Everyone’s idea of the perfect retirement is uniquely different, but without question, we all want to bask in a stress-free lifestyle enjoying what we love. For some, that’s the joy of unlimited hours improving a huge house and garden that’s been neglected over the years. But for most people, the lure of travel, hobbies, cultural pursuits and entertaining grandkids proves much greater.
For them, that’s what retirement is all about. And it’s around this time, with adult children no longer under the roof, thoughts of downsizing start to become very attractive. And indeed, there are many advantages to moving into a more manageable, hassle-free home. Of course, there are some challenges to consider as well.
Downsizing to a home that’s more appropriate to your retirement aspirations, almost always brings with it the rewards of lower monthly expenses. With fewer rooms to heat or cool, power and gas bills drop, and there’s less housekeeping as well. Smaller gardens can still be beautifully idyllic without the need for excessive weeding and watering, and modern houses should also demand less ongoing maintenance. This all equates to more time in your day and more money in your pocket – not to mention the extra capital you’ll hopefully have available after selling the large family home. In addition, choosing a new home means finding a layout that’s more liveable, especially if the old bones and muscles aren’t quite what they used to be.
It’s important to remember however, there’s always a downside to downsizing, and while the challenges should not be ignored, with good planning, they can easily be overcome.
One of the first questions potential downsizers ask is what they’ll do with all their furniture. Given that many people treat a change in address as a change in style, it’s not uncommon for people to sell all their old furniture and start again – choosing a décor to fit the new home instead of trying to fit their old sofas and armchairs in to a smaller, more contemporary space.
It’s also a time to de-clutter and throw, or give-away, years of collected knickknacks that could be better used elsewhere, while revisiting treasured memories and looking at the best ways to preserve and share them. Of course, a family home doesn’t just contain its owners’ memories, but also the memories of those who have grown up there, and one of the most delicate issues facing downsizers is how to break the news to family.
The key is communication and inclusion: explain why selling the family home is for your wellbeing and happiness, and allow family members to feel part of the new home process. Ask them what they’d like to see in your new home. This might be photographs and artwork, a familiar bedspread, a favourite chair, or it may be something a lot more obscure, such as a particular type of fragrance or fabric conditioner – after all, smell is said to be the most evocatively powerful of our five senses.
Ultimately though, the decision is yours, and while it’s wise to take on board the advice of friends and family, downsizing should be your truly wonderful start to an enjoyable new chapter in life, with the only regret that you didn’t decide to do it sooner.
Quick Tips for Downsizing:
- Choose a new home that is big enough to suit your lifestyle, but manageable enough to give you plenty of freedom
- Research your potential new suburb, particularly in regards to services and facilities you may need down the track
- Invite family members to help you de-clutter by choosing items they’d like to take off your hands before you move
- Sell unwanted furniture or donate it to charity (many will happily collect it)
- Involve tech-savvy grandkids by asking them to scan and upload old photos for easier (and more secure) storage – be prepared for lots of wonderful questions
- Allow family members to feel part of the process, especially if you’re selling the home they grew up in
- Treat the change of address as a change in the way you express your personal tastes through interior design and décor
- After your first three months, calculate the money you’ve saved in utility bills and living expenses – and then celebrate one of the best decisions you’ve ever made.