Retirement should be filled with a lot of joy. Many people choose to simplify their life upon retirement by downsizing to a new home, often in a new city that matches their desired lifestyle. (Have you thought about moving to sunny South Florida?) But downsizing isn’t always an easy task. Recent retirees often find themselves going through decades of acquired belongings, sorting through items that can often carry deeply sentimental value.
Often, the biggest challenge is simply getting started. Downsizing can be an overwhelming project. Many people hardly know where to start. We hope this article gives you some simple steps and encouragement as you peruse your belongings and select the right items for your new life of peaceful retirement.
How to Downsize for Retirement
Assess Your New Living Space
A new home means new square-footage limits for old furniture, new interior design elements to consider for your decorations, and a general confusion about which belongings will and won’t work in the new space. Choosing what to sell versus what to keep begins with a careful assessment of the new space.
Take measurements to consider the physical limitations of your new space. Sometimes determining that a couch won’t fit makes other decisions simpler because it’s one less item to make a decision about. The only choice now is whether to sell or donate those belongings that don’t fit.
This rule isn’t exclusive to large furniture. Notice the available storage space in your new home, down to the specificity of each room. Even when downsizing, sometimes the new home has equal–or even more–space in certain rooms than your previous home. This can mean a larger kitchen, master bath, etc. It’s best to know the capacity before you start choosing what to sell and what to take with you.
Process of Elimination
Now that you know which belongings you can take to your new home based on size and space, it’s time to decide which ones you want to bring. This process might strike some emotional chords as you sort through some items with varying levels of sentimental importance.
Two ideas might help:
- You don’t have to sort alone. Have friends and/or family help you make decisions about what to take to your new home.
- If you must part with sentimental belongings, consider asking family members about their interest in those items. Sometimes it can be easier to give items to people you know than simply donating them to charity. That said, don’t pressure family members to take items that they don’t need or want. Communicate at the beginning that you will be okay with selling/donating some things. Your friends and family will appreciate the ability to give you their honest opinion about whether or not they want to take certain items home.
Decide What to Do With Extra Belongings
You have several options. In addition to passing items along to friends and family members, here are some of the most popular ways to get rid of things you won’t bring to your next house:
- Have a garage or estate sale.
- Consignment (for nicer furniture pieces)
- Take your belongings to Goodwill or other donation stores (for larger donations, many stores will set up a pickup time and send a truck out to your home to get items)
- Recycle/Throw it away: Some things are too old to donated and it’s simply best to throw them away.
As you likely concluded reading the above points, most of these can be done simultaneously or sequentially. For example: anything you don’t sell at your garage sale can be donated to family or driven to a local thrift store.
Once you’ve decided how you’re going to get rid of extra belongings, it’s time to start organizing. Make 3 distinct areas that are designated for different destinations for your belongings:
- The new home
- Donation or sale
- Throw away
Furniture shouldn’t be sorted this way because it’s too heavy and bulky. Otherwise, this part is pretty self-explanatory. The goal is to have specific locations throughout your home that contain designated boxes for items going to different destinations. Each designated area can even be broken up into more specific areas. For example, the Donation area can include multiple boxes marked with names like: Goodwill, a child’s, or your favorite used bookstore. The Throw Away area can likewise be divided into Recycle and Trash.
Unpack Before You Buy
After moving to the new house, inevitably you’ll find what’s now missing from your home. It’s common for people to buy a lot of new items shortly following a move. As tempting as it might feel to immediately begin purchasing new things, wait.
Years of accumulation can cause us to forget what we already own. Wait until you’ve fully unpacked every box in the new house before beginning any shopping sprees. With moves it’s common to buy things you already own without realizing it until that next box is opened.
Also: the postal service often sends a collection of local coupons to your new home after you request a change of address. By waiting until you’ve fully unpacked your belongings to go shopping, you may find that something you need is discounted at a nearby store. A little patience can save you money.
Does Downsizing Sound Like Too Much Work? Recruit Some Help!
Downsizing is a huge task–don’t overwhelm yourself.
Whether this means recruiting your children as volunteers or hiring a real estate agent to manage the moving process and hire the right contractors, a little help can go a long way. If you don’t know where to begin, ask around. You never know where willing and helpful hands might be waiting.
Whether you’re looking to retire in Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, or Pembroke Pines, I’m happy to help in any way I can. Contact me today for help finding your next home, planning your move, or organizing the labor you need to get from one place to the next.