When and How to Downsize Successfully

by Gary Foreman

When and How to Downsize Successfully photo

You know you’ll likely downsize at some point. But how do you know the right time to downsize? And what’s the best way to go about making such a big decision and such a big move? We turn to experts for answers.

If you live long enough, there will come a time that it makes sense to move out of the family home and into something smaller. You will be downsizing as it’s commonly known. Your parents may be making the downsizing decision today or you may be considering it tomorrow.

To get some suggestions on how to downsize successfully, we interviewed Doug and Judy Robinson. Their site Senior Moves provides senior moving and estate services. Here’s their advice on downsizing.

Q: How do you know it’s the right time to downsize?

Doug and Judy Robinson: You know when the house is too big and the space is no longer needed. You no longer want to (or can) afford the maintenance of a house. You are tired of yard work because you have other ways you would prefer to spend your time. Finally, if the stairs are becoming public enemy #1, you are ready for a new lifestyle.

Q: What is the most common misconception about downsizing?

Doug and Judy Robinson: Many people may be considering a new adult bungalow, but it can be more expensive than their older two-story house. Many believe that downsizing and moving far away to be near children and grandchildren is a great idea, and it will be easy. They don’t realize they will be giving up their support system of friendships, doctors, place of worship, etc. This puts unrealistic expectations on family to spend a lot of time with them, not realizing that their children have their own commitments, such as jobs, kids’ sports, and other things.

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Subscribe to After 50 Finances, our weekly newsletter dedicated to people 50 years and older. Each week we feature financial topics and other issues important to the 50+ crowd that can help you plan for a comfortable retirement even if you haven't saved enough.

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Q: What do people overlook when downsizing?

Doug and Judy Robinson:

  1. We often get calls from people who never realized they would live so long and spend so much of their money. Now they need to downsize financially. Talk with a financial planner and be realistic about what you can afford.
  2. Many people make decisions based only on emotions and never carefully consider the lifestyle that will work for them personally. When you know the lifestyle you want, it is easier to find the right accommodations whether it is a house, apartment, or retirement residence.
  3. Large furniture usually doesn’t fit in a smaller space. At times, people buy too much furniture prematurely and the decisions can be the wrong ones for the space they have.

Q: Are there certain things to keep or discard?

Doug and Judy Robinson: Each person is different, so there is no formula on what to keep. On the other hand, we have seen seniors move ten bottles of shampoo or excessive cleaning supplies because they had “paid for them.” It costs to move all that stuff! Move what you love and use. Sell, give away, or dispose of the rest. It is the same with clothing and kitchen items. Keep and move what you love and use.

Q: Please share any tricks and techniques that can make downsizing easier.

Doug and Judy Robinson: Buy some half-inch removable colored dots. Choose one color and identify what will go with you. Use these five steps of downsizing:

  1. Decide what to keep
  2. Decide what to give to family
  3. Decide what to sell
  4. Decide what to donate
  5. Decide what to discard

Choose a different color for each step of the process. Green means go. This is helpful for folks with some memory loss.

Downsizing can be exciting, and it can be terrifying. If you are dreading the change, it is harder to get through the process. On the other hand, if you are looking forward to the change, it is easier to get through the process because you have positive expectations.

Reviewed February 2020

About the Author

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters in 1996. He's the author of How to Conquer Debt No Matter How Much You Have and he's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money, Credit.com and CreditCards.com. Gary shares his philosophy of money here. Gary is available for audio, video or print interviews. For more info see his media page.

About the Experts

Doug and Judy Robinson were “Downsizing Pioneers” in North America. Since 1996, they have helped nearly 4000 clients. Doug and Judy are the authors of the book The Best of the Rest – Downsizing for Boomers and Seniors and eight eBooks. They have been on radio and television numerous times. Their interactive and sometimes humorous presentations help people make better and more informed decisions. They are also available for consultations both by phone and through social media.

You deserve a comfortable retirement.

Subscribe to After 50 Finances, our weekly newsletter dedicated to people 50 years and older. Each issue features financial topics and other issues important to the 50+ crowd that can help you plan for a comfortable retirement even if you haven't saved enough.

Debt ChecklistSubscribers get The After 50 Finances Pre-Retirement Checklist for FREE!

Your Email:

You deserve a comfortable retirement.

Subscribe to After 50 Finances, our weekly newsletter dedicated to people 50 years and older. Each issue features financial topics and other issues important to the 50+ crowd that can help you plan for a comfortable retirement even if you haven't saved enough.

Debt ChecklistSubscribers get The After 50 Finances Pre-Retirement Checklist for FREE!

Your Email:

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