The children have finally moved out, and although you miss having them around, you also enjoy the element of tranquillity that comes with the empty nest. There’s plenty of time to think about what you will be doing in this next chapter; perhaps travelling more, taking up a new hobby, completing another degree. With all the choices that lie ahead at this stage, there is one consideration that many empty nesters find challenging, and that is what to do with the family dwelling. While it’s nice to have a big house for holiday gatherings, you find that the house is simply too large for everyday use or that the belongings you’ve acquired over the years have become a clutter. Regardless of the specifics, you now have a need to downsize. Here is what some experts suggest:
What is your perception of downsizing? Before you even start planning to downsize your home, you must think of this process in a positive way.
Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, Professor of Education at Harvard University, says you should not look at what you are losing but rather what you stand to gain. Downsizing should be viewed as a bridge from the old life to the new one.
On the other hand, Marc Agronin, a geriatric psychiatrist, advises that the process should be viewed as an opportunity for both renewal and reinvention regardless of the circumstances that have led to it.
Prior to downsizing, and assuming you’re part of a couple, you need to plan how the two of you want to spend the rest of your lives. As said by Maddy Dychtwald, the co-founder of Age Wave, a think tank and consultancy, you need to have the long-term view as the average life after retirement has now extended past 20 years. Failure to plan properly may leave you in financial difficulty or create a circumstance where you must downsize again in the future.
Given that your living situation is a key factor in the level of comfort you enjoy in retirement, you’ll need to organize your dwelling based on your unique retirement lifestyle. For example, if you envision a working retirement or that you’ll operate a business, you may need the convenience of a home office or reliable transportation near your chosen residence.
To facilitate your overall plan, you may consider the services of a trusted advisor or investment counsellor that can help to provide a comprehensive picture of your retirement needs. You may also need the services of a real estate agent if downsizing involves buying a new home and selling your current one.
The early time spent figuring out what you really want out of your retirement can be very enjoyable, and since family ties are so important – perhaps increasingly meaningful as you age – there is good reason to involve family members as you tailor your retirement plan. Even though grandchildren might only occasionally visit, they may have a special place in your downsizing plan. Perhaps you’ll ensure plenty of space for them to play in your new home or arrange for part of the equity from the sale of your current home to help finance their education.
Downsize your stuff
When downsizing your home, you’ll have to let some of your belongings go. Make a list of what you’ll take to your smaller home. The best way to go about it is to take items on the basis of utility rather than for sentimental reasons.
As said by Natalie Caine, who owns Empty Nest Support Services and Life in Transition, having a list of what you can and can’t have will help you figure out what to forego to meet priority.
You may have items that hold symbolic meaning in your family history. If such items are large and you can’t bring them with you, you can take a picture of them to keep the fond memories and let your children or close family members inherit those keepsakes.