Baby Boomers: Should You Downsize?
My husband, Scott, and I moved from a 3,000-square-foot home to a 400-square-foot casita nearly two years ago.
We have never been happy.
Have any of you boomers downsized or plan to in the near future?
You’re not alone.
Recently, there has been a cultural shift with more people interested in living minimally and choosing to live with less. And it’s not just us boomers who may be empty nesters.
Part of the trend may be due to author Marie Kondo’s popular book “Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Tidying Up and Organizing,” which encourages minimalism by urging readers to get rid of things that they do not bring you joy. .
Then there was the whole “tiny house” movement. More and more people began to choose experiences, adventures, and seeing the world over a big house with a huge mortgage.
Although minimalism isn’t quite the same concept as the hippie movement of the 1960s, boomers may relate to it. Remember when many young people thought that society had been corrupted by capitalism and the materialistic culture it created? Although it was a more radical time, many realized that while pursuing “success,” people lost sight of the more meaningful experiences life had to offer.
Of course, this is a personal and important decision that is not for everyone. But why should you consider downsizing?
The pandemic caused many boomers to reconsider their priorities.
After being separated from family during the pandemic, some wanted to get closer to their children and grandchildren. If your children live where the cost of living is higher, a smaller house may make the move possible. If your children have large properties, small houses may be an option.
Some boomers lost their jobs or saw their retirement dreams fade as the pandemic dragged on and were forced to look for other options. That may have included selling their large family home and cutting staff to reduce expenses.
In fact, money is a primary motivating factor when deciding to downsize, according to a survey in the article, “The Upside to Downsizing.” When respondents were asked why they would want to downsize, 59% of baby boomers said saving money was the top reason for doing so.
Others, like me, choose smaller digs as a lifestyle choice. Sure, Scott and I wanted to save more money for retirement, but we also wanted to live a simpler life so we would have more time for meaningful activities and to pursue our goals and dreams.
The survey showed that wanting less responsibility and more freedom definitely played a role in decision making. A third of boomers (38%), perhaps empty nesters, said their previous home was simply too big. Another 36% stated that their larger house was too much work to clean and maintain. The survey revealed that 22% wanted to reduce stress and 16% liked the idea of reducing clutter.
That was certainly the case with my husband and I. After my son was awarded full custody of his children, we volunteered to move into our two-bedroom casita and rent out the main house for him and the children. We had been considering downsizing for a while.
Turning 60, we wanted to make the decade count while we were still healthy enough to do so. At that time, he was tired of the responsibility of cleaning a big house. Fascinated by living a minimalist lifestyle, we watched endless episodes of “Tiny House” shows on HGTV. It soon became apparent that we wanted to spend more time on meaningful activities and new adventures. In other words, a large house no longer met our needs.
Although, I have to admit, there was a bit of trepidation going from a 3,000-square-foot home to a 400-square-foot casita. Would we really enjoy it? The answer is a resounding yes! We have no regrets at all and savor our new freedom.
My son’s house rent payment covers most of the mortgage and we split the cost of utilities. Also, because we have less space to store possessions, we consume less. These changes have allowed us to save money and realize some of our dreams now and gradually move closer to other goals.
Since we scaled back, we were able to achieve my lifelong dream of traveling to Africa. We just bought a travel trailer and now we’re having fun camping and are one step closer to making Scott’s dream of traveling across the United States together after retirement come true.
Without the responsibility of taking care of a big house and yard, we feel our time is better spent on spiritual activities and volunteer work. Not to mention, I now have more time to work on my latest writing project: a book on writing in retirement that is currently in the editing process.
Perhaps author Sheri Koones put things in proper perspective. She encouraged using the term “sizing” instead of the word “downsizing,” which can seem like you’re being starved. Right-sizing focuses on what’s “right” for you now, what’s really important to you, and finding a way to incorporate those priorities into your life. The right size allows you to create the lifestyle you want with more money to enjoy it.
For example, maybe you want to move to a warmer climate. A smaller home may allow more time and money for outdoor activities like golf, tennis, or biking. Perhaps you want to live in an exciting and bustling city within walking distance of restaurants, bars, theaters, and shops and choose to live in a smaller condo or apartment.
The right size can open doors.
The downside of downsizing
Of course, all of that being said, there are some downsides to downsizing.
In the survey, respondents cited having less space and privacy as the most difficult adjustment to downsizing. Interestingly, almost twice as many Millennials and Gen Xers complained about privacy issues than baby boomers.
Half of those surveyed admitted that getting rid of possessions was a big challenge.
Moving, no matter the circumstances, is stressful and can be expensive.
If you like to garden, you probably have less space to do it. And if you love to entertain guests, a smaller home may get in the way.
My tips to reduce the size
As someone who has been there and done that, here are some tips for those of you who want to downsize like me:
* First of all, this is a big decision. Do not rush. Consider all of your options when it comes to downsizing with your lifestyle goals in mind. Do you want a smaller one level home that allows room for visiting friends, family and those precious grandchildren? Are you outgoing and want to live in a 55+ community that offers a variety of recreational activities? Or are you adventurous and want the freedom of a home on wheels like an RV, trailer or tiny house, or maybe even a houseboat? Is it more important that you live in the city or do you need a garden?
* Not sure what you want? You may want to rent an apartment or a small house before making a purchase decision.
* If you are downsizing, it is important to consider how small you want to be. Even an extra 50 square feet makes a world of difference in a small home. After purchasing our camping trailer, I realized that these 200 square foot “tiny houses” or living full time in an RV are not for me. I prefer a foundation under my feet. We are lucky to have a separate room for our bedroom which allows us some personal space. Also, unusual for small houses, our fairly large bathroom actually has a double sink. Trust me, that makes a world of difference! Think carefully about what is essential to you.
* When it’s time to let go of your treasures, work on one room at a time so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Remember, photo books that take up space tones can be digitized. If you have collections, try to pick a few items that are most meaningful to you and sell the rest, or maybe a family member wants some of it. In my case, my son agreed to keep my precious collection of old books in the main house. If you have an emotional attachment to certain items, you may want to consider storage options.
* You’ve probably heard this before, but it’s true. Light colors and keeping clutter to a minimum make smaller spaces feel bigger.
* Make your outdoor space count. To help solve the problem of the lack of space to entertain guests, we arranged the patio where we have space for two large tables. We also use that space often for ourselves, for al fresco dining and additional living space.
* I soon found out that storage is everything when you live in a small house. Be sure to use plenty of hidden storage space and multipurpose furniture.