsizing to a smaller place means you can spend less time cleaning and doing maintenance, while also saving money. Besides, given how limited housing inventory is in some parts of the country these days, you’d be giving another growing family an opportunity to fill out the space you’re leaving behind.
People often consider downsizing as they approach retirement. Decreasing the cost of property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, maintenance expenses, and house utilities frees up cash flow so your retirement savings stretch further. Downsizing can allow those who are retired to relax more and enjoy their time off from work with ease.
What’s the difference between downsizing and decluttering?
When it comes to moving, you might think you simply need to declutter your personal belongings to make packing easier. But there’s a difference between decluttering and downsizing. Karen Shinn, president of Downsizing Diva, explained decluttering focuses on appearance while downsizing focuses on functionality.
“Let’s say you have a number of vases and 12 full China settings on display, but you really only ever use one, andt you also don’t want to part with any of them either. So, rather than getting rid of them completely, you would pack them up and put them away into storage only leaving out what you want people to see,” said Shinn.
With downsizing, you actually eliminate the items you no longer use or have a purpose for and remove them from your home entirely.
“Over the years, we all collect things that hold sentimental value, so when it comes to downsizing, it’s tricky because you have to decide what items you can and can’t part with,” said Shinn.
How far in advance do you need to start downsizing
Whether you’re moving to a smaller home, to a retirement community, or you’re renovating your home to be more accommodating for a life transition—whatever that is—start downsizing as soon as you can. Anyone who’s ever moved before knows just how stressful an endeavour it can be.
“As soon as you start to think about moving, start downsizing. Don’t wait,” said Shinn.
She explained you need to start small, so begin with downsizing a cupboard, a shelf, or a drawer.
“It’s a process and not a fast one. But once you start, the more you do, the easier it becomes.”
Things to consider when downsizing
Moving into a smaller space means combing through everything you’ve accumulated over the years—which can be a daunting task if you’re not prepared. But Shinn recommends keeping these four questions in mind:
- Do you want it?
- Do you use it?
- Do you need it?
- Do you like looking at it?
If you answer no to any of those questions, it will be easier to part ways with items.
Shinn added it’s important to take a step back and evaluate what’s important to you, so you can decide what you actually need. For most people, when it comes to letting go of personal items, it’s easier if you know they’re going to someone who will appreciate them, rather than just donating them or throwing them out. Shinn describes this as a safe passage because you know the items you treasure and care for will be going to someone who will enjoy them as much as you did. Upcycling and Buy Nothing groups in your neighbourhood could be a great way to pass along these items, knowing they’ll be put to good use.
Tips for downsizing
Sorting through a lifetime of belongings can be emotionally and physically exhausting, but getting rid of clutter can also be rewarding. Shinn recommends keeping these tips in mind to ease the process:
- Start small, and start now.
- Find a place for everything.
- Be a generous giver.
- Use the good stuff.
- Edit your wardrobe seasonally.
How do you choose a professional downsizer
When choosing a downsizer, Shinn says to look for a company that’s part of the National Association of Specialty and Senior Move Managers (NASSM), which is the leading membership organization for move managers in the United States, Canada, and abroad. Companies that are members of NASSM must meet certain requirements and adhere to a code of ethics. NASSM members are also full-time workers and are required to take courses and be certified. Also, keep in mind your REALTOR® likely has downsizing contacts if you’re having trouble finding someone.
Downsizing a home can lead to lots of stress and anxiety for anyone who has a hard time parting with their belongings, but as Shinn added, “when you simplify your home, you simplify your life.”