The benefits of downsizing your home in the Empty Nest will get you excited to cash in on savings and have the simple life you crave!
Click here to read this follow up post, which features a tour of our downsized home, along with 5 decor secrets you can easily adapt to your downsized place.
The tiny, pink handprints in her walk-in closet would have made me angry years ago, but discovering them on that bittersweet day sent warm, salty tears streaming down my cheeks.
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How Had I Missed It?
It was our last day in the house where we had raised our children. How had I missed those handprints? They must have been there for the 15 years we’d lived at this address.
In all the weeks, months, and years I had hung her clothes or searched for her soccer cleats or admired her newest Taylor Swift pictures-I’d never noticed them. Until the day we moved.
I imagined the grin that must have been on my daughter’s dimpled face as she sneaked a hand in the paint tray when I wasn’t looking. That mischevious five year old sweety who had delighted in stamping her mark on her closet wall held little resemblance to the sophisticated, young woman who had, only weeks ago, crossed the stage to receive her high school diploma.
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Leaving this house felt like a betrayal of all we held dear. Our son and daughter’s growing up years, special holidays with family around the table, and game nights with friends.
According to “Life at Home in the 21st Century,” a book written by four UCLA archaeologists and anthropologists, Americans have between 500 to 1,000 items in each room of their home… having so much stuff sometimes leads to anxiety and that can trigger action to downsize.Matt Parker, “Real Estate Smart”
I was reluctant to give up the burdens of owning a large house and get rid of stuff we’d long outgrown, not because those things held special meaning. If I was honest, I was afraid our identity as a family would rush out the door along with the overstuffed trash bags of worn-out possessions.
Benefits of Downsizing
Recently, I asked a decorating Facebook group “Has anyone here downsized significantly or even thought about doing it?”The feedback amazed me.
- “…from 2,100 square feet to 1,025. No credit card, no car payment, no mortgage… priceless peace.”
- “I went from a 5 bed McMansion to 2 bed apt. I took photos of the stuff I loved and had to part with. I’m sooo much happier…”
- “…life is a lot easier. Have more time to do other things, than clean and maintain a house and yard.”
- “I kept what I loved and use it everyday. I got rid of anything with bad memories…”
Our home-selling journey was a long and winding rode that led from our 6 bedroom home to the door of a 3 bedroom rental. Because our home sold sooner than we’d expected, we decided to rent a small home before we dowsized permanently.
The process of purging our belongings was exhausting, but also freeing. “Why did we keep all this stuff?” I kept asking my silent husband. Silent-and smart. He knew the answer to my rhetorical question but dared not verbalize it: because I couldn’t let go. Of. A. Single. Thing.
We’ve been in our rental, which I affectionately refer to as our “Love Cottage”, for almost a year now. Our A-frame attic shelves are now lined with only our most prized possessions. Yes, there’s the set of fancy china we bring out every Christmas. But most of those boxes are stuffed with sepia-toned photos, scribbled “I love you” notes, and prom dresses.
After all is said and done, one of the biggest benefits of downsizing is remembering what I truly value-memories over possessions. Another is actually knowing where those precious scrapbooks are located and having more time to pour over them.
The Simple Life You Crave
At one point in our downsizing, I swore I had stocked the entire resale store! But all that purging paid off. Not only did we save on moving expenses, we also got a break at tax time.
Keep track of donated items with as detailed a tally as possible. Most tax programs have a place to plug in donations if they are categorized.
The key to a comfortable smaller home is making sure the kitchen and the adjoining room are large, open and bright…Matt Parker
To my surprise, our kids expressed very little interest in acquiring any of our stuff. Their generation seems to be a less encumbered one. Or maybe they just don’t appreciate the beauty of my mom’s gravy boat.
Whatever the case, our downsized life got much simpler without the added burden of hauling around boxes of keepsakes no one really wanted.
Losing Each Other
In our old, 3-level home, we quite literally lost each other. We got in the habit of texting “Dinner’s ready”, and “Are you in the basement?”. Now that our kids are home only on school breaks and vacations, our precious time together is spent in closer quarters.
Negotiating a smaller space has its challenges, especially when they have friends over. But overall, our lives intersect much more frequently in this smaller space. What we lost in privacy we’ve gained in great conversations.
No More Mr. Fix-It
When the leaves fall this season, I no longer need to have 911 on speed dial as I watch my husband teeter on a ladder over our clogged gutters. This and many other tedious and time-consuming chores are now the responsibility of our landlord.
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Although we expected the financial and time benefits of downsizing, we keep being surprised by the mental relief that comes with less responsibility. When my husband was out of town, I use to have a cloud of worry about keeping up with the house. These days it doesn’t even cross my mind.
Call me weird, but I strongly dislike other people cleaning my house. Over the years, we’ve tried many different arrangements for housecleaning, from hiring college students to a traditional service.
In the end, I felt uneasy about strangers in my personal space. I wasn’t too happy about the exorbitant prices, either. But, more and more, simply keeping our large house tidy became a burden.
Then there were the stairs. When we first moved in, I bounded our flights of stairs with energy and loved decorating the handrails with garlands during the holidays. Flash forward a few years-creaky knees and some extra pounds had me planning trips upstairs like a mountain expedition.
Although our new home has upstairs bedrooms, the square footage is less than half what I trekked before. My body is thanking me with increased energy for exploring the neighborhood and for my hobbies.
Home is Where You Make It
More and more, my kids are using the word “home” to describe their apartment rather than where my husband and I are living. At first, these slips broke my heart. But my son explained, “All my stuff is at my apartment, Mom. It’s not like I don’t like staying with you guys, but I’m making a life of my own.”
It’s taken time, but I now see that independence as a sign of successful parenting. Although they know they’re always welcome here, they have learned to make a home for themselves.
And someday, many years from now, I just may sneak into their kids’ room and check the closet walls for little, pink handprints.