Tips for Downsizing Your Home Before Retirement

As an older woman sits in a large house, it's important to remember that downsizing your home is an exciting step in retirement life.

Contributed by Haley Burress

Downsizing your home can sometimes get a bad rap. It might feel like you are downsizing your possessions or even your memories. But making room in your new retired lifestyle is good not only for the soul, but also for your future. Before you make plans for a garage sale or start your search for boxes to pack, check out our go-to tips for how – and why – to downsize your home effectively.


Step 1: Realize the Purpose and Benefits

If you enter into your retirement journey thinking that downsizing is your first step towards the “old folks home,” you will find your efforts to be extremely depressing. However, if you realize that downsizing your home is the opportunity to live within a new lifestyle, you will be more eager to sort through that attic. Most retirees have been living in an empty nest for quite a few years, so your large family home might not be the best for you and your spouse any longer. Downsizing your possessions can be the first step to owning a smaller home and spending the extra cash on a vacation home or a new RV so that you can travel and see the world.

Large family homes often have more rooms to clean and more yard to mow, which can be more of a chore when you want to be out volunteering or checking out a new hiking trail with your new found time. Consider downsizing your possessions so that you can see what you really need in terms of realistic space for you and your family.

If you plan on staying in your family home throughout retirement, consider making some adjustments to the layout of the home that could benefit you later. Install grab bars in the bathrooms or make a contingency plan to move the master bedroom downstairs should walking upstairs become difficult or impossible. Sure, you hopefully won’t need these amenities for a decade or two, but you will certainly be glad that you have them before a major crisis or hospital stay leaves your family rushing to prepare the home.


Step 2: Sort and Sift in Steps

Downsizing your home shouldn’t be done in one weekend. Instead, break down your downsizing agenda into realistic pieces. Go room by room or commit to a few hours of purging per week. You will find that the experience is much more enjoyable when you aren’t crunched for time or exhausted by the end of the day.

Organize your items into sections or piles: things to keep, things to sell, things to give to children or family members, things to donate, and things to toss. If you can’t decide which section a certain item should go into, save that decision for another day. This way, you will not have any regrets or second thoughts while downsizing your possessions. If you find that you are still lacking the motivation to get up and moving, ask a friend to help you out for the afternoon and watch your productivity double.


Step 3: Save the Memories

Downsizing your home does not mean you need to get rid of some of your favorite pieces or items that are tied heavily to some of your best memories. When you are taking a look at your possessions and furniture, think in terms of the future while still preserving the past. Don’t get rid of your chest full of your favorite baby clothes from when your children were small; save them instead for your grandbabies. But, you might want to go ahead and donate the crib that has been in the attic since your children were babies – not only is it probably not safe by today’s standards, but your grandbabies can always snooze in a pack-and-play when they visit. If you can’t bear to part with the crib, take a photo of it to frame for your home or take a few pieces of the wood and hang it in a room of your home.


Step 4: Emotions are Okay

Downsizing can bring all sorts of emotions that you may or may not expect. You might find yourself shedding a few tears when you find your wedding veil or laughing at yourself for keeping your aunt’s side table that you never really liked. Your children might be mad that you tossed their high school yearbooks without asking them or they might be sad that you are looking to move out of their childhood home. All of these emotions are valid and there’s no need to rush through them. If you find that you are becoming overwhelmed with the process, just stop and pick it up again in a month or two. There’s no rush.


Step 5: Reward Yourself

Downsizing can be exhausting and if you are taking your time, it can be months before you are finally finished. Celebrate yourself and your accomplishments! Take some of the money that you earned on selling your items and head out to dinner or a weekend getaway. Host an open house for your friends and family to show off your new – and organized – home. Congratulations on your retirement and welcome to the adventure of this phase of your life!