When Downsizing Your Home Is Right For You

The change of seasons often comes with the itch to make other changes, including at home. Sometimes those changes include downsizing from a larger home to a smaller dwelling.

With students returning to college, and recent graduates setting in new jobs with plans to venture out on their own, the house may seem a little more empty. Or maybe you are on a mission to Marie Kondo your life, and the first step is majorly scaling back your belongings to live more simply in a smaller space.

If you’re considering downsizing your home, below are several questions to ask yourself to help you determine whether the time is right.

Are you ready to shake up your routine?

The type of dwelling can have a significant impact on your lifestyle. Maybe you’ve spent the past 30 years maintaining a home in the suburbs, and are looking for a lower-maintenance style of living.

Perhaps you inherited a home but would prefer the conveniences of a living somewhere with a doorman and additional amenities. Downsizing is a way to relieve yourself from the responsibilities tied to owning a larger piece of property.

Are you financially prepared to downsize?

As a general rule of thumb, housing expenses (mortgage, insurance, taxes), shouldn’t exceed 30%. If they do, downsizing may be the most resourceful option. If you are spending more than 30% of your income on your home, it might be time to downsize. Another good indicator is when you are spending money to maintain spaces you no longer use.

Alternatively, downsizing doesn’t always mean less expensive. If you’re considering selling your home to reduce housing costs, map out potential downsizing expenses before committing.

For example, if you are selling a $450,000 home in the suburbs and want to purchase an equally priced condo in the city, take into consideration the monthly condo assessments, new furniture to better fit a smaller sized space, a monthly parking space, public transit fare and additional costs of living.

Is your home the hub for your family?

The idea of never having to host a Thanksgiving dinner or holiday gatherings may sound appealing but really reflect on this reality to determine how this could impact the family dynamic.

Taking a few years off of hosting might be nice, but you may find yourself becoming surprisingly emotional about the idea of never hosting meaningful family gatherings again.

Also, consider the life stages of family members. You may regret giving up the extra space if you anticipate children moving home post-college, elderly parents moving in, or becoming a fun getaway spot for future grandchildren.

How much are you willing to leave behind?

Scaling back your belongings is a refreshing thought until you think through where your cherished pieces will end up.

Will a smaller space has room for your great-grandfather’s grand piano, the heirloom armoire that has been passed down for generations, or the custom dining room set you had commissioned with the hopes of gifting to grandchildren?

While they are material possessions, they still carry sentimental value. Facing the reality of parting with them may be something you’re not willing to do. Even reducing the amount of non-heirloom items takes a significant amount of work to disperse a lifetime of belongings.

Downsizing is the time to become ruthless with what you can keep, and what you need to sell, donate or throw out.

How much living space do you really need?

Downsizing comes with the idea of freedom — financial and emotional. However, it’s still important to consider how you and your spouse or other family members realistically live.

For example, if you and your spouse have been watching TV separately for 25 years, is this really the time you will start agreeing on shows to watch together? Do you both go to work at the same time every morning and are you used to having multiple showers? It’s important to keep these lifestyle nuances in mind when considering the amount of space you will realistically need.

Downsizing can result in feeling liberating, or stifling, depending on your lifestyle. Assess the full picture — your routine, family obligations, finances — before committing to the next stop of your home ownership journey.

Written by Deanna Kane
Deanna Kane is an interiors, home decor, and real estate writer. She enjoys taking on her own home renovation and design projects, and staying current on the local real estate market.