How do you know when it’s time to move out of your family home?

Making the decision to downsize your home after retirement is no small feat – there are so many things to consider, such as:

  • How much room do you really need to live well?
  • How much maintenance can you handle on a daily basis?
  • How do you decide what to take with you when you downsize your home?

Here’s some handy downsizing advice and checklists to help you determine when it’s time to downsize and how to make the transition as smoothly as possible.


  1. How to assess your actual living space needs.

Retirement, is a good time to reassess your living space. It’s the perfect opportunity to get rid of excess baggage (literally!) and pare down to the essentials.

Deciding what you really need requires a good long look at how you live your daily life. It’s about prioritising those activities and items that are already a part of your actual lifestyle and dispensing with the chaff. Forget things that “might be nice to have someday” – if you haven’t gotten around to using them yet, chances are you never will.

Start by grabbing a pen and notepad and take a walk around your house. Look at everything – furniture, books, whatnots included – and ask yourself if you’ve used it in the past year. Does it give you joy when you see it? Be ruthlessly honest. Write down a list of what’s absolutely necessary for the life you’re living right now.

Then look at the rooms themselves. Do you really need the home gym/ office/ theatre room/ spare bedroom? How much time do you spend in them? With a little clever rethinking and space saving options, could they be combined into a single, flexible space? Are they now just de facto storage rooms for the stuff you (or your kids) have accumulated over a lifetime?

What about the patio or veranda? The garden? That big double garage full to overflowing with things you never use? How much time do you spend enjoying the outdoor areas of your home?

  1. Draw a map.

Once you’ve answered the above questions, make a rough map of the rooms you actually do use regularly.

Would you be perfectly comfortable with just three rooms – kitchen, living, bedroom + ensuite? Do you need more space to relax and unwind, or can you transfer these activities to outside the home? Are you likely to go stir crazy in a tiny space?

Think about how you can cleverly combine spaces. For instance, instead of a separate theatre room, you could install a drop-down screen and projector in your lounge room. Could you rig a drop-down table so you can do away with the separate dining/craft room or home office? What about ditching that home gym equipment in favour of a good pair of sneakers and some hand weights to take your exercise outdoors? Better still, join the local gym where you can get fit and socialise at the same time!

If you have friends and family staying overnight regularly, do you need a dedicated spare bedroom, or can you make do with an aero-bed in the living room? If you enjoy gardening, must you have acres of lawn and flowerbeds to maintain to be happy, or could you get by with a smaller green space and maybe some vertical or balcony plantings?

  1. Think about your capacity for maintenance in the future.

Maintaining your home may be a longstanding source of pride for you, but it can also become a burden as you age. Perhaps your home has a large yard that needs constant maintenance, or maybe it’s becoming more difficult to clean those extra rooms you rarely use.

You can get outside help to remedy some of these challenges but if your family home is extra-large, the cost can be prohibitive – and that’s money better spent on enjoying your life. Also, consider your annual energy costs in maintaining all this unused space – is it really necessary to heat and cool such a large area?

When home maintenance becomes a financial, physical and emotional drain, it’s a sign that downsizing might benefit you, giving you the freedom and flexibility to better enjoy your retirement years.

  1. How to declutter.

Clutter is the bugbear of our western lives. We fill our homes with stuff, and because it holds a memory or we’ve spent good money on it, it becomes hard to let it go. Downsizing your home is an opportunity to simplify your life to its essential needs – and, unless you live like a Zen monk, that probably means you’ll need to declutter.

But how do you begin? Start by looking at that notepad list you created in step 1. This is your list of absolute must-haves. Everything else is up for discussion.

  1. Go room by room. It’s a good idea to tackle your storage areas first, because it gives you places to put what you want to keep when you begin sorting other rooms.
  2. Set up 4 designated workstations – one each for rubbish, charity, things to keep/go into storage and stuff to sell.
  3. Identify what can be tossed first. Deal with items you definitely don’t want or care about first. This will get the ball rolling and give you a sense of achievement.
  4. Does it give you joy? This point from step 1 is worth reiterating – if an item doesn’t give you joy when you look at it, it doesn’t have a worthwhile place in your life. Or, put another way, if you feel a sense of frustration when you see it (i.e. a knife that never cuts properly, a pretty dress that nevertheless looks terrible on you), replace it with something you love.
  5. Get into a rhythm. If you’re unsure where an item belongs, set it aside and come back to it later. Don’t spend more than a few minutes deciding what to do with each item.
  6. Let it go. Dispose, sell or donate items ASAP so you’re not tempted to revisit your piles. Always think objectively – if your first instinct was to toss, or it’s ended up in the toss pile, then it either isn’t useful or probably doesn’t hold a lot of emotional or sentimental purpose for you.

Is it time for you to downsize after retirement? Speak to the team at Encore Living 55 plus lifestyle communities – call 1800 362 673.


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