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How to downsize efficiently

Downsizing from a large, freestanding property to a smaller, more manageable unit within a retirement estate can provide several lifestyle benefits for those who are planning to retire. 

This is according to Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, who says that aside from the fact that a smaller home will be far easier to maintain, it also provides the owner with far more freedom to be able to lock-up-and-go any time of the year without worrying about maintenance or the upkeep of the property while they are away.

“While a home with features such as a large garden or swimming pool is ideal for homeowners with growing children, these features cost money and take up a lot of time to maintain. Downsizing will give the retiree more time to pursue other interests and will have the added bonus of significantly reducing the monthly costs of rates and taxes, utility bills, insurance and security as well as maintenance and repair costs,” says Goslett.

However, downsizing a property for retirement is not simply a matter of selling a large property and buying a smaller one. “Over the years it is natural to collect things and buy furniture and items that fit a larger home. Reducing the size of a home will also mean reducing amount of items that can be moved into the smaller space,” explains Goslett. “It is important to pare down on possessions where possible. While it may seem like a daunting exercise, any home would need to be decluttered regardless of whether a homeowner is looking to downsize or place their home on the market and move.”

According to Goslett, there are a few steps that can help homeowners to downsize efficiently and prepare them for the move:

Plan for the moving day: once a moving day has been scheduled, it is important to start planning the move, working up until the set date. “Ideally it is best to start approximately three months before moving day by tackling one room at a time. This will be a far less taxing exercise than trying to tackle the entire house in a shorter period of time,” advises Goslett.

Sort into don’t, do, maybe:  if possible it is best not to have a maybe pile as this means dealing with items more than once. Goslett says that if possible, homeowners should try to deal with each item once and make a decision as to whether they are keeping it or getting rid of the item. While this may seem like a difficult task, especially for those who struggle to let go, ask whether the item could be replaced if it lost and how often it really gets used.

Sometimes more is just more: are duplicates really necessary? If there are items that are being kept just in case something breaks, it is probably better to get rid of the duplicates than take up space for something that may never happen. This applies to clothing as well - get rid of items that no longer fit or that are being held onto for ‘one day’.

Scale down on collections: Regardless of whether someone is downsizing or not, cutting a collection can be very upsetting, especially if it has taken years to grow the collection. However, limited space may require that only a few favoured items are kept. The number of items to be kept will be based on the amount of display space available.

Make some money: selling off items is an excellent way to make some money to put towards the move while getting rid of unwanted items. However, it is important to stick to the three month time frame and start early. While some items could sell rather quickly, others could take longer than expected so it’s better to be prepared for this.

An auction house is another option: according to Goslett, homeowners who have an assortment of valuable items that they would like to sell could consider making use of an auction house. An auction house is the ideal avenue to sell items such as antique furniture and artwork. An appraiser would come to the home to assess and value the items in the lot before taking the items to auction. This will provide the owner with an estimate as to how much they can expect on the day of auction.

Donate: there are several charitable foundations that do amazing community work which would benefit from a donation of household items. “Organisations such as the RE/MAX Foundation can only do the work that they do due to donations made by the public. Making a donation is a way to downsize and provide assistance to members of the community who are less fortunate. Knowing the items are going to people in need will make it far easier to part with them,” says Goslett.

He concludes that downsizing and decluttering will enable retirees to save on costs and have more time to themselves, meaning they will be able to enjoy retirement to the fullest.



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