Fifteen years ago my husband and I looked for land to build a second home with the idea it would become our retirement home in the future. Instead, we found the perfect piece of land not far from our work and activities. We decided to build our retirement home right away and sell our then-current home. We downsized. With aging in mind we chose an open floor plan with wide doorways. Hard surface flooring, energy efficiency and quality materials also topped the list.
Whether you are thinking of retiring or already retired, the question of downsizing may have crossed your mind. There are many reasons to downsize in retirement. Living in a home that fits your new or envisioned lifestyle is not the least among them.
A smaller home may not feed your ego the way a large home signals success to friends and family. You’re retired, right? You’re forging a new identity where you can leave all the outward signs of a large, expensive lifestyle behind along with your work self. That doesn’t mean you don’t live well. You live life on your terms however you want. Think about who you are underneath all the material objects including the big house. Think about who you want to be and what you want to do in retirement. Maintaining a large house usually doesn’t top anyone’s list.
A smaller home comes with lower utility bills and a smaller property tax bite allowing more money for travel or hobbies. Speaking of travel and hobbies, fewer rooms to clean with less stuff to maintain, a smaller home affords time for doing the activities you want to do in retirement. If you opt for a condominium home, you will pay a regime fee, but enjoy someone else performing the maintenance for the common areas and outer part of the structure. When you jet off to an exotic destination on your bucket list, no worries about the lawn getting overgrown in your absence.
You may be thinking you need to keep your large home because you anticipate children and grandchildren visiting often. Be realistic about how frequently they might visit. How far away from you do they live? What are their commitments to a spouse’s parents? What are their work schedules? Their school schedules? When our oldest daughter’s large family visits, it is bedlam. Air mattresses arrive with them, bodies and clothes are strewn everywhere. That’s now reduced to once yearly as the ability for visits is dictated by school, college and work schedules along with various athletic endeavors like volleyball, baseball and football. My son-in-law is self-employed and can’t take time off during the height of business. Do you really need to maintain a three, four, five or six thousand square foot house for a once or twice yearly visit? You’re retired, right? Why don’t you go visit them?
I never was one for lots of knick-knacks. My thinking always was, “Someone has to dust that.” As a working mother I found ways to limit the amount of time spent cleaning. I carry that philosophy with me today. Even with that view, over the last few years I’ve handed plenty of items to my daughters and charities. By choice my retirement life is more casual. Gone are the entertainment-type parties and dinners, designer clothes and formal furniture. Downsizing means decluttering. In a smaller home there is no room for useless stuff. In retirement, why would you want it?
Should you downsize? I don’t know. As always, that’s a question only you can answer. I know it works for me. Consequently, I do think you should consider it.