Downsizing means to make something smaller. No matter if that ‘something’ is an old CD collection or the big pile of junk in your garage. But when you’re facing reducing everything you own so you can retire to a neat little cottage for a well-earned life of leisure, it’s another matter altogether. It’s your whole life!
Downsizing: Here’s What You Need to Know
Most people who’ve decided to embark on the downsizing journey have a singular goal in mind. To get rid of excess stuff, sell their big house, and free up some cash, all with the end goal of being able to afford a comfortable and enjoyable retirement lifestyle.
It’s a great plan that works out well for most. However, almost everyone reaches a stumbling block early on in the process, as in the first step, as in: getting rid of things. To help you embark on that journey and get through that difficult start, here’s what you need to know about downsizing for retirement.
1. It Helps If You Define Your Goals
We all have different goals in life and that carries over into retirement. People downsize for different reasons, from carving out more time for family, to cutting back on upkeep and household chores, and everything in between.
You can have several goals or just one, but they all start with getting rid of stuff. Stay focused on your goals whenever you reach an obstacle and that should give you the push you’ll need to keep going.
2. Downsizing is a Personal Journey
Moving can be simultaneously exciting and frightening. But even if you’re secure with your decision to move and you’re coping well with all the emotions that go with leaving your home of many decades, there can still be something that stands in the way: all your stuff.
Maybe you’re facing mountains of memories because your kids were raised in the home you’re preparing to leave. They’ve left behind so many mementos of childhood — trophies, clothing, books — how do you decide what to do with just those items?
Or maybe you’ve got a room dedicated to a favorite hobby and you’re unsure whether to pack it up and bring it with you or donate it to a local organization. Sewing, painting, pottery, woodworking… you may have more time for these activities once you retire, but will you have enough space in your downsized home?
The point is, downsizing is a personal journey that’s different for each person who travels its path. What worked for a friend or a cousin may not work for you. Find the formula for downsizing that works for you and create your own pathway to success. Your personal strategy may be a weeks-long fast-track to whittling away your possessions, or it may require several months. Only you know what’s going to work best.
Decide to make a plan and follow a process that fits your needs and lifestyle. Want more help? Read our 5 tips for staying sane when downsizing.
3. It’s Best to Plan Your ‘Attack’ in Several Stages
When it comes to your stuff, you likely set an internal hierarchy of importance that can ease the initial stages of your downsizing process. This means simply the level of importance you place on your possessions. For example, some may value their high school yearbook less than others, and thus place it at the bottom of their hierarchy. The higher up the hierarchy you progress, the more importance you place on an object.
The trick is identifying the things that reside in the bottom layers of that hierarchy, or the least important items, and attacking them first.
Starting this way has several advantages:
· It’s easier to get rid of things you care less about
· Removing the lesser items helps you ‘practice’ the art of letting go
· Once you work your way up the hierarchy, that practice will help you move more swiftly through the ‘tougher’ decisions about what to keep and what to leave behind
· It allows you to see progress quickly, which helps with motivation
Once you’ve identified your hierarchy and worked through it, you need to decide what to do with each item. Is it going to stay, go, be thrown away, given to a loved one, or sold? Here is a typical plan for removing items from your home and downsizing in waves.
1. Level One: Trash. Everyone has items in their home that can be thrown out without too much mental anguish. All it takes is a simple house cleaning, only be more thorough than usual.
2. Level Two: Donate. Some of your things can’t quite be classified as trash, but you’re no longer using them. Old winter coats, for example, are definitely useful to others in need. And if you’re downsizing to a home with less bedrooms, chances are you’ll have a few sets of extra mattresses that you can easily get rid of through community websites like Craigslist or Facebook. Even your kids’ old trophies can be recycled through local charities.
3. Level Three: Give to Family. You may have family members who’d love to be on the receiving end of prized family possessions or heirlooms. They may even be interested in things that are just plain useful but which have no special emotional significance. Host a family get-together and let it be known that you’d like certain items to have new homes.
4. Level Four: Sell Online. Once the family has had their pick, you may still be left with items you don’t want to take with you to your new home. If there’s value in these items, and if you have time, you may have some luck acquiring extra cash by selling them on eBay or other similar marketplaces. A popular phone app right now is “Letgo,” where you can easily list and manage items right from your phone.
5. Level Five: Keep Things You Need or Love. These items are truly precious or absolutely necessary to you. Examples include important documents, kitchen essentials, and the pick-of-the-crop of keepsakes. That antique quilt your great aunt left you in her will? Keep it only if it gives you special joy. Try and recognize emotional attachment to material things: keep the memory but let the actual item go, whenever possible.
Obviously, to complete the entire process in successive waves will require lots of time. Start as early as you can and leave time for thoughtfulness in your decision making. That way, you’ll feel confident about your choices and truly free to move when the time comes.
Remember – downsizing doesn’t have to be difficult. Read these 8 tips on conquering downsizing and advice on what you should keep.
One Last Thing…
Finally, some people find it motivating to begin searching for their new home while they’re still in the downsizing phase. That way, whenever you reach a tough decision about your belongings, you can picture that cute condo or all-inclusive community. Imagine a clutter-free new home decorated only with your absolute favorite items and mementos. It’s something to look forward to: a no-fuss lifestyle where you’re surrounded only by the things you love the most.
With that vision in mind, downsizing for retirement might turn out to be a lot easier than you’d ever imagined.
Want more tips? Read our 13 tips on how to take the stress and anxiety out of downsizing and help you celebrate ‘rightsizing.’