Growing Older: A Guide to Downsizing and Making the Big Move. Part I

Paring down. Creating a simpler life. Finding a smaller place in that neighborhood you've had your eye on.

Sounds idyllic, all right, particularly if you're about to retire.  But the process of downsizing and making a big move to a home that suits your needs as you age can be stressful, frustrating and even a little depressing unless you're prepared for it.  I was not.  And I've just surfaced after four draining months of selling stuff, consigning stuff, giving away things, unloading a rather large house and moving into a new, much smaller condo.  I've learned a lot in the last four months so I thought I'd put together a little guide for downsizing and moving.  Something I wish I'd had when I started this whole process.

Don't get me wrong:  I'm glad we're moved into this lovely place and have many fewer things to take care of.  But getting here was not quite the adventure I thought it would be.  We began by going on-line and just checking out smaller houses we thought we might be interested in.  Then we moved onto condos that looked interesting.  Then to high rises with condos that looked interesting.  If we'd had it to do over, I think we would've started with a clearer plan of what we wanted in the first place.

Step 1:  The Plan

My husband wanted a smaller house.  I wanted a condo, preferably in a building, preferably with a view.  Maybe that's why we didn't have a very concrete plan in the beginning of our home search.  What we should've done is sat down and listed all the things we wanted in a place (location included), what we were willing to give up and what was not negotiable.  My husband and I don't agree on everything but we're both flexible enough that we could've arrived on the same page pretty quickly.

In addition to the kind of place you envision for yourself or for you and your partner, you need to consider its size.  Do you want to downsize to half the size of your present home?  Or are you ready to give up just a little space?

The most important part of your plan, though, is the vision you have for yourself in your new life.  And it will be a new life, whether you move across town or halfway across the country.  Because when you downsize, you're putting less importance on stuff and more importance on what you're doing day to day.  Your interests, your volunteer work, your passions will become your main focus.  What's really important?  If it's grandkids, you'll still need a spare bedroom.  If it's your artwork, you may need a place with a few big windows and a lot of light.

Start with your plan, and then begin your house hunting.  At the same time, you'll want to embark on the downsizing process.  Both can be stressful or they can be kind of fun.  That's why Steps 2 and 3 are right around the corner.