This past year, my mother downsized from our six-bedroom family home into a two-bedroom condo in a senior development. Although she was nervous to cast aside her old life, now that the deed is done, she feels elated and free—and wishes she’d done it years earlier.
Now, my mom no longer worries about keeping her lawn mowed and driveway clear of snow, because maintenance staff does it for her. Rather than rattling around a huge house that took hours to clean, she has a manageable space she can easily tidy up herself. And, not incidentally, she has more money for whatever comes down the road.
Nonetheless, downsizing can still fill people with dread; experts say this is largely because they’ve heard horror stories from people who went about it all wrong. Here are the top six mistakes people make when downsizing, plus some ways to make the process easier and less intimidating.
1. Waiting too long to downsize
Are your kids gone? Is the mortgage paid off? Are you in reasonably good health? Think of it this way: It’s better to move now—while you have the strength and energy—than later, when it will be harder.
“The biggest mistake we make on downsizing is that we wait too long,” says Jacquie Denny, co-founder and chief development officer of estate sale marketplace, Everything But the House.
Typically people wait until an illness, or even when one spouse dies. That means we’re downsizing while we’re grieving or struggling through poor health, which are far from ideal circumstances.
Instead, Denny says, “we should actually plan ahead to downsize so that it is a lifestyle choice”—e.g., exchanging onerous yardwork for fun activities such as golf games or long hikes. Don’t mistake this, however, for rushing the process; Denny suggests giving yourself a full six months to prepare for…