Couple moving boxes

How to Downsize in Retirement

Many retirees choose to downsize for retirement, swapping their house for one that’s smaller and takes less upkeep. There are a lot of benefits to downsizing, including saving money as well as spending fewer hours on cleaning and yardwork.

However, keep in mind that moving to a space with less square footage requires downsizing your possessions, too — and this can take a lot of work. Here, we’re breaking down how to downsize in retirement, including the benefits and a to-do list for when you decide it’s time.

Should You Downsize When You Retire?

According to statistics from the National Association of Realtors, in 2017, 12% of the overall home buyers between the ages of 45 and 64 were downsizing. When it comes to baby boomers specifically, this demographic is handing in their resignations and downsizing at record rates.

Downsizing in retirement is a popular choice. But before making a rash decision to put your house on the market, you need to make sure you’ve considered all of the pros and cons.

Benefits of Downsizing in Retirement

By downsizing your home and your belongings, you can live a less cluttered life — one with less “stuff” and more memories and experiences.

A smaller house, a condo or a townhouse will require less upkeep. You won’t have to spend as much energy cleaning. You may even find a house without a yard, eliminating the need for yardwork.

Downsizing for retirement is also a smart move to help you save money in retirement. You can save money on monthly payments, such as utility bills. And there are other financial benefits, too: If the house you live in now is paid off, that equity will help your assets.

Potential Drawbacks of Downsizing in Retirement

Downsizing in retirement has a lot of benefits. But there are other considerations to keep in mind, too. Selling your house is a lot of work, and the moving process takes time, energy and money. You’ll have to deal with closing costs. Then you’ll have to pay movers. Then you may need to purchase furniture for your new space.

A smaller living space won’t hold as much. You might have to part with sentimental belongings. And if you only have one bedroom, having overnight guests will prove difficult.

If you’re planning to downsize for retirement, make sure you’ve considered all of the facts and you’re ready to take on the challenge.

Tips for Downsizing in Retirement 

Ready to learn how to downsize your home? Take a look at these tips to make the process as smooth and easy as possible.

Your Checklist For Downsizing in Retirement

#1. Define Your Priorities 

As you’re deciding what kind of home is best for you, think about your needs and wants and prioritize those. Do you want space for visitors to stay overnight? Do you want a yard for your pet, or would you be content with a patio?

Maybe you want to live in a retirement community to make new friends, or you’d love to live somewhere that offers lots of outdoor activities. You will also need to consider your financial situation as well as any health or accessibility issues that impact your daily life.

Make sure you go through all of these considerations and have a clear idea of what you’re envisioning before you start looking for a new home.

#2. Start Decluttering Now

There’s no getting around it: Going through your current house in preparation for the move is going to take a lot of energy and time. Even if you aren’t sure yet exactly how much space you’ll end up with, you’ll thank yourself later if you start cleaning out now.

To make this job seem less overwhelming, focus on one room at a time. Break each room down into smaller sections such as a closet or a drawer. Other decluttering tips include:

  • Consider whether you have anything similar to the item in question
  • Don’t have a “maybe” pile — either keep something or toss it
  • Store sentimental items digitally by taking a photo of a card or scanning a grandchild’s artwork
  • Ask family or friends for help (especially helpful since they probably don’t have the same emotional attachment to items that you do)

Some items can be donated to charities or thrift stores. Others will need to simply be thrown away.

#3. Make the Move

As you get ready for the big move, make sure you take care of all the red tape. Update your address with the post office, tax agencies and Social Security Administration. Important documents should be kept in a special envelope so they don’t get misplaced in the move.

Once you’re settled in your new home, keep up the good work. Decluttering on a regular basis is the best way to ensure your new, downsized lifestyle is sustainable long-term.