If you’re getting older, feeling the need for a change, exhausted by maintaining a large home, or sick of carting all your stuff from place to place, you might be tempted to downsize. But where to start? Some of us have to downsize our plans before they’re even reality, opting for a condo, bungalow, or apartment instead of a smaller house. With certain properties out there are cheaper to rent than buy, there are some gorgeous condos, bungalows and apartments on the market. With the cost of living not going down anytime soon, downsizing is a viable lifestyle choice. It can be hard to know where to start. And we may have to persuade our significant others to come along if we’re feeling the need but they’re still invested in room to stretch their legs.
Talk it in to focus: have a conversation about downsizing with you spouse, partner, friends, or anyone else you can trust to hear out your dreams and reasoning. Use the conversation to figure our why you want to downsize, what’s most important to you and what bothers you about your current property or lifestyle. Once you know your priorities, you’ll be able to plan a solution that addresses them. Don’t plan for the ‘ideal’ you, plan for the actual you. It’s okay to aspire to change your mind along the way about a new property, but you’ll set yourself up for fail if you’re not grounded in reality.
Pros & cons: some people downsize into a ‘tree’ or ‘sea’ changes and end up regretting it. They miss having friends and family nearby, or miss the conveniences of a more urban life. You’ll avoid these kinds of surprises if you’re ruthlessly honest about what matters most to you and anyone you’re downsizing with. Want to spend more time socializing? Then an urban apartment or condo is probably the answer. Desperate for zen? Then maybe you want to move out of town. If you hate doing home maintenance, you might love a condo or apartment where the landlord takes care of repairs. If you switch to renting, will you feel a loss of control (and is that good or bad for you)? Advantages can include increased cash flow (depending on the market), more time; lower utility costs and less stress. Disadvantages can include less privacy, the effort required to start in a new area and make new relationships, loss of possessions and less room for guests.
Listen to those who’ve done it: read books and blogs from those who’ve adopted the minimalist lifestyle. Can you imagine yourself in their downsized shoes? People like to talk about their experiences. Listen out for people who share their journey.
Be honest about your relationship with stuff: it’s easy to crave a minimalist lifestyle if you’re struggling with clutter. But if your belongings are eating up your space, moving to a smaller space might not fix the problem. It might make it worse, and leave you drowning in things you don’t have room to store or emotional energy to sort. What we own does have a knack of growing to fit our spaces, rather than the other way around. Ask yourself if you need to work on organizing your stuff before you downsize—if it’s likely to get in the way of a successful transition. They can happen simultaneously, but don’t convince yourself into thinking they have a relationship. If you know you have a clutter mission to attend to, do so, and use that as the first step on your downsizing adventure. Once you’ve nailed that, you’ll be a downsizing whiz.
Don’t confuse less with cheap: downsizing your property and belongings can save you money, but it can result in more cost to start, as you make the transition. If getting your hands on more cash is the immediate goal, then downsizing isn’t the answer. It’s not a quick fix of financial problems, though it will probably help in the long term. If you’re moving from a house into a condo or apartment, you’ll have different costs to factor in, like condo fees.
Run the numbers: how much would it cost to sell your home or to buy a smaller place with a different lifestyle? Are things more expensive in the area you’re likely moving to? What will you save without a larger property, and how would you make that money work for you? What belongings can you sell that you needed with a larger place (e.g. lawnmower)? Illustrating tangible financial benefits is a great way to convince someone of the benefits of downsizing. If there’s things or experiences they’ve always wanted, show how a lifestyle change could help make it happen. And if there’s any downside financially, you need that on the table too, so you can decide if and how to mitigate it.
Try it: you don’t have to sell up or even rent to see if downsizing meets your expectations. One creative solution is to organize your current property as if it were much smaller. Could you live in half as many rooms without stress or hassle? Lock the doors to unused rooms and hide the key. Did you miss the space? Feeling ready for less room?
Remind yourself nothing last forever: it’s not as depressing as it sounds. You’ve probably lived in several different places. This will just be another. If you downsize and hate it, you can change back—nothing is undoable. If your significant other is nervous about letting go of their old lifestyle, approach it as an experiment that you can assess the results of together. Change is comforting, but it’s also good for the soul and keeps us vital and alive. Living with less stuff and being responsible for less space is a lifestyle embraced by many with lots of rewards.
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