Too much home? Downsizing may be just the ticket!
Fall is upon us, and change is in the air. Many of us have just sent our last kid off to college. Some of us may have gone through other major life changes that make us feel like the home we have just might be too much. While it may sound daunting, downsizing can be a lot of fun! Let’s take a tour through the process and ways you can find just the right amount of space for you!
How do you know it’s time to downsize?
Let’s be sure this is the right decision for you before we jump in to it. First of all, why are you thinking of downsizing? Did your family shrink suddenly? Was it bittersweet or heartbreaking? Did your income take a dive due to a divorce or job loss? You may have some decluttering and emotional housecleaning to do before you can make the final decision. In the meantime, here are some things to think about:
Financial reasons to downsize
Financial considerations are usually the first concern when thinking about downsizing your home. We all know that a smaller home comes with a smaller mortgage and lower utility bills, which frees up money for saving and vacations (and college for the kids). However, don’t jump the gun too quickly. It may or may not be the right time for you.
If you are on the fence, consider these questions:
- How much of my monthly income goes toward my mortgage? Financial experts recommend that no more than 30% of your monthly income go toward your housing costs (like your mortgage, insurance, and taxes). So if you don’t already know this ratio, check your budget. This can inform your decision.
- How much of your monthly income goes toward housing repairs? Experts say you can expect to pay between 1% and 4% of your monthly income in repairs and maintenance on your home. If your repair bills are climbing above that 4% range, it may be time to cut bait and leave.
- What’s my home worth? The real estate market has been changing quickly in the past decade, so if housing prices have risen in your area, it may make more sense to wait. Have a realtor prepare a comparison market analysis for you.
Physical reasons to downsize
Maybe you don’t need the space anymore. Maybe you can’t manage the stairs in your split-level anymore. Maybe you’re just tired of having so much stuff–both your own and your kids’! Whatever the reasons, list them out. Perhaps you are tired of cleaning so many square feet of home and maintaining a large yard. How is your energy level when it comes to home maintenance? Would you rather spend that energy pursuing a hobby or travelling?
Emotional reasons to downsize
This may be a tough place to find the upsides for. Unless you have painful memories in the place you live now, you probably will feel sad about leaving your home. And your kids might make you feel guilty about moving (and leaving their memories behind). Or maybe–like all of us–change is hard. If all other reasons to downsize point to now being the right time, think about what it will be like making new memories, or the excitement of decorating and organizing a new home.
The benefits of downsizing
If you do an analysis of the financial, physical, and emotional reasons for downsizing, and you find that it is beyond a doubt, the best decision for you, then congratulations! You can now move on to downsizing your possessions.
If it makes sense financially, but you are still having trouble deciding, consider the long-term impact on your stress level, your other financial goals like debt, savings, and investments, and the other things you wish you could do but don’t because your house is claiming the money (and the time).
About that housecleaning…
Let’s say you’ve decided that downsizing is right for you. What should you do next? Call your realtor to get the ball rolling, of course! But before it’s time to talk about staging and marketing plans, you are going to need to get rid of all that stuff!
Let’s start with your adult kids. Once you have broken the news to them that you will be selling their childhood home and kissed their disappointed faces, try explaining that this will lighten their financial load, too! They might not have thought about the day when they will caring for you, and your need to save money for that day. Then give them all of the stuff they left behind when they moved out. After all, if they are so attached to it, then they should have it, right?
Bet you’re feeling lighter already. Okay. Let’s tackle your stuff now. Where in the world to start? There are tons of books out there to help you with “decluttering.” And most of them will tell you all about how to handle the emotional side of letting go of things you don’t need anymore. But if you don’t have time for this type of reading and just need to get straight to it, try “A 31-Day Detox Challenge to Help You Declutter Your Home—and Your Mind” from Family Circle. It’s a quick read, and the author breaks this pretty daunting task down in to manageable, daily chunks.
Decluttering can be an emotional process anyway, and these emotions can be magnified if you’re doing it in preparation to leave a home you’ve lived in for many happy years, raised your children in, and spend countless hours cleaning and decorating. So here are a few questions to ask yourself as you are tearing up over that ratty T-shirt from your trip to Disneyland when your kids were young:
- Do I love it, need it, or use it often?
- It is the only thing that reminds me of this time or person?
- Where can I keep it without breaking the bank or the closet doors?
- It is really the best way to hang on to this memory?
Only you can answer these questions. And only you can dispatch the guilt. Are your possessions adding beauty to your life, or are they weighing you down?
Downsizing for the right reasons at the right time and in the right way
You don’t want to regret your decision to downsize a year or two down the road. So take your time. Explore your reasons for downsizing, analyze the pros and cons, and start by downsizing your possessions. When you are ready, call Nancy Miller for expert help selling your home and buying the perfect smaller home.