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DOWNSIZING TIPS FOR EMPTY NESTERS

(Published on - 6/1/2024 6:01:31 PM)

It happens to many families: after a lifetime of kids, a lifetime of memories, and a lifetime’s worth of stuff, you are suddenly faced with a space that feels too large and cluttered. Sure, your house was the perfect place to raise your family, but do you still need a three or four-chair dinner set? How about that clean, empty bedroom you are no longer using? If you suddenly find yourself with more space than you need, downsizing may be a good idea.

There are many benefits to downsizing your space once the kids leave the nest. First, downsizing helps you avoid overspending on your space. Even if your mortgage is paid off, you are still paying taxes and maintaining the house, and those costs can add up quickly. As you approach retirement, you may welcome an opportunity to reduce your outgoing expenditures.

Two empty nesters packing up their kitchen so they can downsize homes.

Second, maintaining and navigating a large, multi-story home will only become more difficult as you age. Downsizing allows you to spend your golden years in a space that is more suited to your needs, both in terms of your health and mobility and the cost of maintenance.

Whether you are in the midst of downsizing or still trying to decide if now is the right time to make the move, these tips can make the process much easier.

Move When You Can

Perhaps downsizing seems far away. After all, it has only been a few years since your kids left home—and you are still young and healthy! Downsizing while you are healthy and active is far better than waiting until you are afflicted with physical ailments and forced to leave home. You will have a much easier time packing up your things and moving when you are feeling up for the challenge!

In fact, downsizing does not have to be about your health or physical abilities at all. For many, it is a chance to experience a new and different lifestyle. Owning a home ties you to one location and mode of living (unless you have the resources for vacations or multiple homes). Maybe you moved to the suburbs back when the kids reached school age. Would you like to move back to the city? Have you always dreamed of moving to a beach house or a small town in the mountains? If you set a goal beyond just getting a smaller home, downsizing can be your opportunity to embrace a new chapter of life.

Move with the Future in Mind

When you began your search to find your current home, you likely had a list of wants for your realtor. Perhaps you wanted a home in a good school district, near parks and other “kid-friendly” amenities.  Now, as you contemplate a local or perhaps a cross-country move to a warmer climate in search of a downsized space, it’s time to revisit that checklist. Consider your relocation desires with your newfound freedom and personal preferences taking precedence.

Of course, while you might be excited to begin your life as young, active empty nesters, it is important to keep the future in mind as you find your dream home. Research shows that 77 percent of seniors want to “age in place” rather than move to more accessible living arrangements, so your downsized home might see you through all the stages of your seniorhood. If you are in good health, you do not need to buy a place as if you are severely disabled — but do consider items that will make it easier to age in place. Look for a single-story home or a condo in a building with an elevator rather than a third-floor walk-up.

Downsize Your Space — and Your Stuff

Once you find the perfect home, it is time to begin the downsizing process. Moving to a smaller space means keeping only the stuff you need, particularly if you are moving from four (or more) bedrooms to one or two. As you prepare to move, you will find countless pieces of furniture, décor, and general clutter that you can easily live without. Check with your kids for items they want to keep (in their homes, not yours!) and sell, donate, or dispose of the rest.

To simplify the process, take inventory of everything in your home and break it down into three lists:

  • Necessary items (furniture, cooking supplies, etc.)
  • Sentimental items you want to keep
  • Everything else

Give your family and friends the first pick of the third list (without pressuring them), then decide to sell or donate everything else.

Start with the least accessible items in your home — stuff in the attic, basement, or closets. Starting there will let you get rid of thirty-year-old clothes, spare toasters, and camping equipment that has not been used since the Reagan administration. Once you have caught the bug for getting rid of things you do not need, it will be easier to face items you see every day, like old furniture, pieces of art, magazine collections, etc.

The best time to start decluttering is well before you put your home up for sale, but that is often easier said than done. Things around your home can hold precious and cherished memories, which makes parting with them difficult. If you struggle with letting things go, hire help. Professional organizers can help you get a handle on things and work with you to separate the useful and essential from the extraneous, sentimental, or useless. You can also hire an estate sales company to appraise and sell items like furniture, china, and artwork.

Where Should Your Stuff Go?

After you categorize your items and let your loved ones take their favorites, you may still have more stuff than space. What do you do with the extras? You have three options: sell them, donate them, or throw them away.

Throwing a garage sale before your move is a time-honored way to clear out extra belongings and make a little money. This also gives you a chance to share special belongings with your neighbors and other people in your community.

There is a possibility that you are unable to hold a garage sale due to a lack of time, space, or energy. In that case, it can be best to donate your items to a charitable organization. Organizations like Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and Habitat for Humanity often rely on donations from the public to stock their consignment shops; they are happy to take most items with no questions asked. They may even come to your home for a free pickup! Just make sure to call your local donation center to confirm they accept the items you want to give away.

Once you have tried all other options, it is okay to simply toss your remaining items in the trash or recycling. This is particularly true for worn clothing, small items you plan to replace, or paper items you no longer need. Throwing these things away will give you the freedom to move without extra baggage cluttering your space.

Be Financially Aware

One goal of downsizing should be to have less stuff and more money. Therefore, it is important to consider how a new space will impact your financial future. While it may sound lovely to leave the suburbs and settle in a cute bungalow overlooking the beach, rising housing costs and mortgage rates may make that dream less accessible than you had hoped.

As you look for a new place, try to find something that costs less than the sale price (or at least the equity) of your current home. Make sure you have plenty of room in your budget for your new mortgage payment—or that you can purchase your new home outright. Do not forget to account for property taxes and any capital gains taxes you might owe as a result of selling a home.

It is particularly important to make careful financial decisions as you downsize if you plan to retire. Retirees are often on a fixed income, making rising property taxes and other costs an unsustainable expense. Downsizing to a place well below your budget can help you avoid trouble when costs creep up.

Ultimately, downsizing is a wonderful opportunity for empty nesters to live a little freer. It is time to find the lifestyle you want, a budget you can sustain, and a space that will remain comfortable throughout your golden years. With these practical strategies in mind, you can navigate the downsizing process with confidence, ensuring a seamless transition to the empty nest phase once your youngest departs.

Source: Realty Executives

Realty Executives Midwest

1310 Plainfield Rd. Ste 2 | Darien, IL 60561

Office: 630-969-8880
E-Mail: experts@realtyexecutives.com

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