Wisdom//

Downsize Early Because You Can

Live the life you want now.

Last year I made the big decision to move from the city to the country. At the age of 48 I sold the two story century-old home I loved for twenty-five years. The process was draining for a little while, but now that I’m settled in, I couldn’t be happier. It took courage to make this change happen, but it wasn’t that tough for me because I always wanted to live near water. I now drive 35 minutes to work instead of 20, but at the end of every day, I’m in the peace of cottage country. It’s a good trade off.

For me, downsizing has definitely been life changing. I left a place where I was quite involved in the community to a place where I only know my immediate neighbours. If I could do this, anyone can.

I planned ahead so I was able to konmari (de-clutter) my whole house before selling time. This made the move so much easier. There is nothing better than moving to make you reduce, reuse and recycle. If you are considering a downsize, start now. Preparation is key.

There are a few things you can do to make this life change easier. First, accept that you are doing it. Choose to take the good memories with you, or not. Tell yourself that you’re going on an adventure. Downsizing is often looked at unenthusiastically, but it can be a positive and helpful experience. It’s normal to feel some emotion, but once I was comfortable with it, I looked at the move as something new and exciting. I really think there is something to doing this at a younger age so I’m glad it’s done now. I can’t imagine having all that energy when I’m 80.

First, I would suggest you read the books by Marie Kondo for inspiration (https://konmari.com/). They kickstarted me and got me to clean out my house. Basically they are about thanking your items for their service and disposing of things that no longer bring you joy or serve you. Attack your rooms and closets one by one. Don’t forget the basement and shed. Donate or sell your items. If you are the kind of person who is sentimental or loves everything you own, you will need extra time to do this. I happen to be the ruthless type accustomed to donating, so it wasn’t that difficult. There is something empowering about living with less and going more minimal.

I went with the rule that if it didn’t fit into my new place, it didn’t go with me. I didn’t keep clothes that didn’t fit or shoes I hadn’t worn. My needs also changed. The wardrobe in cottage country is anything goes. I went from a converted bedroom walk-in to a small bi-fold closet. Yes, it’s an adjustment, but it’s quiet. 

I filled up the back of my car and donated at the end of each week when it was full. The Goodwill loved me for a little while. I worked diligently at this for days before selling my house. My mother would ask “Why are you doing all this? You haven’t even sold your house yet.” But I am so glad I started early. If you have valuables, give them to someone in the family who can appreciate them or try to sell them online and make a few bucks. Have a garage sale. Don’t get a storage unit. The stuff will just stay in boxes. I didn’t mind giving my stuff away so someone else could enjoy it. It didn’t owe me anything.

Downsizing is an amazing process and you really see how much you have that you don’t really need. Some people may look at it as throwing away money, but try to look at it as paying it forward. Just let it go.

Not only does downsizing allow you to edit, it is the perfect time to re-evaluate your financial portfolio. I was able to sell my house and invest some money for retirement. I can live for less now while my money works for me. Reducing living expenses was also appealing. The bills of a 2000 square foot house are much larger than a house that is half that size. Talk to your financial planner about what is right for you.

I eliminated some payments and put my money into real estate, RRSPs, TFSA, stocks and fixed income. I even downsized my car to a smaller, more fuel efficient model with a lower insurance rate. Granted, I moved to a place where you don’t spend a lot of money. But the trick here is not to same-size. You have to go smaller in price for this to work to your advantage. Look for that real estate opportunity. 

I didn’t set out to downsize early, it was more of a happening for me. I grew up thinking it was something you did later in life, but the more I think about it, the more it makes perfect sense for people to do it now. You don’t have to wait for the kids to be gone and it really allows time to get your ducks in a row before retiring. If you play your cards right, you may even be able to retire earlier.

There are many benefits to downsizing before age 50. Some of my friends thought I was crazy for moving out of the city, but I highly recommend enjoying the good life now. Lose your stuff, pay your debt and do what you love. The less-is-more mentality is actually freeing.

Some people can’t imagine living in a smaller house, but how much space do you really need? And the more space you have, the more you have to clean. I can’t believe how much time I have to do what I want now. I can clean the new house in half the time it took before. The other thing I notice is that I’m outside more, year-round. 

If downsizing is something you see yourself doing one day, why put off until tomorrow what you can do today. Don’t fix up your house before selling. Sell as-is and save that money for the transition.

If done right, downsizing early can actually generate revenue for you. And it’s still possible to have a beautiful home if you’re open to it. I now look out to trees, the log cabin next door and an ever-changing Lake Erie. I enjoy the most incredible sunsets, starry skies and campfires all year round. Sure cottage country can be pretty remote during the worst days of winter, but when the spring comes around it is the most beautiful place to be. I just look outside and think to myself that downsizing early was the best thing I ever did.

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