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Senior Citizen's Guide

Ask the Real Estate Experts
The Art of Downsizing

Q: My father passed away four years ago, and my seventy-five year old mother now lives alone in a house that's far too big for her. She wants to downsize to a smaller, more accessible space. What are some tips to help her prepare for this change? —Susan in San Diego, CA

A: There are a variety of reasons that people choose to downsize to a smaller home. Like your mother, many empty nesters decide they can no longer maintain a larger home, so they choose to downsize. Even some young families downsize, perhaps to move into an affordable, older home in a trendy area. Whatever the reason, if your mother does decide to move into a smaller house, she'll need to decide which belongings are going to go with her and which simply won't fit. Below are some tips to make this transition as smooth as possible:

  1. Sort Your Possessions: The first step to moving to a smaller house is to sort through what you own. Most people tend to accumulate more than they need, so moving is a good chance to go through these possessions and part with the unnecessary. Decide with your mom what can be thrown away, donated, given to friends, stored, passed down or even sold.

  2. Evaluate Your Space: Evaluate each room in your mother's current house as well as her new, smaller house. Make a plan for each room in the new house. One suggestion is to make a side-by-side chart in which you list the furniture in the rooms in your current house next to what can go into the corresponding room in the smaller house. Chances are, there are going to be fewer rooms in the new home, and she may not have room for all of her current furniture.

  3. Change Your Attitude: It is imperative to have the right attitude as you downsize to a smaller home. It can be especially difficult for your mother, who may have lived in that house for most of her life, to part with the space. That said, focus on the positives. This is a chance to purge what she does not need or no longer uses. She will be happiest in her new space if her possessions and furniture fit her – truly making her new house a home.

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