Guest post by Michael Longsdon
Your home has served you well. It’s been the site of all your favorite memories, and it’s where you raised and nurtured your family. However, it’s become more burden than beacon. You’ve started to look at housing prices and are thinking about moving. But moving is so much work, and it can be a little scary! Fear not. We’re going to walk you through decluttering and downsizing into a home that’s just right for your golden years.
Consider your finances and talk to a realtor about how much you can expect to net from the sale of your current home. Include all the anticipated costs, and plan with an eye for the future. While you may have no mobility issues right now, you’ll want to look for a place in close proximity to healthcare and community resources, with ground floor accommodations and accessibility features. Making such modifications to an existing home can get pricey; the average bathroom remodel for handicap accessible features runs about $20,000. However, new construction trends are being set by aging baby boomers, and entire neighborhoods of senior-friendly, mobility accessible houses are going up in communities across the country. You may find something perfect in your area.
To Rent Or To Own?
For many seniors who have owned their own home for decades, the idea of renting might seem a little strange. However, when calculating the total cost, including maintenance, renting might make more sense in some markets, especially those with a lower cost of living. It can take years to recoup a home purchase investment, and once you’ve purchased, you are locked into that location for the immediate future. Renting allows you to change your living arrangements as your circumstances alter. Additionally, many senior living apartment communities offer particular amenities that might be beneficial in your retirement, including fitness centers, recreational organizations, and even catered meals.
Moving is an emotional experience for everyone, but it’s particularly tough when you’re leaving a place you have loved for many years. The task of sorting through your belongings can become overwhelming. Enlist the whole family to help. Call your kids and tell them it’s time to get their skis, their dollhouse, and your granddaughter’s wedding dress out of your closet. If they live across the country, take photos and ask them to specify which items they want. Everything else goes out to the yard sales, consignment shops, pawn shops, or donations to charity. Separate items by utility: those that you use regularly are going to the new house but consider the intermittent items individually. Do you really need to own your own rug shampooer, or would it be more space and cost efficient to rent one as needed? Ask yourself, “Do I need it? Do I have other items that perform the same function?” A good rule of thumb to follow while downsizing is this: If you haven’t worn, used, or touched an item in a year, it’s up for discard.
For sentimental items, focus on quality over quantity. How much joy are you getting from two boxes that contain every Christmas card you’ve ever received? In this case, less is more. Select individual items that make you feel happy. Choose to display them in your new home, where you’ll enjoy them each day. Your memories are in your head and your heart, not boxes under your bed. Consider having physical media such as photographs and home movies transferred to electronic media with cloud storage and display a few hard copies of your best photos in frames and albums in the new house.
Choose to look at downsizing as a way to refocus your life and change your lifestyle. A smaller residence, with lowered maintenance requirements and a cheaper cost of living, will free up money and time to do more of what you enjoy. It can give you the freedom to travel and try things you’ve always wanted. It can enable you to live closer to family and friends, making new memories in the process. You are simplifying the material aspects of your life in favor of enriching the emotional bonds that make life worth living.
Michael Longsdon is the creator of ElderFreedom.net, which advocates for the rights and support of seniors.