Downsizing Your Home

Keep it simple

Downsizing Your Home

If you're contemplating downsizing to a smaller home, it may seem daunting. Our tips will help make it a positive opportunity to embrace a new phase of life.

Life changes—children grow up and leave home, we don’t need as much space, and our financial means may change. Any of these reasons may prompt us to consider downsizing: reducing our possessions and moving to a smaller home.

If you’re contemplating making such a change, take time to evaluate the many facets involved. Downsizing is an important transition requiring careful consideration.

What’s involved?

Relocating to a new home that’s more suitable to your current needs requires well-planned steps, including financial planning and paring down your possessions. Social and health considerations also play a role. Like any long-term commitment, consider the benefits and limitations a new home will provide.

Calculating finances

A realistic breakdown of expenses, such as mortgage payments, property taxes, utilities, and transportation, is essential. Alfred Feth, a certified financial planner in Waterloo, Ontario, says, “Downsizing will reduce the housing costs, property taxes, and possibly future maintenance costs.”

And money saved by moving to a smaller home can be used elsewhere, such as supplementing retirement savings or creating a new active lifestyle. A smaller home will also help lower energy bills and home repair costs, and a smaller space means fewer furnishings to replace in the future.

Maintaining a home that no longer meets your current needs and lifestyle can be a financial burden that may prevent you from saving for retirement, travelling, or doing any number of things you dream of doing. Toronto realtor Asim Khan suggests asking yourself, “Is managing the family home holding [me] back from enjoying life?”

Letting go

Downsizing is an incredibly emotional experience for seniors who often stay in their homes much longer than they should, says Feth. Although it can be difficult to let go of the many prized possessions we accumulate over time, it can be cathartic to clear our closets, drawers, and basements of things we no longer need or use. One bonus: it’s easier to find what we’re looking for.

“When you have loads of closets and storage, you tend to fill all that space,” says professional organizer Rowena List. A smaller space allows for a specific place for necessary things.

Becoming more social

Downsizing can create more time for doing the things we enjoy most. When we consider the amount of time many of us spend cleaning and maintaining our home, the opportunity to increase our leisure time is very appealing. List’s clients tell her that after downsizing their homes, they feel more relaxed and free, able to spend more time with friends and family.

Renewing our attitude

Downsizing can provide the chance to renew our perspective on life. Integrative physician Isaac Eliaz states, “Such life circumstances offer a great example of the holistic nature of detoxification, of creating new space for transformation. We can access hidden gems: renewed feelings of excitement, freshness, and inspiration.”

Challenges

Where to move to can be a difficult decision when we factor in all the things we want, such as proximity to transportation, shopping, and medical facilities. Moving can also impact our family and social life.

Sense of loss

When we move from a long-term family home, we may feel a sense of loss for the family connections and lifestyle it represents. Allow family members to help you with your move to help ease the transition to a new home.

Less space

Khan says that a smaller living space can present challenges when hosting family dinners, or it may prevent grown children from returning home, things that were a given in a more spacious house. Downsizing may encourage our grown children to step up to the plate by taking over family dinners and making their own way in life.

Like any change, downsizing takes adjusting to. Any type of major life change naturally creates stress. Although List describes it as a “highly emotional and stressful” time, with careful planning, downsizing can be a positive life transition.

Downsizing dos

These steps will help you make a smooth transition to a smaller residence.

Plan a realistic timeframe.

Take your time, and work with a professional organizer if the process is too overwhelming. Take small steps. Give yourself plenty of time, but stick to a firm deadline, advises List.

Determine your housing needs.

Think about where you want to live, what amenities you require, and who you want to be near. Feth says, “Spend time researching the area and property.” One option may be to rent first to get a feel for the new community and cost of living.

Stay within your budget.

Make sure your ideal home matches your current [and future] budget while having “a vision of the lifestyle you want to keep,” recommends Khan.

Do your homework.

If purchasing a condo, research the strata fees, building condition, management reputation or turnover, and décor and pet restrictions. Enlist the aid of a realtor and/or speak to condominium owners.

Create a good support network.

For a smooth transition, obtain input from family and significant others, property appraisers, and real estate agents. You may also wish to consult financial advisors, planners, accountants, and lawyers.

Sort through personal papers and photographs first.

These items take the most time to look over. Decide whether to keep them, save them for your children, or shred.

Ask family members for help sorting through other possessions.

Downsizing is a huge undertaking. An unbiased opinion is always welcome when we must decide what we want to keep and what we can donate, recycle, or sell. Don’t simply toss old items away. If in doubt about the value of an item, have it appraised.

Focus on the positives.

Moving to a smaller home may make it easier for you to travel, participate in interests and activities, and enjoy a new sense of freedom. Embrace downsizing as an adventure, an opportunity to meet new people and explore a new phase of your life. 

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