Downsizing — What’s It All About?

Downsizing.  The very word is a downer.  It implies descent, drawing to a close, or an euphenism for losing a job.  No wonder we’re resistant to downsizing – the word itself sounds like defeat.

Better to use terms like right-sizing, scaling back, or de-accumulation.  Think of the process as a way to bridge old and new, to create a connection to the past and frame decisions about the future.  What you’re really doing is clearing space for the next phase of your life.

This is the first of a five-part blog series on downsizing.  For the purposes of this series, I’m describing a major reduction of possessions. However, the principles apply to any de-cluttering project.

When we talk about downsizing, we usually think about empty-nesters – older adults moving out of the large family house to a smaller house or condo.  We hear a lot about “boomer downsizing,” reflecting the aging demographics of the midcentury baby boom. But there are reasons other than advancing years to scale back.

You may want to re-purpose a room into a studio or an attractive guest suite.  You may want to simplify, live more sustainably and shrink your carbon footprint.  It’s been said that we spend the first 40 years of our lives accumulating and the next 40 years trying to get rid of what we have. We outgrow things.  We want to lighten the load.  Our desire for material belongings wanes.

Reasons to right-size are:

  • Cost cutting.  Lower the mortgage, property tax and maintenance costs associated with a larger home.  Convert the wealth in home equity into liquid assets for education, travel or retirement
  • Maintenance.  Use the time you would spend maintaining a house and yard for social activities or hobbies.
  • Change of circumstance. A new job, illness or death might necessitate a a move.
  • Safety.  Adult children worry that their aging parents are no longer safe in their homes.
  • Kindness. De-accumulate now so you don’t burden your children or heirs later. Leave less for those dealing with your estate to cope with.

Ask yourself honestly, “What do I need?” Possessions that seemed important earlier may no longer have meaning or utility in your life today.  Can you function comfortably in less space?  Sometimes we simply want to uncomplicate our lives.  There is never a bad time for a healthy re-evaluation.

Next: Planning!



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