Downsizing Doesn’t Have to be Daunting Thanks to These 5 Steps
by Sarah Mouser, CFP®, CTS™, CES™
When people begin to think about retirement, they often start contemplating moving to an active retirement community or “downsizing” to a smaller, more manageable home. However, making the move is a decision that many people tend to delay. The reality of having to deal with material possessions accumulated over the years can cause anxiety over how and where to start. These five steps can help you move past those feelings and help jump-start the downsizing process:
Step #1: Start Now
Give yourself plenty of time. Waiting until you are ready to move can make the process of downsizing overwhelming. It’s important to remember that a lot of the physical work of moving can be done by others, and that your primary role is to categorize, organize, and direct the process. Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you get started:
- What is my vision for my next living space? What are my options that fit with this vision? It’s important to think through your goals and aspirations for what this next phase of your life looks like. Cassaday & Company, Inc. Principal Chris Young has written about how incorporating a life coach into your retirement plan can help you think through questions like these. For instance, do you envision a home that’s simply less square footage than your current place of residence, or you want to reduce your homeowner responsibilities and concerns such as maintenance and repairs? If your preference is the latter, a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) could be an option for you. (More: Is An Independent Living Retirement Community Right for Me?)
- How big is your new space? Once you have a vision for what your next living arrangement will look like, you should consider what furniture and other large items will fit the dimensions of your new living accommodations. This could mean getting rid of furniture you currently own and replacing pieces with more practical options.
- Is it difficult or cumbersome to move? Some items, such as heavy books, can be hard to relocate. Part of the downsizing process is purging yourself of items that are around just for the sake of having them.
Step #2: Create a List
In order to determine what you should purge, you first need to know which items you absolutely cannot part with. The key: create a list. This can be a tough exercise, but the reality is that some of the things you think you need to save may not be necessary to keep. Ask yourself if there are certain items you truly cannot live without. Knowing this will help you determine if an item is worth keeping or not.
Step #3: Involve your Children
Another popular reason for hanging on to various belongings is the idea that your children and grandchildren will want them. However, many people eventually discover that the things they thought would be coveted by their adult children were not so desirable after all. Our advice: consider inviting your children over to help sort through your things and find out what they actually want.
Step #4: Sort by large and small
As you sort through your belongings, be sure to think about the dimensions and style of your new home so you know what will fit. It can be tough to sort through every single smaller item you own, but think about your most utilized items first such as kitchenware, pictures, books, etc.
Step #5: Decide what to sell, donate, and discard
Once you are through the sorting process, you will need to decide what to sell, donate, and trash. When considering what to sell, keep in mind that items rarely bring in the amount of cash people think they will. In some cases, it is easier to donate or discard some items than go through the trouble of trying to sell it.
When selling items, there are a number of outlets to explore. You can sell items online (such as eBay and Craigslist) or through a consignment shop. Consider getting some items appraised first if you are unsure of their value to ensure you are getting a fair price. You can also work with an estate sale administrator or liquidation company if you have a number of valuable items, which can be the fastest way to unload belongings. Another possibility is to hire a senior move manager who typically charges an hourly rate to sell your items.
When it comes to hauling away discarded items, there are many companies that will come to you. It’s as easy as pointing to items you want removed, and they will recycle or trash them accordingly.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that downsizing can be done gradually. By taking one step at a time and starting early, you can greatly reduce the stress and anxiety that is often associated with this process. As a financial planner specializing in retirement transitions, I encourage you to talk to a financial advisor about how downsizing fits into your retirement plan. Even if you ultimately choose not to move, at the very least you have done your family members a big favor of having less stuff for them to deal with one day.