Whether the kids have flown the nest or you’ve binged too much of that Netflix show about tidying up, there comes a time for all of us when less is more. How many unused, or spare, or junk rooms does one home need after all? How many years does the piano or billiard table remain unplayed before you decide it’s time to sell? Making the decision is the first step, and then you are faced with choosing what exactly you might downsize to.
There are a few essential things to consider when downsizing, some related to your immediate needs and some to your future in the longer term. Everyone’s situation is different of course but taking into consideration special conditions that apply to you will help you to make a practical as well sustainable decision for your personal and financial future.
If you’re leaving behind a large family home then the first thing you’ll want to do is cull as many non-essential possessions as possible. Knowing what your personal inventory is will help you find the right property that is smaller and lower maintenance than your previous home, but still has room for the things that matter to you. If you really only have guests once or twice a year for a few days at a time, then considering a sofa bed rather than an empty spare room. This will deter you from committing to more bedrooms than you need. You can also look into renting long-term storage space for precious things that you want to keep but won’t use in the near future. If grandchildren are, or will become a regular fixture at your house, think about when they will be there and choose space that supports that – if they stay over regularly you’ll need a spare room, but if they spend a lot of time with you but always sleep at home then it’s really only garden and play areas you need to consider.
Low maintenance is key
In addition to the spaces you feel you need in your home, you should also consider practical things like how easy it is to maintain. The way we live from day to day is very much influenced by the kind of property we live in. Do you want a house, a townhouse, an apartment or something else? A house takes much more effort to take care of than an apartment, but maybe you’re not quite ready to downsize that dramatically, so a townhouse is a good interim solution. The idea of an established garden may be more appealing than the hours required to weed and mow and prune and water it. Similarly, if gardening is your passion, a balcony space with everything in pots may not satisfy your yearnings sufficiently. As mentioned previously, the space you need should be decided based on what you will use and maintain, more than what you have been used to in the past. Don’t commit to a bigger home than you want to maintain in the long term – the more space you have the more you have to clean and the faster it will fill once again with all the junk you just got rid of!
Transitioning from one home to another means a huge lifestyle change – especially if you change locations entirely. It’s important to consider what kind of community there is in your new location and how easy it will be to stay connected to the one you’ll leave behind. Moving into a suburban street gives you a chance to bond with new neighbours, which may be more challenging in a high rise apartment building – unless you commit to being hands on with body corporate affairs. Additionally don’t neglect your personal interests and hobbies. Look for sporting and leisure facilities, local libraries or a cinema close by if you love the nostalgia of a trip to the movies. Having access to places like these not only gives you opportunities to meet new people, it also means there are local venues that you can go to with new friends.
Health and Safety
As we age our security becomes more of a priority – especially if you live alone. Community is not only about making friends and being social, it’s also crucial to have people around to keep track of you and step in when you need help. When looking for the right property to downsize to, the location is important, but it’s also worth considering how you will move around it when you are older and that people can reach you if needed. You may appreciate the passive exercise of the daily march up and down stairs in the next few years, but what about ten or more years down the track? Many people experience mobility issues as they age, so take into consideration how easy the property would be to navigate if your health was compromised and how adaptable it might be to hand rails, mobility devices and so on. If you live alone, you may need medical alert or key safe devices in the future. These connect you quickly with emergency services and having a property that is well located and easily accessible can be life or death for you one day.
The sweet taste of freedom
Downsizing as an empty nester doesn’t mean you stuff yourself into a tiny unit, before shuffling off to a weekly trip to the doctor or the bowls club. If you are downsizing for other reasons, then you may also be confronted with various clichés that come with your particular life stage. Do not succumb however! Downsizing brings with it a sweet freedom that few people expect. With less house to maintain and a much shorter To Do list, your time becomes more available to live your life in the way you choose. Selling a larger home to downsize also presents great opportunities for changing your life. If you choose the right property, you could live in it for part of the year then turn it into a holiday rental while you travel the world for a few months. There are financial, tax and lifestyle benefits all rolled into one here. So when downsizing, don’t just think about the new place you need to live, think about the new life you can now create.