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Avoid The Regrets Associated With Downsizing To A Smaller Home

Practical tips, solutions, and steps to take before you make the move.

Common with any type of change, downsizing can result in regrets you never saw coming. Most downsizers, after an initial adjustment phase, will feel it was the right decision and are happy with their choice. Others may be filled with regret; often a reflection of the circumstances for making the move, their age, or their stage of life.

Obviously, there are both advantages and disadvantages to downsizing.

It is important to evaluate your reasons for making the move and to discuss the benefits and drawbacks with family members before embarking on such a major reordering of your life.

The most typical reasons for downsizing.

  1. FREEDOM: Active seniors may want the freedom to travel without worrying about their property. A luxury afforded by a condominium lifestyle.
  2. FINANCIAL GAIN: Downsizing often means a mortgage free existence with cash in the bank.
  3. THE EMPTY NEST: Couples whose kids have left the childhood home might choose to escape the upkeep of a large space.
  4. ECONOMIC NECESSITY: Working families wishing, or needing to reduce their housing costs.
  5. LIFE CHANGING EVENT: The unfortunate circumstance of divorce or the loss of a spouse necessitates the move.


Saving money is a leading motivation. Downsizers tend to spend less on their smaller home. They enjoy savings by way of a minimal or nonexistent mortgage and reduced property taxes. In a condominium apartment or townhouse complex, other than for personal units, maintenance, upkeep, utilities and recreational facilities are conveniently covered in the monthly condo fee.


Stressful feelings caused by the process of sorting possessions to accommodate smaller living quarters can dissuade some from downsizing and may even be disabling for others – especially for more elderly seniors.

Frequently, to realize a financial gain, a long distance move is necessary leaving feelings of isolation or loneliness if the move takes them further away from extended family and friends. For those still in the workforce, daily commuting costs can become an additional expense.

The biggest regret tends to be having less living space.

Condominium living room.
Photo by SideKix Media on Unsplash

Those wishing to pursue an active lifestyle with fewer responsibilities routinely consider condominium living. It does provide a worry free homeowner option, especially if part of the year is spent outside of the country. Needing to ride the elevator every day, or bringing groceries up from an underground parking garage are just some of the aspects of a change in routine that may sour the experience.

Retirees and empty-nesters make up the largest segment of the population in the downsizing market with the prospect of enjoying a financial windfall from their current home sale and with dreams of spending more time with their partner in a cozy space. Perhaps a move to a condominium or two bedroom townhome is too drastic a change? A spot to pursue hobbies, or finding a little personal space away from your spouse, now and then, to quietly read a book may be challenging. Limited space may mean fewer family members over for dinners and celebrations. A sleepover with the grandchildren may be impossible. This realization is when regret often sets in.

Retiring at 65, now-a-days means the opportunity to indulge hobbies, take up new interests, or even embark on a fresh part time career. If downsizing into a two bedroom condominium, that second bedroom could conceivably need to serve as an office or TV room. It’s imperative to make the attempt to think ahead, as much as you’re able, to what possible future living requirements might be needed and will your choice of home make it plausible.

Those most likely to find transition difficult are families downsizing out of necessity. The reduced size of the kitchen may make meal preparation frustrating, whereas before, cooking was an enjoyable part of the day. There may be insufficient room for the kids to independently do their homework or enjoy recreational pursuits. Will working remotely require a home office, as well as, family living space?

Downsizing can be a daunting task. Or so it seems at first.

Whether downsizing or rightsizing certain questions are important to ask yourself to ensure happiness in your decision to scale back.

  • Will you be able to edit your possessions yourself, or will you need help?
  • Do you have hobbies you would like to continue to enjoy?
  • Will you need extra space to accommodate overnight visitors or family celebrations? Do you have access to a party room or guest suites?
  • Will you miss the convenience of larger rooms, a backyard, or private garage?

These considerations will aid in determining as to how great a degree you should reduce your living space. Maybe an intermediate step to only a somewhat smaller residence would be a better decision.

Methodical and practical steps will help you sort through the years of possessions and memories. Tackle one project at a time.

The Closet

Walk-in closet with clothes.
Photo by teenacobb on Pixabay

If you haven’t worn an article of clothing in the past year, chances are you never will. Everyone has items stuffed in the back of the closet because it’s either too good to discard or reserved for special occasions. Start by pulling out a few outfits and try them on. Do they fit? Do you still like the style? Any that don’t result in a resounding “YES!” should undoubtedly be set aside for charity. You might find the prospect of fewer clothes in a smaller closet liberating.

Bags and footwear can take up a lot of space. Do you really need all of those purses and pairs of shoes and computer satchels that you’ve stored in boxes or have sitting on the closet floor? Keep the articles you use and again, if in good condition, donate the remainder to charity.

Relaxation & Entertainment

Vinyl record collection.
Photo by Bru-nO on Pixabay

If you can’t think of a better pastime than reading on a winter evening in front of the fire or a summer weekend at the cottage, then editing your books can be especially challenging. Fortunately there are options. Your new residence may be smaller, but bookcases take up very little floor space and you might be able to retain most of your collection. Those you don’t wish to keep can be sold or donated. Rather than buying – a library card or online books that can be read on a tablet may be the answer going forward.

Then there is the matter of your vinyl records, CD’s and DVD’s. Do you even have the electronics to play them anymore? When was the last time you watched that movie? Maybe a subscription to a streaming service makes more sense.

In the Kitchen

Kitchen laddels hanging on wall.
Photo by Caroline Atwood on Unsplash

Easily the most time consuming room in the house to purge and edit. After all, you still need to cook in your new home. What to do when the cupboard and counter space has been reduced to less than half of what you currently enjoy? Small appliances can be bulky. Is a popcorn popper truly essential when you can make popcorn in a microwave or on the stove? Will a handheld can opener in a drawer do just as well as the eclectic one on the counter? Creative storage solutions, drawer organizers and extensive editing are a must for a smaller kitchen. You don’t need multiple soup ladles, or fifteen sets of pots and pans. Keep the favourites that you use daily and free those kitchen gadgets and utensils from the back of the cupboard and gift them to friends.

Keepsakes & Collections

Flowered china teacup and saucer.
Photo by Sabrina Eickhoff on Pixabay

Without question, the most emotional sorting task. Keepsakes not only have meaning – they hold memories. The question to ask when you look at your collection is .. “does it give me joy?” Some possessions you can’t and should never relinquish, but others are better gifted to family and friends, sold, or donated. Take time to organize family photos into albums to make them easier to store in your new home. Would one of the children love to have great-granny’s fine china teacups? Have grandchildren expressed mutual interest in your hobby and be overjoyed at receiving your model train collection? In a fashion, you would still be retaining your prized possessions; merely relocating them to another home for safe keeping.


Living room with traditional furniture.
Photo by James DeMers on Pixabay

Try the following exercise. Walk through your home and select three pieces of furniture that you absolutely must keep. Only three. Quickly, you will realize you’re not actually as emotionally attached to your possessions as you initially thought. Editing furniture is imperative when downsizing. Consider taking only those three choices and purchasing multi-functional furniture better suited and more in keeping with the scale of your smaller residence. There is a magnitude of furniture manufactures offering items specifically designed for function and beauty in a paired down living space.

When a downsizing move may become untenable.

A large home may no longer make sense once grown children have left, but the so-called boomerang kids do frequently come back home for a time. After schooling, they may return while job searching or because rent is unaffordable. Others choose to live under their parent’s roof to save up a down payment to purchase their first home.

Unforeseen life changes may require the financial support of family. Older parents may need to move in either temporarily or permanently for medical reasons.

A family of four adults can not easily maneuver in a small one bedroom + den condo.

These and a variety of other scenarios make a downsize unrealistic. Arguably, it’s impossible to predict major life changes; but, before selling your present home, do try to work through any possibilities in your mind that could affect your personal family situation in the years to come. If financially viable, set aside or invest funds that can be used should upsizing become a necessity.

Tips to lessen the possible regret.

Hands holding small wooden house.
Photo by Kinder Media on Pexels

Although we may not always be able to foresee the circumstances that could affect our enjoyment of a smaller place, we can test out the situation before moving.

Take a test drive.

Condominium living remains the most popular choice for retirement downsizing. Challenge yourself to ONLY live in a reduced space in your present home for several months. No cheating, because once you move, the area won’t magically become bigger. Will you be able to exist in that square footage?

Decrease your accessible kitchen counter surface and cupboards to what you would typically find in a condominium. Eat in the minimized kitchen/dining area when family comes over rather than in the dining room. Use only one or two bedrooms and have them perform double duty of office space and where the grandkids sleep when visiting.

Practice adjusting your living routines. Carry groceries from your car parked on the street rather than in the garage. Learn to break habits; no more buying in bulk or purchasing items on a whim.

The point of it all is to evaluate if you are truly ready and prepared to downsize, or if in fact, you would be better to rightsize. It will bring to light if a small bungalow or townhome might be a more realistic move.

An extreme test run is renting a potential condominium apartment for a time. It might be possible to find a short term sublet. You may also consider looking for a year-long rental in the building you are considering for your downsizing purchase. This will provide first-hand experience living in that particular condo. You can lease out your present home to cover expenses, but this requires special considerations and guidance, and comes with a multitude of cautions.

In the end it comes down to a very simple question. “Will I be able to adapt and be happy living in my downsized home?”

Top Photo by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash
Cheryl Tym, Sales Representative, REMAX Aboutowne Realty Corp., Brokerage
Cheryl Tym
REALTOR®, RE/MAX Aboutowne Realty Corp., Brokerage

A full time REALTOR® dedicated to providing the best possible service and outcome for clients and their families. International sales, marketing and negotiating skills were part of the daily routine while living and working overseas as Director of Operations for an international hospitality marketing firm. A graduate of Sheridan’s Interior Design Program, and recipient of the Professionalism Award, my artistry and knowledge will highlight the very best features of your property, inside and out.

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