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Is it too late to downsize your home?

Lesson 1: Free online downsizing course

Many people worry that they have left it too late to downsize.

In our experience, Australian retirees downsize their home any age from their 50’s to their 90’s.

However, many downsizers we come across are in their mid to late 70’s.

But I firmly believe that there is no one age that is the right age to downsize (either for ageing in place or relocating), as long as there are the right supports in place.

Let’s take a look at some of the factors that will go into a decision of whether or not to downsize, how to downsize and when to downsize.

Deciding to downsize

Though children and relatives may have their opinions about whether or not you ought to downsize and move, many retirees want to remain in their own homes.

This is such a personal decision

In my opinion there are only three factors that should go into this decision:

  • has your world gotten smaller socially where you are experiencing isolation?
  • has your physical health gotten on top of you to the point where it’s harder to navigate your surroundings and “keep on top of things”?
  • does it make economic sense to move to an accessible unit or retirement accommodation?

For some people, it makes sense to move closer to family members or to accessible accommodation in a convenient area. For others, it makes more sense to declutter and “downsize” possessions in their current home to maintain their current lifestyle.

Downsizing for ageing in place

In Australia, we are lucky that MyAgedCare home care packages support people to stay in their own home if they choose to.

Depending on your health needs, you might qualify for a range of support from cleaning and gardening, to a carer who visits the home on a regular basis, if and as needed.

In this case, downsizing for staying in the same home can make sure the home remains functional and “dust off” the proverbial cobwebs.

Sometimes having a bit of clutter and accumulated possessions, or not having the home organised for current needs, can cause significant stress.

People I talk to will often say that the “state of the home” causes great anxiety. If accumulated items in the home are causing stress, then decluttering possessions in the current home should be a priority.

It might mean dealing with a few too many inherited items.

It might mean clearing out the garage so that the exercise equipment can be utilised.

It might mean making sure that the kitchen is functional and practical for the type of cooking you like to do now.

Often people who declutter and downsize their current home find that it can make their home much more comfortable and that they can confidently invite visitors and enjoy their home again.

Downsizing for relocation

By the same token, people who downsize and move can find that relocating to retirement accommodation can represent a much-needed fresh start.

If someone’s world has become smaller and there is a degree of social isolation, there are other factors that may make a move more attractive.

A newer, accessible home might have:

  • Better insulation and heating and cooling (people often notice that the cool winters and hot summers bother them more in recent years)
  • More natural light which can change the “mood” in the home
  • No need for maintenance by the homeowner

The move to a new home can strangely make the decluttering process go a lot more easily as well. Rather than feeling stuck with the status quo, a relocation can often provide a point of focus for how people want to live in their remaining years.

And it’s surprising how many items suddenly become unnecessary and unwanted when setting up a new home!

Benefits of relocating

A relocation can effectively achieve two outcomes. Firstly, it can be a shortcut to creating a functional, comfortable home. Secondly, the burden of leaving “too much stuff” for relatives to deal with after someone passes away can be alleviated as part of the relocation process.

We are also lucky that the average family home in Australia continues (despite recent market corrections) is a significant asset which can, in most cases, be used to fund retirement accommodation. Many people want to continue to live independently without being overly reliant on family members.

Even if you are not a joiner and don’t love the idea of the community aspect of a retirement village, you might consider a “no frills” retirement village with autonomous units or even downsizing to a new apartment.

And if you do like the idea of belonging to a retirement community, of course there are benefits to this also.

Pros and cons of downsizing at different ages

We have helped people downsize for either ageing in place or relocating up until their 90’s.

As mentioned above, I firmly believe that it is possible to downsize at any age.

Downsizing just looks different at different ages.

In a person’s 60’s and 70’s, downsizing can be a lot more autonomous than in their 80’s and 90’s.

One woman I spoke to said that she wished someone had told her how little stamina she’d have in her 70’s, and in many cases that can be an issue.

But there are ways to work around changes in physical capacity.

Firstly, as people age, working in short bursts over a longer period of time is more sustainable than trying to downsize a whole home in a short period of time.

Secondly, it is very possible to stay in control of the process whilst using external help to downsize.

Though it’s important to get non-judgemental, effective help, many people report that getting in external help can significantly lighten the load and lighten the mood when it comes to their downsizing process.

Some people also appreciate having someone else to act as a sounding board for discussing and planning out the process ahead.

Some people appreciate someone helping them move the items that they want and then dealing with everything else.

If you can find someone to assist you whose company you enjoy and who will allow you to stay in control, it can be a satisfying project to work on.

Regardless of your age.

Next lesson: Getting the confidence to downsize

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