“Does this spark joy?”
Millions of people are asking themselves this question about their homes and possessions thanks to Marie Kondo and her wildly popular de-cluttering philosophy.
Once the kids are moved out, it’s just you, your spouse, and whatever is still boxed up in extra bedrooms and the basement. Whether you’re looking for joy or just a little less space, you might be thinking about de-cluttering and “downsizing” into a smaller home before you retire.
But sometimes less can be more: more hassle, more complication, and more expense. Before you and your spouse order that dumpster and make a down payment on that condo, consider these important pros and cons of downsizing.
PRO: Make a change while you can still enjoy it.
The younger you are during a downsizing, the less help you’re going to need clearing out what you don’t want and relocating. A clean, organized home can be a great “blank slate” as you start easing into your new life. You might even organize a move around interests you want to pursue in retirement.
CON: You might make a change you both don’t enjoy.
Couples need to be very clear with each other about their expectations for what life is going to be like in retirement, and how each of you want to spend your time separately and together. A downsizing that moves you to a new town, away from friends, family, and familiar comforts, can go from exciting to exasperating very quickly if both spouses aren’t on the same page.
Also, a smaller house without kids and clutter might mean more room for you and your spouse, it’s still going to be closer quarters than you’re used to. Is less space going to provide you both with enough personal space?
PRO: Simplified living.
A smaller home means less upkeep. If you buy, you’ll probably pay less in taxes than you did at your larger house. With less space to heat and cool, and no kids soaking up extra water, food, and electricity, your monthly bills might go down. If your smaller house is relatively new, it might require less upkeep and age well right along with you.
CON: Simple isn’t free.
There’s a pretty good chance your current furniture isn’t going to fit or fit in at your new house. Our old stuff is never as valuable as we want it to be, so you’ll probably end up dipping into your nest egg to buy new furnishings. Anything you don’t want to get rid of you’re going to have to store, either in that beautiful, empty basement, or at a storage facility you’ll have to pay for. If you move to a different state, your smaller home might come with higher taxes. What you save on taxes buying a condo might be offset by association and communal maintenance fees.
PRO: Living the best life possible with your money.
The best reason to consider downsizing doesn’t really have anything to do with de-cluttering. It’s not about managing space or what to do with all your possessions.
No, the reason to downsize is because that smaller home you’re thinking about will allow you to live the life you want to live in retirement. It’s because that home is going to give you the space to do the things you want to do with the people you love, while minimizing the things you don’t want to do anymore.
Does that idea spark joy?