As you get older, you hear friends comment from time to time about moving into smaller homes, townhouses or condos for a variety of reasons. Some do it for financial considerations (lower taxes, less other expenses), others to enable them to travel more and not worry about what’s going on back home; and then there are those whose health dictates it because they no longer can navigate the home staircases that were built to test mountain climbers.
The result most often heard once the transition is complete is that it was “the best thing we ever did.” Sometimes I have felt that the expression was simply a defense of the action they took, whether true or not; other times I feel they genuinely believe what they say.
Having just experienced the mental part of deciding whether or not to downsize, I feel somewhat qualified to speak on the subject. The real challenge is to overcome the tremendous hurdle of deciding whether you care that some in the community may think you could not afford your previous dwelling, regardless of the reality of the case. The next hurdle is emotional; we have all collected “stuff” (clothes, jewelry, paintings, dishes, silver, furniture, photos, plants, toys, etc.) from various relatives that we probably keep because we don’t want the donor to be upset with our decision to discard it, even though that person passed some time ago. Nevertheless, it is tough to jettison something you have or had an attachment to emotionally.
Now that you’re okay with moving into something smaller, you have the hurdle of getting past “How the hell can we fit into that?” By definition, “something smaller” means reducing your living square footage which, in turn, means smaller living space, smaller bathrooms and closets, and little to no storage. It also probably means a different part of your community, if you stay in the same general area, because smaller homes are increasingly clustered in their own area and not too often inter-mixed with the larger, two-story homes. You know, the one you used to live in! The areas with smaller homes usually have younger residents who are just starting to build their nest eggs and retired seniors who are trying to live within their means for as long as they have.
So, how do you dispose of enough to squeeze into your new pad? There are family and friends, but today it seems that families have little interest in retaining heirlooms (to us) which they just regard as something they will have to dispose of down the road. The remaining choices are to toss it, give it to a charity (one that will pick it up), or have a sale. If you choose the latter, be sure to research people who inventory everything for you and have a sale once you move out of your big house. Usually, the sales are conducted in two phases. The first is for buyers known to the agent who attend for the purpose of buying. The second is for the general public, most of whom are just passing time on an otherwise un-busy day. There are also individuals who have showrooms where they can display your items and usually also have one or more websites where the items are offered for sale in an auction-like online setting that accepts bids for a specified period of time.
Now comes the penultimate step of acclimating yourself to the new digs. Your pets will have the same challenges you will have. Where is my pet food, where do I relieve myself, where are my humans going to watch TV, etc. You have the same issues: where to put your bathroom things, who gets which closet or closets (she does, of course), where to put the TV, where to store the dishes without many cabinets in the kitchen, and so on. Also, there are adjustments when you move from a two-story house to one story. You initially have the feeling that someone is always looking in your windows. If you didn’t have many curtains or blinds before, you will now. At least initially.
Then comes the final step: relief. Less stress, lower taxes, less other expenses, freedom to travel more; all the good things that come with downsizing, or “better-sizing.” Like so many other things, the key to having a smooth transition is to plan what you are going to do far in advance. Most importantly is to start packing what you want to keep but are not going to use on a day-to-day basis. Don’t wait until the move is imminent and you have to exhaust yourself the last couple of weeks. That will not only threaten your good health, it will also tarnish your feelings about your new abode, at least initially.