Simplifying where you live
As time passes, you may start to rethink your living accommodation. In your early adult years, your focus may be on accumulating possessions and working hard to increase your living space. You may dream of owning a big house and furnishing it with modern gadgets, fashionable furniture and so on.
Over the years, you might decide you don't need as much space anymore. Other things might offer you more satisfaction, and your focus will shift. For instance, you may have plans to start Ageing well and living with purpose or you might want to move to a community with certain support services. It's all part of the way priorities change and life goes on.
Weighing the benefits
Moving to a smaller home (also known as downsizing) could help transform your dreams into a reality. Consider these benefits:
Save money. Retirement from work (or even simply reducing working hours) can have a huge impact on the lifestyle you can afford. At this stage of life, it may be even more important to consider any opportunities to save money, which could help cover costs for future care needs or even contribute towards an eventual move to an assisted living environment. (If you are considering assisted living as a downsizing option, take a look at our overview of Independent living and supported accommodation, where you’ll find information and resources to guide you through this important transition.)
Reduce maintenance. Do you really want to keep up the maintenance of a house with several bedrooms when most of the time, you only use one? If your current home has an old heating system, do you want to keep spending a small fortune keeping it comfortable over the winter months? Moving into a more modern property—ideally with an efficient heating system, effective insulation and a smaller footprint—is a strategy that will make sense over time.
Make access easier. Do you have the energy to climb stairs every day or take care of a long, uneven driveway? These obstacles can make it difficult for you (or anyone with mobility concerns) to access your home. You may require additional help to get around more easily. Fitting a stair lift or adapting furniture that better suits your needs could be a solution, but moving might be a more practical idea. You could consider a bungalow on one level or a serviced apartment block that provides maintenance. These are really appealing if you'd rather not take care of things like driveways, stairwells and other shared areas.
Upgrade important living areas. A more compact kitchen will require less cleaning, and modern and efficient appliances can help save you money. A bathroom with a large shower unit will make it easier to fit safety rails and other support fixtures where needed.
As you do your research, you may uncover some hidden costs. You should think about these expenses before making your decision to move.
For instance, you may need to make some basic refurbishments in order to sell your current home. Many cosmetic touch ups can be inexpensive (like repainting walls, cleaning carpets, replacing kitchen cabinets or fixing defective bathroom fixtures), but this all adds up fairly quickly. Think about this. Is it a better investment to update where you already live or to move house completely? If your current property is old and your checklist of repairs means you'll end up replacing the heating system, doing structural work and fixing an entire kitchen or bathroom suite, it will most probably be more economically viable to sell up and move to a property that has all new fixtures and fittings. However, if just one of these things is required in order to make your home comfortable (and the size of your property is still manageable), it may be cheaper to complete that specific project and stay where you are. Keep in mind you may need to make some adjustments to a new property, and these costs should be considered on top of those you'll have to make in order to sell your current home.
If you do decide to sell your home, make sure to ask for help. Get advice from friends, family members and professionals (such as your local estate agents) when weighing your options. This is important for buying a new property, selling your current one and making any decisions on negotiating prices.
Not ready to move? Just declutter!
If you do not feel that moving to a new house is right at this stage and decide to invest in minor repairs instead, try to consider what you really need where you currently live. The whole process of decluttering can be therapeutic because it creates space and clarity, not just on a physical and practical level, but on a psychological level too.
- Make your home safer. Lots of useless objects lying around the house can make it very difficult to navigate your way around them. When you open a kitchen cabinet or bedroom wardrobe, are items just waiting to topple out? Or are you regularly tripping over an old rug with turned up corners, or bumping into a dining table that’s just too large for your current needs? Decluttering might help.
- Feel therapeutic. Decluttering is a great way to remember exactly what you own. Perhaps you have a towering stack of mystery boxes stored in your loft, or multiple sets of dinner plates, cutlery and wine glasses. Whatever you don't want can be passed along to someone who can really use it.
- Help you decide what's really important to you. Once you know exactly what you have, decide which items still hold purpose and meaning. The rest you can donate to charity or give it to other family members.
- Assist you financially. If you are able to sell some of the items you want to get rid of, this money could go towards investing in some new fixtures (such as a stair lift or a new armchair) that you might make your home better suited to your current needs. Keep in mind that luxury items (such as a car you never seem to drive anymore, or a large fridge freezer you can never fill) are good options to sell online and can make you quite a decent profit.
Consider using specialised second-hand trading websites such as eBay, Shpock or Gumtree. But make sure to stay safe when selling online, and ask for help or advice from friends or family members if you are unsure about anything.
Give yourself enough time
Whether you are choosing to downsize by moving to a smaller property or simply clearing out some of the possessions you own, you will need ensure you give yourself enough time to go through the process thoroughly. Try to be methodical and take care not to overwhelm yourself. Visit each room in the house and think about what you really need:
- In the kitchen. How much do you use your once treasured kitchen gadgets, multiple sets of cutlery and heavy duty pots and pans?
- In the bedroom. Do you have a wardrobe full of unused clothes you never passed along?
- In the living/dining room. Why not donate old books you have read and maybe even replace an old dining table with a smaller one?
As you go through each room, ask yourself some questions about the items you may want to discard. For example:
- When was the last time you used it?
- Do you own another similar item?
- If not practically useful, does the item have sentimental value?
- Is it in good condition, or will it need replacing in the near future?
- Would someone else (such as a friend or family member) make better use out of it?
Take care of yourself
Don’t forget that decluttering or downsizing to a smaller residence can be a challenge, both physically and emotionally. If you do choose to move, make sure you aren’t compromising on location; it's wise to maintain good connections with your community and ensure your family and close friends are still nearby.
Remember these simple things during the process:
- Be patient with yourself and take your time to do the job right. If you can't make a decision on something, seek advice or at least "sleep on it" and move forward when you are ready.
- If you feel tired, rest. Take a break—maybe for a couple of days or even a couple of weeks. And if you're finding the process difficult, ask for help.
- Don’t stop living your life while going through this process—go for a walks, meet friends, share your concerns.
- If you are moving from a home that holds sentimental value, remember to reflect on the process of letting go. The same may hold true for the items inside. You may feel a sense of loss, so recognising this is important; acknowledgement will help you move on to the next stage in your life with a more positive outlook.
For help making the emotional part of the process more manageable, see Emotional wellbeing (or Bereavement, if appropriate) for advice and links to resources that can help. You can also register for the Jewish Care Interact Forum and post a question to others who might be willing to share their experiences.
Find out more
Here are some additional resources to help guide you through the downsizing experience.
- Downsizing Into a Care Setting: Taking What Matters, by Occupational Therapist Julie Cole, shares a personal account of the thought processes involved in downsizing.
- Downsizing your home to fund your long-term care from the Money Advice Service has a range of articles offering assistance on lots of financial issues relating to long-term care.
- Downsizing from the Audley Villages website offers practical tips on how make the move to a smaller property.
- 8 Rules for Ditching Sentimental Clutter by Lauren Piro is a nice article offering tips on how to let go of your sentimental possessions in stages so it can be both a positive and therapeutic step forward.
- Steps to Downsizing Your Home by Diane Schmidt of The Spruce looks at the downsizing process on both a practical and emotional level.
Downsizing is about the acceptance of the inevitable changes you may experience as you get older. Be proud of yourself for taking the necessary steps to ensure your future comfort and security.
As you make the necessary changes to your environment, pause regularly to enjoy what you have created. You deserve that.