Not everyone has to face the daunting task of downsizing, by choice or not, but most of us do as a natural part of the life cycle. The too big, too expensive or too difficult to maintain house has to go for empty nesters, retirees, divorcees, those who have been widowed and/or in financial straits.
Isn’t it amazing how much we can accumulate in a short period of time? In only a few years, we somehow manage to fill and/or overcrowd what we initially thought was so much space. Downsizing means less room and therefore less stuff. But which stuff you keep is only one of the decisions you will have to make. How would you answer these four questions?
1. In or Out of Your Comfort Zone?
Before you even begin to go through your belongings, you need to decide where you’ll move. Near family or away from family? A smaller house, a condo or a town home? Should you buy or rent first?
2. What Can You Afford?
To start, you need to sell your existing home and figure out what cash will be left after you pay off the mortgage and any personal debt.
Next, you need to calculate a budget for your new home: price range, taxes, utility costs, and other living expenses that you can afford on a modest income. Include the answer to what you require in minimum size. Are two bedrooms a must-have or will one do? How many bathrooms? Is parking essential? Will you be living solo or with a roommate? What can you manage in price for a move-in ready place? What about one that needs renovation? Can you handle the hassles involved in a rehab? If you own a home, you already know there will be some overlooked fixes that will cost you.
3. Keep or Discard?
You can’t really evaluate what to keep and what to discard until you know the size and location of your new home. Location matters because a long distance move is expensive and it may be more practical to leave behind an aging appliance.
In furniture, the question is: will it fit? Will you need to consider buying replacements that do double duty such as a sleeper sofa to substitute for no longer having a guest room? Naturally, you want to keep personal mementos but do you really need all those books? Why does the jacket that no longer fits you still hang in the closet?
Gather what you want to discard for a garage sale or a donation to charity. If you have children, give them first choice.
Finally, box the keepers by room and do mark the outside with the general contents so you won’t be wondering which kitchen box holds the toaster and where you packed the flatware. If you don’t have the wrapping skill for a valuable item, leave it for the moving company to pack.
4. Last Minute or Planned Ahead?
Ideally, you already made advance decisions and luckily, had the money to buy that second home you plan to make your primary residence now or in the future, say when you retire.
For most of us, life is about expecting the unexpected and downsizing will be a last minute event. Our timing for selling or buying may be the worst or the best, depending on the real estate market. Personally, I have just been through the downsizing process, moving to another city into a condo that’s in the process of renovation. Everything was last minute and as always, things didn’t go as planned. The movers’ truck broke down midway and my stuff arrived not only a day late, but at 10 at night. Be prepared for your own decisions to also be affected by circumstances like these beyond your control.