I met a friend at a restaurant in Edmonds last week, and of course, the conversation eventually turned to real estate. Over our lunch of chicken pot pies, Cathy said, “We’re thinking of downsizing, but how do you know when it’s the right time?”
That’s a good question. And it’s one I hear often as people wrestle out loud with the desire to simplify versus the desire to hang on to the house in which they’ve raised children and/or created great memories. Sometimes circumstances dictate a move, but other times it’s just a matter of logic and good planning.
Below are a few of the best reasons to make that choice.
You know it’s time to downsize your home when …
—The kids are gone, and it doesn’t look like they’re coming back. You had to have all those bedrooms when you were raising them, and it’s possible they needed those rooms long after they thought they’d be out of the house and on their own, but if your nest is empty now (and you’re relatively sure it will stay empty), you no longer need all those bedrooms. Why pay higher taxes and spend more money on utilities for square footage you’re using only for storage?
— You need better accessibility. While the suburbs are great places to raise families, it’s more convenient for seniors to be in a neighborhood with dining, shopping, social amenities, transportation options and medical services close by. If you want those conveniences close at hand, downsizing to a smaller home in town or a well-situated retirement community is a good choice.
— There’s more house to clean than energy to get it done. It’s one thing to keep a big house tidy when you really need every square foot of it, but why spend all day tending to a house that is much bigger than you need? It comes down to time and energy. Would you rather clean a 2000 square foot house, or a 1000 square foot house?
— You’re overwhelmed by outside chores. I can’t say we’re quite there yet, but I do see a day coming when the thought of chopping and stacking four cords of winter wood will lose its luster for my husband. Nor will it always be fun to spend one day a week mowing the lawn. Come to think of it, I’ve just about given up on staying ahead of the weeds in my kitchen garden, vegetable garden and walkway. There will come a point where we decide that we’d rather use that time and energy elsewhere. Just as a smaller house means less housework, a smaller yard (or no yard at all) means less yardwork—and more time for other interests.
— You decide to live simpler. While on a five-week tour of Europe several years ago, I learned how freeing it was to make due with only the contents of one small suitcase and one backpack. Packing was easier. Dressing was easier. Laundry was easier. Keeping our hotel room tidy was easier.
Possessions have a way of complicating our lives, and if we’re not careful, our “stuff” soon owns us. When you free yourself from the need to accumulate and possess, you give yourself the gift of time, money, and choice. You don’t have to have a big house; you and your simpler life can easily move to a smaller house with a smaller mortgage (or no mortgage at all).
— You want more financial freedom. If you’ve been in your current location for a while and you know your home’s value has appreciated significantly, cashing in now can be a smart move. You may have enough equity to pay cash for a smaller home. At the very least, you’re likely to have a much smaller mortgage and pay less in taxes, insurance and utilities. That means more money for traveling, entertaining, golfing, or whatever else interests you.
Downsizing has the potential to reduce your stress, free up your calendar, fill up your wallet and simplify your life. Which makes downsizing yet another great example of “less” truly being “more.”