Saturday, September 29, 2012

Our Recent Downsize: Great Practice for Retirement

When I hear the word “downsize,” I’m often hit with thoughts of life down the road. Once the kids head off to college or we’re getting ready to retire, that’s when it’s time to downsize, right?

Well, we don’t necessarily have to wait to retire to start paring down our possessions, the various aspects of our lives, and in essence, our responsibilities, whether they be to our stuff, our homes, our finances or some combination thereof.

Therefore, our family took the time to downsize our lifestyle recently, and in the process, experienced what I would say was a great practice run for downsizing in or near retirement. Here’s what we did and how we succeeded in our efforts.

Positives of Retirement Downsizing Now
There can be a variety of advantages to downsizing in retirement. Having watched my mother go through this process, it opened my eyes to just how possessions can take their toll on us when having to deal with them.

My mother is sort of a pack rat. Don’t get me wrong, she’s not a hoarder or anything like that, but she is one of those people who can see a use for just about anything and everything, and therefore, she likes to hold onto stuff. However, as she nears retirement, she’s begun to downsize, making her household easier to maintain, lowering stress levels, and opening up possibilities as to what she’d like to do in retirement, where she’d like to go, and how much it will cost to get there.

Positives of Doing a Test Run Now
There are multiple benefits in our doing a downsizing test run well before we retire. First off, we know that we can do it and how to do it when the time comes. We know what sorts of items will be on the chopping block, like clothing, dishware, bulky furniture items, and heavier things like books. We also know how much time and effort it can take to downsize. Going through stuff can be draining, both physically and emotionally. It can be hard to make decisions on items that we’ve owned for years. Thankfully, my wife and I have each other, and we work as a team so that we help one another make decisions on items that otherwise we might pointlessly hold onto.

Maybe one of the most important aspects of doing a trial run downsize is that we are now well-versed in how to make money off the process.

How we Turned our Efforts into Cash
We wanted our downsizing efforts not only to make our lifestyle more efficient, but make us a little cash in the process. Therefore, we tended to look for resale options for much of the stuff that we were getting rid of.

Of course for things like books, DVDs, CDs, and video games, we found area resale shops that would pay us for such items. We did the same with some of our son’s baby toys and clothing, taking them to resale stores for lightly used child items where we made about $150 off of such items.

For the items that we didn’t have resale options for in the local market, we tended to put many of them in garage sales. This way, we made a little bit of money off our old stuff (about $600 during two garage sales), and the leftovers we made into charitable donations, taking the deduction on our income taxes in the process.

How and Where we Downsized
So exactly how and where did we downsize? Well, we hit just about every conceivable area of our home…and then, even the home itself. We started with things like clothing that had been building up over the years, going through closets and drawers, especially for our son and my wife who hadn’t gotten rid of things in a while. Then we moved on to the kitchen and all those drawers where things get hidden.

That’s the thing about downsizing for us. We realized that it wasn’t the big ticket items like couches and beds that we needed to be rid of. Rather, we had to tackle spaces like closets, drawers, cabinets, the attic, the garage, and similar spaces where things get stashed and left. Those are the spots that took us the most time and effort to sort through.

When we were finished, we had just enough stuff to fit into a 10 x 10 x 10 storage locker and the back of our SUV. Therefore, we were ready to move when our home sold, and when we relocated, we could buy a much smaller home, saving ourselves significantly not only on the home price, but on the moving process as well.

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