Downsizing for your retirement is an idea that might simultaneously cause you to feel optimistic and energetic, as well as pre-emptive dread and exhaustion. There’s no doubt about it; Downsizing is a big job. However, there are things you can do to make downsizing easier so you can enjoy the process of moving into the next stage of your life less encumbered.
1. Picture your new retirement village
Spend time contemplating the purpose of your move and what you want in your house when you move. Is retirement an opportunity to start fresh or to consolidate your domestic style and surround yourself with things collected over your life? Do you long for clear, light, uncluttered surfaces? Are you looking forward to hanging paintings and filling shelves with treasured objects?
What will make your new house feel like your home?
What is the layout? What are the room dimensions? Is there an outdoor area? Is there more than one level?
If you can plan and act with your new home always in mind, you’ll make more considered decisions about what to take with you and what can be left behind or passed on.
A good rule of thumb is that if you can’t immediately picture the right spot for something in your new home, don’t take it with you.
2. Embrace list making
When it comes to the process of relocating, lists are your friend! Make lists for everything, including, for example:
- A list of what you plan to tackle each week and day
- A list of what you are sure you’re taking with you – not the bits and pieces you’ll decide about as you go, but the absolute necessities, including furniture and special appliances you may want to keep
- To-do lists, including things like switching off utilities, dropping in to say goodbye to local shop owners you’ve gotten to know, changing your postal address and forwarding your mail
3. Prepare your packing supplies
Boxes, bags, newspaper, tissue paper, packing tape – have a supply of each on hand. Shifting objects from one spot in a room to another can be pointless. It’s better to have a box to designate them to or a rubbish/recycling bag to make disposal easier. This will have you making progress in no time.
4. Begin with some quick wins
Does the thought of clearing out the living room make you feel like an emotional wreck? Leave it for the moment and start with a space where you can make easy progress. Clear out the bathroom drawers to make a noticeable dent in the decluttering and give yourself some momentum to tackle the more complicated areas.
5. Don't try to do it all at once
Downsizing is a job for more than one weekend. Spread it out over several weeks, at least. Make your lists for each week and then break each week’s goal into smaller goals. Going all out will make you exhausted and result in poor decision making. Slow and steady is the way to win the downsizing race.
6. Take a wander down memory lane
There’s nothing wrong with revisiting the memories brought up by packing and decluttering each room in your old house. Saying goodbye to a treasured keepsake can be very emotional, so give yourself the space and time to feel your feelings before you move on.
7. Don’t go shopping
You might want to buy some items for your new home. We recommend that you hold off until you’ve dealt with clearing your old house first. This will save you from doubling up on things you don’t need and ensure that the new items you purchase fit nicely into your new home.
8. Sort out your possessions according to their category
Figure out how you sort things and designate each item into a pile. You might decide on six categories:
- Sell – some of the furniture that you are looking to part with might be valuable to others, provide you with some extra cash
- Donate to charity – unwanted items that are in good knick are always welcome at St Vincent de Paul, Red Cross and local op shops
- Gift to friends and family – but be very selective! People won’t thank you for burdening them with piles of stuff. Take the opinions, wants and needs of friends and family into mind when deciding
- Ditch – old paperwork, anything broken or unusable (be realistic: will you really fix it one day?)
- Pass on for safekeeping – perhaps you’d like to give all important documents to your lawyer or grown children for safekeeping
- Keep – the things you absolutely can’t part with will be items you need for your new home (kitchenware, cutlery, bedding, etc.) or cherished keepsakes you don’t want to part with.
Read our First Step Guide to find out more great information on downsizing.