Things to Consider Before You Downsize

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Downsizing is a comprehensive process. It’s not just the size of your house, but the volume of everything in it that you have to think about. What’s more, downsizing may find you in a new community with new neighbors. And even though you may have begun to think of yard work as a chore, you may not be ready to accept someone else’s landscaping in shared outdoor spaces. There are so many things to consider before you downsize—factor in plenty of time to go over the process’s details and challenges.


Start the conversation about downsizing with your adult children early. Don’t spring downsizing on them as a big surprise. Find out now if there are items your kids are very attached to that you could offload now rather than later. Also, find out if you’ve been saving or storing things unnecessarily, thinking that your kids will want them, when it turns out they don’t—really, they don’t.


If they’re coming with you, Fido and Fluffy will have to get used to less space. This smaller space could really stress them out, especially if you’re going from your own four walls to a condo or apartment where you’ll share walls (and ceilings and floors) with neighbors and their noises. Get some tips from your vet about how to ease the transition.

Gems vs. Junk

Sorting out your stuff, and deciding what has to go, is probably the most fraught part of downsizing. You may find chucking a lot of stuff liberating, but don’t act so fast. Decisions about what to keep and what to donate or distribute should be thoughtful and based on both needs and, in some cases, emotional attachment. You can’t take it all with you, so some things to consider before you downsize your stuff include the following:

  • Clothes: the one-year rule works well with clothing—if you haven’t worn it in the past year, you probably won’t. Donate what you didn’t wear.
  • Keepsakes and knick-knacks: some of these things carry much more than their weight in memories. Separate the items that immediately trigger joyful memories from the stuff that makes you scratch your head and wonder where you got them and why you kept them.
  • Furniture: you don’t need four bedrooms worth of furniture if you’re downsizing to two—one for you and one for whichever kid is visiting.
  • Photos and papers: now is the time to purge the things you don’t need or aren’t required to keep, and digitize as much of the rest of it as you can.

Financial and Lifestyle Considerations

Before you throw a dart in a map and take off in an RV for points unknown, consider the financial implications of selling your house. Seek advice about the tax consequences, and talk to your financial advisor about budgeting for a new place and a new lifestyle.

Talk with your spouse honestly about the location for your smaller place, and about the importance of proximity to family and medical care as well as recreational and social opportunities.

Downsizing is either a liberating renewal or a depressing chore. Planning ahead is critical to a successful transition.

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