I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t even have to do it. But in the end, I did it. I downsized my home.
I loved my house. Lived there for 20 years and raised 3 children in it. Loved my garden, which even made it onto my town’s fancy “Garden Tour”. It was creamy yellow with lots of white trim and a big screened-in porch.
I LOVED IT.
I downsized. And it was really hard.
Here’s my story.
What Was So Hard About It?
Owning a big house was wonderful. It was also a big pain. Something always needed to be taken care of. I was constantly cleaning — or that’s what it felt like. It was expensive to air condition; to heat; to maintain.
When my youngest went to college, only four rooms were being used in the entire place! That includes the kitchen and family room.
The expenses began to seem more and more unreasonable. For years, there were things I wanted to do but it was more important to me to have space and comfort for my family. But now I was an empty nester and I wanted to do all those fun things empty nesters are supposed to do!
I felt stuck. All my time and money were being sapped up by my house.
So then why was it so hard? The rational part of my brain knew downsizing would be the right decision. And yet, I cried through the entire eight months between deciding to do it, and actually moving. I cried at our last holiday dinner; I cried when the daffodils bloomed; I cried when I sat out on that back porch, hoping to permanently glue the view to my eyeballs.
This home was where my kids grew up. Where my best memories occurred. How could I leave?
But yet… I’m a member of the Boomer generation and still have plenty of adventure left in me. I didn’t want to become settled on back porch rocking chairs. I wanted to try new things and live my life to the max. My kids no longer needed my day-to-day presence and I wanted freedom from obligations and responsibility.
It was time.
But It Was All So Overwhelming
When we told our friends, they were shocked. Our house was many people’s favorite in town.
But once we decided to do it, we were all in. But where to start? Even as a realtor, the entire thing felt overwhelming.
I went online to do some research and found… very little. Honestly, there just wasn’t much information out there for downsizing empty-nester baby boomers. At least not much that was very practical and helpful.
We were on our own.
We had to wade through decades of stuff I deemed absolutely necessary to hang on to. It was tough.
We had to figure out how to:
- Wade through decades of stuff I deemed absolutely necessary to hang on to
- Get rid of the rest… do we just throw furniture away? How do I get a tax writeoff?
- Figure out our finances. Once we sell our house, how much should we be spending on the new one?
- Decide on a realtor who can help us set a plan and schedule
- Pick a location… do we stay in the same neighborhood? Is that even an option? If we move elsewhere, how do we decide?
- Price our home and do necessary repairs that will add value
- Sell our home for the highest price in the least amount of time
- Buy a new home (that’s simple, right?)
- Realize that many of the things we thought we would keep won’t fit in the new home
- Create a new plan
- Contract with a moving company
- Make the new house feel like our home
You get the picture. There’s no way around it — it was a TON of work.
Here’s Why It Was SO Worth It
Ultimately we found a very similar home in a neighboring town. It was a third the size. How could we make that work?
How could we make this home feel like “our own?”
Again, I didn’t get a whole lot of help online.
But here’s the thing… the new home may have been a third the size. But it was also a third the price and a third the taxes. In other words, all of a sudden we had way more financial freedom.
And you know what? Once we actually moved, I thought I’d be sad. But I wasn’t.
MY FAMILY. They adjusted quickly. My kids were happy with their rooms when they visit. My son said he liked that we couldn’t be in different rooms — we had to be together. Just imagine — we have only one room in the house with a television! But most importantly, the kids were happy that we were less stressed and less worried about finances.
MONEY. We currently have two kids in college, and one who just graduated. I had recently aged out of my cushy executive job with super benefits. We imagined being broke. But now we’re solid. We may not be socking it away, but at least we’re not spending money we don’t have. And when college is over in two years, I expect we’ll be relieved and in really good shape.
MY STUFF. We put up large shelves in our garage and found homes for all the extra things that couldn’t find a home elsewhere in the house. I never knew how many vases I owned! And duplicates of so many kitchen utensils! Too many. FYI – I haven’t touched much of what’s in there for the past year.I learned that I need a whole lot less than I thought. I was able to simplify my life and still have everything I want and need. It feels really good.
GARDENING. I planted a less expensive but very pretty garden. There’s a whole lot less to maintain and I can now do all of the work myself. I no longer need to pay landscaping people many hundreds of dollars a year.
TRAVEL. We were finally able to take our fantasy trip to France. We planned it frugally and spent two idyllic weeks in Provence. Seriously. We would never have been able to do that before. And we’re planning more trips in the future, in part because we don’t feel so glued to our real estate.
My friends and family have come to visit and now they think downsizing was the smartest decision ever. Some of them are now making plans to downsize as well.
And so, combined with my real estate background, I’ve become quite an expert at this, giving others encouragement to help them through the process.
Why This Blog?
As I said, during my downsizing saga, it was really hard to find online resources that could give me how-to information, or advice, or a place to share what I learned, or tips on making my new home feel like “my own.” There was a piece of information on one site, another piece on another. But no single site really dedicated to helping downsizers. And the little I did find was all so deadly serious and discouraging.
So I decided to start this blog. Every week I’ll tackle another topic important to downsizers, whether you’re exploring the possibility and undecided, already underway, or just plain procrastinating.
Please subscribe and feel free to share with others who would find this useful. I promise — you can downsize without downgrading!