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A mature couple sitting on the steps in front of their home with moving boxes.

A Guide to Downsizing for Retirement


Substantially downsizing requires much more than just decluttering, but having a plan and breaking the work up into manageable stages over time can make it much less daunting and emotionally fraught. These tips can help you successfully execute a downsizing project.

1. Plan Ahead & Give Yourself Time

Downsizing doesn’t have to be stressful. If you have clear goals, outline the steps you want to take, and identify a timeline of steps for accomplishing them, you can avoid having to make hurried decisions you may later regret. Once you’ve drafted your downsizing plan, use lists (either written or electronic with automated reminders) to keep track of the details. Even if you find yourself with a fairly short window to accomplish your goals, a written plan with dated milestones will help you stay on track.

2. Be Clear About Your Objectives

Have a clear understanding of what you want to accomplish by downsizing. Do you want to move closer to family or friends? Live someplace with better weather? Save money by reducing your household expenses or cashing out the equity in your home? How much space do you need to be comfortable? Do you want to have access to certain activities or services? Do you want to be able to age in place as your needs change over time? The answers to these kinds of questions will allow you to make clear decisions about when, where, and how to go about downsizing.

3. Consider All the Financial Impacts

While downsizing generally means reduced monthly expenses, make sure you’ve factored in all the costs involved so there aren’t any surprises. If you’re selling your current home, be sure to budget for any repairs or improvements, potential temporary storage costs, and fees like Realtor commissions and possible capital gains tax on the sale proceeds. In addition to the monthly rent or mortgage for your new home, check whether there are any extra costs like homeowners association fees, homeowners or renters insurance, property taxes, or charges for additional care or services that you may opt for in a senior living community.

4. Take Advantage of Available Help

Don’t hesitate to enlist the help of friends and family in this process. Most of them will be happy, even excited to help you. Invite children, grandchildren, and friends to look through items that you’ve determined you no longer need, and take anything they’d like. You can also take advantage of services such as free pickups from thrift stores for sizable donations or free moving truck usage offered by some self storage facilities. If your budget permits, professional organizers and packers can be a huge help. And if you have a lot of items or higher-value pieces to sell, third-party estate sale and auction professionals can help price and sell them for a fee.

5. Let It Go

It’s important to be prepared to part with the unnecessary. Too many possessions, especially cluttered possessions, steal your time, energy, and mental well-being. Keep the heirlooms, treasures, and really special keepsakes, but don’t get sentimentally attached to what amounts to junk. If you’re having trouble deciding what to keep and what to get rid of, apply the one-year rule: if you haven’t used an item within the past 12 months and it’s not a truly irreplaceable piece, there’s a good chance it’s not really necessary.

Good luck downsizing. It can be a big project, but afterward you’ll reap all the benefits of a more streamlined and manageable lifestyle. For more great tips on aging well and getting the most out of the next phase of your life, check out additional posts on the Brightwater Senior Living blog.

Living Well