6 Things Every Empty Nester Should Consider When Downsizing

It doesn’t always make sense financially or logistically to stay in the same place where you raised your family. Chances are, you won’t need a five-bedroom or even two-bedroom home.

As you’re preparing to downsize, there are a lot of things to think about. How much do you want to spend? What are you looking for? How much space do you really need? Read on for the details to consider before you make the move.

1. Consider your finances

As an empty nester, where you move is likely where you’ll live when you retire, too. And retirement means fixed income, which means you’ll need to budget differently than you do now.

Lifestyle coach Lesley Benson advises, “Check the service charges. As we head into a fixed income, unexpected charges can blow the budget out.” Factor in how having a fixed income and stricter housing budget will affect your lifestyle, specifically, how it’ll inhibit you from spending in areas you normally spend freely in.

You also need to consider how it will help you in the future. Will downsizing save you money which you can put towards retirement? Is it worth moving into a smaller space to have more freedom to travel or eat out? It’s worth weighing the pros and cons.

2. Move before you have to


Move before it becomes a necessity. Consider your finances, health and mobility. It’s easy (and normal) to hold onto your family’s home for as long as you can, but making the move to a smaller place when you’re able to is better than waiting until the last second. Plus, you’ll save more money by downgrading earlier.

Don’t wait until you qualify for retirement. It’s easy to hold onto your childhood home, especially if you want to host holidays for your kids and grandkids. But remember, they only come every so often. You’ll be the one living there, so pick a home that works well for you 356 days a year.

3. Think about what matters to you — and budget for it

Downsizing means making lots of big changes, which involves making smaller decisions. Consider prioritizing the things that matter to you most as you approach this new phase in life.

Are you a health nut who loves the outdoors? Living a short distance from a national park or beach could be a game-changer for you. Are you more interested in a metropolitan area with a vibrant nightlife? A downtown apartment is a great option if you’re concerned about your social life.

After you’ve considered which lifestyle aspects matter to you most, bake those things into your budget.

If you’re focused on fitness and staying active as you get older, remember that gym memberships and other wellness plans are usually covered by most insurance plans before you invest in a new treadmill or elliptical. Or, if you’re someone who wants to travel frequently throughout their retirement, do some cost analysis to determine which type of home will work best within your budget.

4. Accessibility matters

accessibility matters

The view from the third floor is appealing, but it may not seem worth it when you have to lug yourself up the stairs 10 years from now. As you’re looking for a new place, consider what you’ll need years down the road both in a practical and financial sense. What will your life look like ten years from you? Will your family grow in size? Will you need to rely on other people more than you are now?

If you’re moving into an apartment, look for accessible apartments that are wheelchair-friendly or that come with shower railings and other features to help you live more comfortably. (Pssst: landlords and apartment units can’t charge more for modified features!)

Don’t just consider your life in its current state when you’re planning to downsize. Factor in the effects of aging, and what that will mean for your mobility day-to-day.

5. Don’t try to tackle everything at once

Your home is full of memories, but those memories take up a lot of space. Downsizing means less storage, which means fewer places to stow all those trophies, diplomas, baby clothes and excess furniture. Decluttering is a daunting task, especially when you have years of things that hold sentimental value.

When you begin decluttering, start small. Don’t tackle the basement all at once. Instead, start with one closet or a smaller room, such as the laundry room. Garages and basements are notorious for being the most difficult to declutter since they tend to be where people have accumulated the most items like Halloween decorations or photo albums.

Another good rule of thumb is to toss duplicates. If you buy something new, immediately replace its older counterpart. Do you need five pairs of bed sheets if you’re moving into a one-bedroom apartment? No! Will you need two sets of utensils? Probably not.

If you truly can’t let go of big-ticket items, you can rent a storage unit — but know that it’ll mean more bills and more maintenance.

6. Do your research

senior on computer

Before you move somewhere, read up on the neighborhood. If you’re moving further away, study up on the area’s demographic. How far is it from the rest of your family?

Lifestyle coach Lesley Benson goes on to say, “Walk around the neighborhood at least five times before you move. Pick different times of the day. As you move into a different phase of life, you want to know if you are moving into an area that has demographics that match. Blaring music at 2 a.m. might not be your cup of tea.”

You should also look into amenities available to you when you move. Read up on senior citizen benefits, or find ways to cut down on other costs where you can. For instance, installing a burglar alarm could get your insurance company to reduce your premium by 15–20 percent.

It’s important to find your niche and use that to guide where you want to move. Do you enjoy the warm weather and quiet neighbors? If so, it may make sense to move to a quieter neighborhood or someone down South. Ask yourself the right questions—that way you’re able to find the right place.

Happy moving!

Haven’t decided between a house or apartment yet? Feeling torn between the mountains and the beach? No matter your dilemma, Rent.com can help you find your dream home so that you love where you land.

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Elaine ThompsonElaine Thompson is a digital journalist whose work has been featured in a variety of online publications, including Women’s Health Magazine, POPSUGAR and Austin Fit Magazine. Her writing focuses on sustainability and security at home and in the community. As a Salt Lake City local, when Elaine isn’t writing, she works as a project manager and sneaks away to ski when she can.

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