Downsizing Your Home Reduces Stress, Clutter

Tim Lucas
Military VA Loan editor

Joshua Becker decided three years ago to downsize his life and simplify things including the size his home. He and his family moved from a four bedroom, three-bathroom home in Vermont to a smaller three-bedroom house in Arizona.

“Most people don’t go that direction when they don’t have to. But houses in Arizona were really expensive. We could have gotten into something bigger. We chose smaller and half the price,” says Becker, founder of the blog and author of the books Simplify and Clutterfree for Kids.

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He says that the mantra of the culture tells people to “buy as much and as big as possible.”

“Nobody ever tells them not to. Nobody gives them permission to pursue smaller rather than larger,” he says.

Downsizing Not Just For Empty Nesters

Many people think only older people whose children have left or those retiring are the ones downsizing. But Becker and his wife, who are in their 30s, have found many reasons to rejoice over having a smaller home now.

“One of the benefits when you downsize is that you don’t have a lot of extra storage and space. So there is less temptation to accumulate stuff that you don’t need,” he says.

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There are a growing number of people who are downsizing not just for economic reasons but to get their life back. They spend less time taking care of the house and lawn and doing more things that are more important to them.

“We have found a benefit of having the family living in smaller area. We are forced to get along now. If you have big houses, the kids are able to go to their own wing, and the parents would never see them,” Becker says.

With bigger homes, members of the family can go to their own television or room and watch what they want. They don’t have to solve problems together. They aren’t forced to think about everybody else and to learn compromise.

“It definitely has helped our family dynamics, and we weren’t expecting that,” Becker says.

He says some other great reasons to downsize:

  • Less debt and less risk.
  • Less environmental impact.
  • Less decorating and less furniture to buy.
  • Less stuff to move from your old house.

Also when you go to sell that smaller house, you will have a wider market of buyers because “more affordable is affordable to a larger percentage of the population,” Becker says.

A wide variety of people are looking into downsizing, says Brian Schwatka, realtor and retirement specialist at Intero Real Estate Services in Los Gatos, Calif. He teaches part of an educational class called “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” at local community centers.

It’s a very popular 8-week class that participants pay $40 to get information on how make the best decisions for their future including downsizing.

“It’s not a sales pitch. It is an in-depth education covering downsizing your life, real estate 101, wills, taxes, financial and estate planning, aging in place, pros and cons of senior communities and more,” he says.

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Reasons to Downsize

Baby boomers and retirees consider downsizing so they can travel more, move to be closer to the grandkids, or move to be closer to those their age with similar tastes (such as in a retirement community of 55 and older).

Sometimes, people are forced to downsize quickly because of health or financial reasons. In fact, a study from Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies shows that half of the those ages 65 to 79 with mortgages spend 30 percent or more of their income on housing.

But Schwatka says by being proactive rather than reactive, downsizing can work out much easier and better, he says.

“If you give yourself ample time to accomplish the task, it could turn a chore into a wonderful experience,” he says. “You can have time to look through your pictures, reminisce, and go through your closets and drawers.”

He suggests contacting a downsizing specialist or senior move manager to make the journey even smoother.

“Have a garage sale to make enough money to pay for the hauler to haul everything else away,” he says. “Have your kids come and take as much as they can. People don’t realize you can’t get rid of everything.”

Less clutter does reduce stress. And there’s always that happy feeling when you give your stuff to people who would love the items but can’t afford to buy those items, he says.

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Lee Nelson writes for national and regional magazines, websites, and business journals. Her work has appeared in Yahoo! Homes and many Hearst publications such as Life@Home and Women@Work.