While your sprawling house might have been the perfect place to bring up a family, many people find that once their kids have moved out, they don’t need so much space. In fact, for many, all that extra square footage starts to feel less like a luxury and more like a burden. From the upkeep to the utilities to the taxes, there’s a lot they could do without, now that they’re empty nesters.
A 2019 National Association of Realtors survey revealed what’s obvious to many: for people aged 54 to 63, one of the top reasons for moving was to downsize their home. But we all know what happens when you spend what seems like a lifetime living in one place: you accumulate lots of things. Even if you lived the sparse lifestyle of a minimalist, downsizing means reconfiguring your life to fit a smaller footprint. Some furniture will undoubtedly need to stay behind.
Getting started isn’t always easy, which is why we’ve assembled some pro tips for would-be downsizers who feel motivated but just can’t seem to take that first step. The New Year is a great time to declare your intentions and then make good on them. Here are some useful tips for making 2020 the year you downsize for a cuter, low-maintenance home.
1. Don’t Do a Thing Until You’re Mentally Prepared
While downsizing may seem like a great idea logically, given the fact that your kids have moved out and you’re ready to have less house to manage, your heart might not be quite ready to let go of the home you’ve lived in for decades. To align your heart with your mission and ensure that you’re not going to regret anything, prepare yourself mentally for the move. Tell yourself you will always have your memories of this home and the family you raised in it, but the next chapter of your life still awaits. Read on for more advice on preparing mentally.
Or click here to read Eight Tips for Downsizing Your Home.
2. Talk it Out with Others and Listen to Their Stories
Start by talking to friends who’ve downsized. What was the hardest part? What did they do with all their things? How long did the downsizing process take? Everyone will have a uniquely different downsizing experience, but it may help to listen to their stories. Not knowing what to expect is often the hardest thing about making a big change. With every conversation you have along these lines, you’re getting one step closer to setting a few parameters for how you can expect things to go.
What you’re most likely to hear from people who’ve already make their downsizing journey is that they’re 100 percent glad they did it. They’ll probably be very eager to tell you how much easier it is to take care of a smaller home. Or they’ll rave about all the modern conveniences that come with living in a newer home. Or that they love not having to worry about a big house when they’re traveling the world or visiting grandkids. That should inspire you!
3. Don’t Dive in Headfirst
Talk to those who have experience in this area and you’ll hear a common thread about the best way to approach getting rid of stuff. Nine times out of 10, they’ll advise people to start slow and get the hang of things first. Rid your home of the things that are easy to get rid of.
Then, once you get the ball rolling on how to say goodbye to your things and make decisions about what goes with you, you can start tackling the harder items. For example, does that floor-to-ceiling wall of books in your den intimidate you the most? Leave it for later, when you’re more practiced. By the time you’re winding down your downsizing process and there’s less stuff around to deal with, you’ll be a pro at it. You’ll know exactly what to do with that 12 feet of Harvard Classics you bought for $20 at a yard sale in the early 90s!
Click here to read Celebrate ‘Rightsizing’: 13 Tips for Downsizing Your Living Space.
4. Take Photos
Lots of people struggle with letting go of things that they have emotional attachments to. But you can’t keep every memento, so some find it useful to snap a photo of everything they’re considering letting go. Later, after you’ve culled through the pile a few times (hopefully letting go of more items on each pass), you can feel more confident knowing that you still have that picture and you can still keep it with you forever, in a sense.
Eventually, you’ll pass the point of no return and, after having said farewell to those emotionally-laden items from special moments throughout your life, the photos will play another role: helping you handle any regret you might feel. Just know this: you made the right decision. You can’t downsize your memory and fond feelings.
5. Always Get Rid of Clothes
One general rule of thumb in modern life is that everyone, no matter who they are, has too much clothing. Go beyond the old one-year rule, which is to ditch anything you haven’t worn in the last year. Up the ante and, in addition to that, get rid of anything that doesn’t totally flatter you. Bad colors? Frumpy shapes? Stretched-out fabrics? Dated prints? Start piles for Goodwill, the animal shelter (they often need rags for bedding) or the trash. Keep in mind that even second-hand stores and Goodwill don’t like torn items or clothing that’s used up its life already.
A Final Word on Downsizing
As you prepare to say goodbye to 2019 (and some of your stuff) and you make ready to greet 2020 with your ambitious downsizing initiative, take heart. Whether you’re ringing in the New Year with a bang or celebrating quietly at home with friends or family, this is a resolution you’ll love keeping.
For more information on retirement, read these articles by Acts Retirement-Life Communities:
- Surprising Retirement Facts
- Should I Sell My House When I Retire?
- 5 Tips for Staying Sane When Downsizing Your Home for Retirement