There are many benefits to downsizing. Empty-nesters are discovering the benefits of escaping the large family house they no longer need, especially if their children are spread far and wide, descending en masse only once in a blue moon.
You may also find yourself wanting a change of scenery after the end of a relationship, or feel you’ve stretched your finances too thinly. Even if you’ve never thought of downsizing, we reckon there are loads of good reasons to consider it.
Yes, you will need to think about what costs are involved in buying a house, including solicitors’ fees and anything estate agents charge, but one of the major motivations for downsizing is the equity it releases in your home.
Thanks to ever-increasing property prices, moving into a smaller home within the same area will typically give you a large cash lump sum with which to buy. This can reduce your mortgage payments significantly and could even help you pay it off early.
If you’ve already paid off your mortgage, or you’ve only a relatively small amount left to clear, downsizing can leave you with a significant nest egg for a rainy day. You could use it to supplement your pension, invest in a holiday home, retire early, take that once-in-a-lifetime trip, or even help your children to get on the property ladder themselves.
You’ll also typically save money on an ongoing basis. You should find your utility bills come down, and could also save money on simple things like buildings and contents insurance. The maintenance costs your home incurs should also come down – the savings will add up faster than you think. For instance, you may find you no longer need a cleaner (or can afford for them to come more often…).
You may not be motivated by saving money; in which case, downsizing can allow you to move to a better part of town. The money you save can then be used upgrade your lifestyle to match: the occasional shopping spree, more frequent holidays, and maybe even a newer car.
If you’re living in the city, and especially if you’re renting, this might well mean moving from the suburbs into a more central location, conveniently close to the pubs, restaurants and theatres that make up your social life.
When you move into a smaller home, there’s simply less of it to look after. There are fewer rooms to clean, and there’s a good chance that looking after the garden will swallow up significantly less of your time. You may also find yourself less inclined to spend time at home, encouraging you to get out into the world and make the most of what’s nearby and further afield.
The truth is that when we have lots of room, we acquire things to fill it – even if we don’t ever use, look at or even like the things we’ve acquired. It’s natural human behaviour and all part of our animalistic desire to nest. Having less room will force you to throw away things you don’t care about.
Start with your loft space, keeping only things you truly treasure and sending the rest to recycling or a local charity shop. Then, tackle your wardrobe, getting rid of things you’ll never wear again or no longer fit into – if your local charity shop is already overflowing (as many are), donate wearable old clothes to a local school that can use them in their drama and textiles classes.
Having less storage space also helps in other ways. You’ve less space to fill, meaning you won’t have to spread yourself so thinly when it comes to furniture and can afford to buy better-quality items; and you’ll more likely to think twice about buying unnecessary clothing, trinkets and books that rob you of room.
The popularity of George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces on Channel 4, and even the original Mini, is a testament to how inspired we are by the brilliant, creative use of tiny spaces.
Nobody’s suggesting you go completely radical and turn to living in a shoebox instead, but the internet is full of creative storage solutions for small spaces. Pinterest is a brilliant resource, full of home-spun solutions to all sorts of problems, free for you to mimic, adapt and re-engineer to suit your new, bijou space.
You needn’t wait to move before looking, and browsing for ideas now might help you realise how you could live happily in a smaller space.