As we age, particularly when we approach or begin retirement, downsizing can seem like an attractive option. Your house might feel too big now your children have flown the nest. Or, perhaps cleaning and maintaining extra rooms takes up too much time, or you’d like to put more money into your retirement pot.

While it may make sense to go smaller, in recent years there’s been a shift away from downsizing, with more people preferring to stay in their current home. In 2021, one in four British homeowners over 55 planned to downsize. Three years later, however, the figure had dropped to 14%. The hassle of moving and the cost of stamp duty were cited as the biggest reasons to stay put, but there are other factors.

Our homes hold memories, and many of us have strong emotional ties to them. Plus, downsizing often means parting with furniture and personal possessions, which can be difficult.

But there are many benefits to downsizing too. It can free up money, save on utilities, and provide a better quality of life. Moving to a smaller home that’s easier to maintain is also a great way to simplify your life, and live in a more mindful yet carefree way.

So, if you’re in two minds about downsizing, we’re here to help. Here are five questions to ask yourself about downsizing.

Questions to ask yourself about downsizing

1. Can I stay in my home long-term?

The first thing you should think about are the practicalities of staying put. No matter how attached to your home you are, or how much you love your neighbourhood, if it’s not practical to stay there, it probably makes sense to downsize.

When people buy their ‘forever home’, they tend to buy it with the family’s needs in mind. But our needs change with age, and what suits us in our 30s, 40s and 50s may not work for us later in life.

Can I stay in my home long-term?

If you’re certain you want to stay put but aren’t sure your home is suitable long-term, there are ways you can age-proof your property later on. Common renovations include installing non-slip floors, brighter lighting, rounded countertops, curbless showers, and pull-out kitchen cabinets. Obviously, renovating your home isn’t cheap, so it’s worth looking into this and seeing how much it would cost.

To find out more about age-proofing your home, you may want to read this article by Consumer Report.

2. Can I keep up the home maintenance and repairs?

Another thing to think about is whether you can – or want to – continue doing necessary home maintenance tasks. If you have a big garden that needs regular mowing and maintenance, or a driveway that needs to be cleared of snow and ice in the winter, staying there may not be practical.

It’s important to be realistic and honest with yourself when assessing your physical health, fitness and stamina, and considering how these may affect the ease of home maintenance and repairs. Downsizing to a home with a smaller garden, for example, might make life easier for you in the long run.

It’s worth mentioning that you can, of course, pay people to maintain your home and garden, but these are costs that should be considered.

3. Can I part with my things?

Can I part with my things?

Moving into a smaller home usually means downsizing your possessions too. For some, this can be so difficult that it’s enough to put them off the idea altogether. Homes that we’ve lived in for decades are often full of sentimental items and special memories, so it’s understandable that saying goodbye can feel sad. However, there are many benefits to decluttering.

Rather than seeing it as getting rid of all your sentimental items, try to see it as keeping the really important ones. If you hold onto a lot of your children’s old belongings, have a think about whether you need to keep them all. If you’re storing things because you think your kids might want them in the future, find out if they actually do. If they don’t, you can donate these items. And, if they want them, see if they can take them now.

While it can be tricky to get rid of possessions, it can also be liberating. If you think you’d like to downsize but struggle with the thought of letting go of certain belongings, remember you don’t have to rush in and tackle it all at once. You can go slowly, moving room by room, and decluttering in a thoughtful and intentional way. That way, when you’ve finished, you’ll hopefully feel more sure about your decisions.

4. Does downsizing make financial sense?

Most people looking to downsize have lived in their current home for at least a decade, so there’s often a good profit to be made if you sell. In an ideal world, you can use that money to buy a new property, pay off debts, and add a sizeable chunk to your savings and retirement pot. Plus, if you move into a new build, your profit will probably stretch further, as they’re built more efficiently than older homes, so you may pay less to heat your home.

Does downsizing make financial sense?

Another way to consider the financial benefits is to think about what not moving will cost you. If your children have left home and you have empty rooms, are you using money and energy to heat and maintain spaces that aren’t used? If you have a period property, how much will it cost to replace or repair old household systems and appliances?

Having said that, moving into a smaller home doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll save money. The cost of living varies depending on where you live, and there are several other payments associated with moving home, like estate agent’s fees, survey costs, legal fees, stamp duty, and removal fees. Selling your home might also require you to fork out for repairs, as most buyers are looking for a property they can move into straight away.

It’s a good idea to research how much you’ll be able to sell your home for in today’s market, and consider the overall financial impact of moving.

5. What kind of life do I want to live?

Aside from the financial and practical considerations of downsizing, there are other factors to consider. For example, what kind of life do you want to lead, and how do you envisage your future? If you’re considering downsizing because your kids have flown the nest or you’re retiring, the years ahead could give you back some of the time you dedicated to your career and family.

What kind of life do I want to live?

What would you like to do with this time? Do you like working in the garden and watching things grow? Do you enjoy tinkering around in the garage and working on old cars or bikes? Perhaps you want to be closer to nature, so you can spend more time outdoors and hiking. You may want to be more social, meet new people, and try out new classes and social events.

Having a vision of your future can help you decide whether downsizing is right for you. It’s important not only to consider the type of home you would move to but the location too. Do you want to live somewhere central, where you can walk to restaurants and shops? Or are you dreaming of finally escaping the hustle and bustle of city life? If you have children, is it important to be close to them – and if so, what does ‘close’ actually mean?

Remember that downsizing doesn’t have to mean downgrading your lifestyle. It can be a chance to freeing up more time and money to spend on the things you love. Once you have a clear idea of what you want your future to look like, whether living a quiet life in a country cottage or a modern flat in the centre of town, you can work out how to get there.

Final thoughts…

While there are clear benefits to downsizing, it’s still important to think about it carefully, and give yourself plenty of time to research the financial and practical implications of moving.

Often, downsizing is more than just a physical move. It’s an emotional decision that can mean saying goodbye to the home you raised your children in, or the place you made cherished memories. It’s normal to feel a sense of loss, whether towards the lifestyle you’re leaving behind, or your own changing identity.

But downsizing can also be an exciting time, and a physical representation of freedom and opportunity. If you’ve always dreamt of long-term travel, downsizing might provide the funds to finally make it happen. Plus, letting go of clutter and embracing a simpler, more intentional way of living can give you a feeling of lightness and energy.

If you’re still uncertain whether downsizing is right for you, you might want to read a few of our other articles; five (more) questions to ask yourself if you’re considering downsizing your home, 5 tips for downsizing your belongings, and “I’m so glad I did it” – how Stella downsized her life.

Are you thinking about downsizing? Perhaps you’ve already taken the plunge? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.