There are a lot of good reasons seniors should downsize their home, such as saving more money and gaining more freedom— but none of those reasons make it any easier to do. For many of us, our houses are more than just places to live; they are the places where memories were made. Downsizing might feel like you are losing something important— a member of your family, even—but at the same time you’ll be making your life easier by moving to a smaller home. That’s why downsizing is a bittersweet process that many seniors go through.

What makes the process even harder is trying to decide what to do with your current home. Selling it may be an obvious choice for many, but you can also choose to rent it out or hand it over to a family member. Here are the ins and outs of each option:

Keep Your Home in the Family

Letting a loved one use your home can be a great way to keep your home in your family. You have built many memories within those walls, and now your loved ones can continue that legacy. Plus, it’s comforting to know that strangers aren’t living in your home. One consideration to keep in mind—you’ll want to free up space in your house for your loved one’s belongings.

It can be hard enough leaving your home, but having to downsize your possessions can sting, as well. You can make the process a little easier by keeping possessions you aren’t ready to part with in a temporary storage unit. It can be a fairly economical choice depending on which facility you choose and the size of the unit. For example, in White Bear Lake, the average cost of a 5’x5’ self-storage unit is $52.50, but with a little digging, you can find a unit for as low as $28.

Rent Your Home for Steady Income

Seniors who downsize into a smaller house, apartment or retirement facility can boost their income by renting out their home. This can be especially reassuring for seniors who will be living on a rigid fixed income for retirement. Bringing in money from rent can add some spending cash to your bank account; just be sure you have enough saved to make any big fixes for your tenants.

Renting your family home and moving into a smaller space with fewer possessions can not only help you earn money, but it can help you save money, too. With fewer rooms to heat, cool and light, your utility bills will reflect that right away. You can also save on maintenance expenses by hiring a property manager, who will know the right vendors to contact for the required maintenance projects. If you’d like to manage the maintenance on your own, keep in mind the average costs of common issues— for example, replacing the garbage disposal costs an average of $300.

Selling Your Home and Letting Go of Stuff

Selling your home can give you a nice lump sum, which you can use to pay for your new home, take an extended vacation, use for healthcare needs or whatever supports your retirement plans. Selling some of your possessions can add a nice extra cushion to that sum, as well. Letting go of some of your belongings might be painful at first, but clutter, no matter how sentimental, causes stress. Focus on keeping only what, as Marie Kondo says, “sparks joy.” And sometimes sentimental items cause their own stress— guilt, because we no longer want to keep them, or sadness, because they remind us of someone we miss. In this way, selling your home can be both a reset and a recharge.

Downsizing as you move into a new place— be it a smaller home or a condo in a retirement center— can be stressful, but there is a great deal of weightlessness and joy for many of the seniors who do it. The key is to decide early on what you would like to do with your current home, and then you can focus on the rest of the downsize one step at a time. Talk to your family and friends who have already gone through something similar to get their advice and support.   

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