The upsides of downsizing

It can be tough decision to make, but many who have downsized can feel liberated from the tyranny of household chores, upkeep, big heating bills and large gardens

The latest report published this week poured cold water on the idea that the housing shortage could be alleviated by encouraging older people to downsize. The ESRI findings concluded that many older people live in small houses anyway, plus there’s a risk of social isolation for those who do downsize.

On the upside though, for those who aren’t being asked to move along to make way for others and for whom downsizing is a choice, a research study published by the Intergenerational Foundation has found that those who downsize often end up feeling liberated from the tyranny of household chores, upkeep, big heating bills and large gardens.

Part of the research involved in-depth interviews with a group of people who had downsized and a group who had not. Of those who had downsized, none regretted their decision, although they were saddened to be leaving the family home.

While downsizing is a practical decision for many “empty nesters” it can take longer than expected and moving home can be a very costly exercise, once the estate agent’s fees, legal costs and stamp duty have been taken into consideration.

You should spend some time working out your costs before committing to the move and consider how you will manage with less space and if there is enough space for our belongings. This last question is one of the biggest concerns for people thinking about downsizing: Where do all my possessions go in a smaller property?

Possessions can be difficult to get rid of. The best strategy is to plan well ahead. Even before you put your home on the market. Take some time each day, or one morning each week, to go through each of the different rooms in your home. Things like papers or anything with sentimental value such as photographs can be very daunting, the best strategy is to leave these items until last and tackle them one box at a time.

Instead start with areas that don’t have as much sentimental value. Take the kitchen, for example. Most people won’t get too emotional about parting with a collection of colanders. If you’re downsizing from a house to an apartment, target areas such as your garage or garden shed. You won’t have any need of things such as lawn mowers, ladders, shovels or spades.

Large furniture items can be hard to part with but will they work in your new home? Make an inventory of your existing furniture, art and accessories and decide what you plan to put where. It can be difficult to get a sense of the size of your new rooms. Compare them to rooms in your existing home will help you see what furniture fits and what won’t.

Antiques or family heirlooms can also be difficult to part with but it’s a good idea to have them appraised to determine their value. You might find they are worth far less than you expected. This might help you to figure out what is worth holding on to.

There is no doubt that this kind of move will trigger all kinds of emotional turmoil as it is not just the moving that is stressful, but it’s also very much about letting go. But you need to view the move as a liberating one which will mean you are ultimately prolonging your quality of life and independence.

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