Tips for Downsizing Your Home and Life

A typical tale about downsizing might begin with empty nesters in search of a smaller home after sending the last of their offspring into the world. However, that’s not the only reason for downsizing. There is a movement afoot espousing the virtues of living small as a way to simplify life, limit consumption and reduce one’s impact on the environment. Whatever your motivation, it’s best to consider all the variables before putting a downsizing plan into action.

When to Downsize
Retirement is a milestone synonymous with downsizing. A small home, apartment or loft that offers little or no maintenance, affordability and easy access to amenities and services is nirvana for many retirees. Even if retirement is years away, you may be considering living small as a way to eliminate debt and minimize the accumulation of personal belongings.

Conversely, watershed moments like divorce, the death of a spouse, the loss of a job or failing health often necessitate downsizing. Finding a smaller home becomes a matter of self-preservation rather than personal choice.

Benefits of Downsizing

Downsizing to a more affordable home offers up a number of benefits besides the obvious financial savings. Whether you decide to purchase a tiny house, a manufactured home or decide to rent an apartment, you stand to reap benefits far beyond the financial.

  • Less maintenance required—fewer square feet to clean and, depending on the home, no exterior upkeep.
  • Less stress—a small home, if done properly, leads to personal freedom and a minimal lifestyle. You’ll feel uncluttered, unfettered and may even sleep better at night!
  • Less energy consumption—if you’re considering downsizing, you’re well aware of how much it takes to run a large home. A small domicile will give you the personal satisfaction of reducing your carbon footprint as well as your monthly utility bill.
  • Less stuff—sure, you have to be willing to sell off furniture and possessions to pare down your life, but furnishing a smaller home will afford you the opportunity to splurge on a few key furniture pieces. Less clutter leads to more creativity when it comes to making the most of space. Downsizing will help you organize the essentials.
Downsides of Downsizing
Is your house an extension of your personality? If you feel your current home is part of your identity and a reflection of your status within the community, maybe downsizing isn’t right for you. That’s something you really need to be honest about. However, if you look at downsizing as a new adventure and liberating experience then, by all means, give it a try. Just make sure everyone involved is on board with sharing intimate quarters!

Another thing to think about when downsizing is the cost. Any move involves a number of hidden expenses. Don’t forget you may have to buy furnishings that fit the scale of your new, small digs. Expect to pay more for the move itself. Some utility companies charge deposits and connection fees to new residents.

If you’re selling a home to finance another, the proceeds must be enough to cover the purchase price or down payment and closing costs. Even if you are simply moving from one rental unit to another, make sure you have enough savings to pay for things like moving expenses, deposits and several months of rent.

Choosing the Right Home
You’ve made the decision to downsize and are excited to find a home that fits your reduced family size, independent lifestyle and/or limited income. So, what are the options?

Attached housing, like an apartment, condo, townhouse or loft hits the no-maintenance jackpot. In this type of urban housing you share walls and common areas with your neighbors. You or your landlord pays a monthly homeowners’ association fee, which covers grounds and exterior maintenance. In the case of an apartment, all regular maintenance (interior and exterior) is taken care of by the management company.

Looking for something a bit more compact and unique? How about building a home from shipping containers or purchasing plans for a “tiny house” that comes in at about 200 square feet—so compact it can easily be moved from location to location on it’s own custom-made trailer. These homes are perfectly suited to rural parcels and RV parks.


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