5 Downsizing Tips for Seniors, Retirees, and Empty Nesters
When you first bought your home, you likely had visions of raising your children, entertaining, and filling every room with gorgeous furniture and artwork. But now that the kids have grown up, it might seem silly to keep, pay for, and maintain such a large home and yard.
For many approaching retirement, it makes more sense to spend their golden years in a more manageably sized home. Let us make your move easier with these five downsizing tips for seniors, retirees, empty nesters, or those who just want a more minimalist lifestyle.
Benefits of Downsizing
While most people are used to the “bigger is better” philosophy, downsizing offers many benefits that you don’t get with a bigger house:
- Less square footage and smaller yards mean less time cleaning and maintaining and more time for doing the things you love.
- Mortgage/rent, utilities, and taxes will be lower. Use the saved money for other things, like traveling.
- If you have mobility issues, a smaller home could mean more ease in getting around, especially if there aren’t any stairs.
- After selling your home, you might have money leftover to be able to buy a nicer place with less square footage. You might even end up without a mortgage.
Once you finally downsize, you may wonder why you didn’t do it sooner!
Tip #1: Be Realistic
When house hunting, be realistic about the type of lifestyle you hope to have now that you’re downsizing. If you’re used to playing your grand piano in a 3,000-sq. ft. McMansion stuffed with antique ottomans, you might not enjoy living in a studio loft. Sure, the mortgage on the tiny place may be cheaper, but if you aren’t going to enjoy life in your new place, what’s the point?
Conversely, you don’t want to “downsize” into a home that’s not much smaller than your current place. (That’s not “downsizing,” that’s just “moving.”) Make sure your new place is small enough that you can actually feel the benefits of downsizing.
Moving is already a hassle and, if you’re downsizing, this may be the last move you ever plan to make. Take the time to do it right by envisioning—and finding—your ideal place.
Once you’ve decided to downsize, you’ll probably want to start decluttering and packing right away. But before you cart off a single load to Goodwill, you’ll need to make the first big decision of your new home’s decor: the furniture. After all, it doesn’t matter how attached you are to that suede sectional if it won’t fit in your new living room.
Once you’ve found your new home, determine whether your existing furniture will fit. Get out a tape measure and make cardboard cutouts of your sofa’s footprint if you need help visualizing it. It’s not enough to calculate in your head “my new place has half the square footage of my old place, so I’ll be able to keep half the furniture.” Factor in the size of each individual room as well as the placement of doors, windows, outlets, and other fixtures you need to design around. You may find that, even though your new living room is roughly the same size as your old one, there’s no way to make that sectional work.
If your furniture fits, great! If not, breathe a sigh of relief that you didn’t pay the movers to schlep those useless armchairs around. Sell or donate those pieces (have the buyer pick them up) and have the new ones delivered straight to your new place.
Tip #3: Start Decluttering ASAP
Start decluttering your house (okay, maybe everything but the furniture) as early as possible, preferably before you find a place. Some categories, like paperwork, photos, and sentimental items, will take longer to sort through than others, so you’ll want to get a head start on the process.
Spring cleaning is one thing, but decluttering before you downsize can be a daunting prospect. Before you’re tempted to throw it all in boxes just to get it out of the house, remember that you’ll just have to unpack later, so you might as well deal with it now so you’ll have less to move. Enlist someone to help you make decisions, lift heavy items, and sell unwanted furniture; it’ll make the process easier.
Even if you can’t get rid of junk before you get a quote, at least have an idea of what things will be going to the new place and which will be sold on Craigslist. You’ll get a more accurate (and lower!) quote if your movers know exactly what they’ll be moving rather than quoting you on everything in the house.
Just as you want to find a comfortable middle ground with the size of your new home, you also want to hit the sweet spot of “just the right amount” of stuff to take with you. Keeping too much stuff in your downsizing move will result in a new home that’s too claustrophobic. But you also don’t want to go so “Goodwill crazy” that you wind up with no dishes or silverware. (Remember, you can always get rid of it later if you think you held on to too much.)
So how do you decide what to keep and what to give away? This is where the “minimalism” movement can help. In her bestseller, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Japanese decluttering guru Marie Kondo suggests that you decide what to keep rather than what to give away. This forces you to surround yourself with only those things that are truly useful to you and truly loved.
So what happens when you get to those boxes of the kids’ old school projects in the attic? Or Aunt Mabel’s antique china hutch? You couldn’t possibly throw them out, but you don’t have any room for them in the new place. Ask your grown kids, grandkids, nieces, or nephews whether they’d like to take the item instead. No guilt necessary.
Tip #5: Maximize Storage
If your “can’t live without it” pile is bigger than you planned, you’ll have to get creative about where to store it in the new place. Let’s face it, if IKEA or The Container Store can’t find a solution for you, there isn’t one.
- Purchase and/or keep items that serve double duty, like storage ottomans or bed frames with drawers or cubbies.
- Reconsider “unused” space. Slipping a narrow table behind your sofa will give you an extra place to set drinks or plants without taking up extra space. A sliding rack for spices and other small food items can fit between your fridge and the wall. Store rarely used clothing and shoes under your bed.
- Put stuff on display. If you don’t have a lot of room in your cabinets for your pots and pans, hang a pot rack from the ceiling to keep them at arm’s reach. Let that comfy quilt rest on the back of your couch rather than in a bulky trunk.
- Install extra shelves. No, you won’t have to touch a single hammer. Shelf risers and drawer units allow you to fit more into a larger space while keeping everything organized.
By downsizing to the right place and at the right time, you can make your golden years the best years of your life. And at Cento Family Moving & Storage, we love to offer downsizing tips for seniors as well as actual manpower when you’re ready to move. Give us a call or click here for a free quote on your downsizing move.