The trend toward smaller homes and more manageable living arrangements among America’s elderly population has made downsizing an increasingly popular choice. Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies reports that more than one-fourth of all American renters are past the age of 55. Over the last decade, they have accounted for nearly half of all growth in the rental market nationwide.
There are many good reasons for it: Many seniors like the convenience of a smaller home and less square footage to clean and maintain. Others are looking to save money, whereas some like the freedom of being able to live wherever they want to, the opportunity to travel, and a greater freedom of movement. It takes some thought, planning, and hard work, but downsizing can mean an exciting new life full of opportunities and experiences. Here are some tips to help get you started.
Whether you’re staying local or moving to a long-sought-after destination, it’s important to have a good handle on the real estate market. Spend some time researching home sale prices in your target area, and make sure the amenities you need and enjoy are nearby before making a final decision. If you or a spouse is in a wheelchair, it’ll be necessary to find a home with disabled-accessible features, or which could be modified for accessibility. Remember to take the potential costs of modifications you may have to make into consideration. The average cost of installing a wheelchair ramp, for example, is about $1,500 to $3,250. Look for homes with an entry ramp and doorways wide enough for easy accessibility throughout.
It doesn’t make sense to carry the belongings accumulated over the course of a lifetime into a smaller living space. As soon as you know you’ll be moving, begin the process of decluttering. Go room by room and separate belongings into piles of what you’re taking with you, what you’ll get rid of, and what you want to donate. If you haven’t used something within the past year, get rid of it. Start early and ease your way into it; beginning with the largest rooms can be daunting and may make it easy to put it off, so begin with closets and smaller spaces. If the process seems overwhelming, you may need the help of a home organizer, though keep in mind that this can run you around $285 for five hours, though cost will vary depending on a number of factors.
Determine how much to move with you based on the square footage and storage space in your new home. If you’re unsure about something or have large items you don’t want to give away just yet, check out the best deals for self-storage facilities in your area. Storage units in Potomac, Maryland, can be rented for only $32.30 to $155 per month.
Hire a pro
If the downsizing/moving process gets to be overwhelming, consider hiring a senior move expert and look for a company that specializes in moving seniors. Many such companies will do the boxing/packing as well as the heavy lifting for you — all you need to do is declutter and organize. And always research a moving company carefully before signing a contract, pay attention to customer reviews, and remember that most movers charge by weight, so be deliberate about the decluttering process.
A new start
Once you’ve moved into a smaller living space, maintain a decluttered home by making sure belongings don’t accumulate, which they so easily do. Place waste paper and junk mail in a paper recycling bin and scan all important documents and store them electronically. And use your new home as an opportunity to create an exciting new decorating look—one that’s well-integrated and efficient.
You’ve worked hard and been thrifty for years. It’s time to enjoy yourself and the freedom to follow your own inclinations. That will be much easier if you’re diligent about maintaining an orderly and convenient living space.
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