Moving house is notorious for being one of the most stressful experiences in life, and moving to a smaller home - or downsizing - can be even more challenging, because it usually means parting with many items that were carefully chosen to furnish and decorate your existing home and have a lot of sentimental value.
However, says Jan Davel, MD of the Realnet estate agency group, you can lessen any anxiety you might feel about whether you are making the right decision by concentrating on the benefits you expect to derive from living more simply, and on managing the move as efficiently as possible.
“Lower living costs may mean, for example, that you will be able to spend less time working and more time with family, or travelling, or pursuing a hobby. Your new, smaller home will most likely also require less maintenance and upkeep, leaving you free to spend your weekends on the golf course, at the movies or doing whatever else you please.”
If you plan to move from a suburban home to a security complex or an estate, he says, you can also look forward to lower stress levels because you are less worried about your personal safety - or about the security of your home and belongings when you are go out to work or the shops, or go away on holiday.
“In addition, the move may be an opportunity to make some new friends to share this next phase of your life, and if you focus on all these positives, you will find it much easier to pare down your possessions and keep only those items that will fit into your new space and lifestyle.”
However, he says, you first need to decide just how big (or small) that new space is going to be. “A good way to start is to list the rooms in your current home that you never use anymore – such as the children’s old bedrooms, a study or a formal dining room – and add up the square meters of floor space in these rooms. If you then subtract this space from your current home’s total floor area, you will have a good idea of the right size for your next home.
“Next, make a list of the rooms and features you really would like your new abode to have. You might regard a home office as essential, for example, while someone else might crave a state-of-the-art kitchen, or absolutely need a second garage. But you might not need a pool anymore, or even a garden, especially if you plan on moving to an estate or complex that has communal sports facilities and a clubhouse where you can entertain.”
Davel says that working all this out beforehand will definitely make it easier to find the home – and location - that perfectly suits your vision of the new lifestyle you are planning to enjoy. “It will also help you to start selecting the items from your existing home that will best fit into this new lifestyle and feel even better about having to part with the rest.
“The best way to tackle this process is to make a detailed inventory of everything in your home (which will also be useful later for insurance and the moving company) and sort absolutely everything into keep, sell, donate and dump categories. Then separate the ‘keep’ items from goods in the latter three categories and deal with these as soon as possible so you don’t change your mind and unravel your downsizing efforts.
“You can sell many unwanted items that are in good condition online, through the classifieds or with the help of an auctioneer – and if this seems like a bother, just remember that you could actually cover all your moving costs this way.”
As for donations, he says, there are certain items that your grown children may want – but you need to insist that they take them away immediately. “Otherwise books, toys, clothes, small appliances, linen, kitchenware, artworks and even furniture can all be donated to your favourite charities, and if you give them fair warning they may even come and collect your surplus goods.
“Similarly, you can also get someone to come and transport the things you have decided to throw away to the dump, leaving you to pack and move only the things you have decided to keep - and which will immediately make your new place feel like home.”