When Timing is Everything: Knowing When to Downsize Your Living Situation

carriacou-1567544_640If you ask people where they hope to live out their days, most will say “In my family home.” It’s understandable to want to stay where you are. There are the memories, the familiar neighbors, the quirks that you have got used to, the years you have spent making your house your home. Plus, of course, who wants the hassle of moving, with its decisions, its expense, and its possible regrets? But maybe, just maybe, you are beginning to think that it might not be such a bad idea after all.

Here are some of the things that might help you make your decision.


Most people start to think about downsizing when their children have finally left home. Yes, a lot of adult children move back in with their parents for a while, but you will know if yours have reached the stage when that is not likely to happen.

Now you probably have a lot of unused space in your house. It can feel wasteful to have all those empty bedrooms. However, you need to take into account the possibility (or reality) of grandchildren and how often they are likely to be staying or living with you.

The hardest decision comes with bereavement. Suddenly a house can seem very large and empty. While some people cling to the physical reminders, others decide to take their memories with them to a new home.

Money Out

The larger the house, the larger the expenses. Your home still needs to be heated, maintained, taxed, and supplied with the basic utilities. All these cost money, expenses which could be saved by moving to a smaller building.

Money In

You may own your home outright, or have considerable equity. At a time when your income is likely to be fixed or falling, it can make a great difference to translate that property value into cash in your pocket. Certainly, there are reverse mortgage schemes, but these are often complicated and can end up costing far more than you originally thought. To downsize means receiving that lump sum with no strings attached.


There were good reasons why you chose your present home, but are they still good reasons for staying there? Perhaps you needed to be near good schools or wanted wide open spaces around you for growing children to roam in.

Now the proximity of shops could be more important than schools. Furthermore, as you get older you might find walking becomes more of a problem and start to discover that some local roads are steeper than you realized. Consider what will happen when you can no longer drive; how will you manage to provide for yourself if you are a long way from important facilities?


Let’s face it, you don’t have as much energy as you used to. Exercise is important, and climbing a flight of stairs several times a day is generally a good thing, but do you really want to spend as much time cleaning and gardening as you used to?


In the end, after considering all the reasons for downsizing, it may come down to the alternatives that are available. You probably want to do this just once, so you need to take your time about deciding where to move to.

For all the reasons above, if you are moving to another property of your own, it needs to be cheaper, smaller, more economical, lower-maintenance, and situated closer to all the facilities that are important to you. If you are planning to remain in your own territory, you can probably identify the sort of place that will fit the bill; if you move to a new area, perhaps to be closer to your kids, it can be more difficult.

Another alternative would be to move directly into assisted living accommodation such as that at McKnight Place in St Louis. With the right balance of independence and support, this type of accommodation can feel very much like home and provide all the facilities you need, along with the assurance that you will be able to remain whatever your increasing needs may be.

Big Decisions

Downsizing can seem to some people like the beginning of the end, and many are inclined to put it off until it becomes almost impossible to do on their own. That can result in the decision being taken out of their hands. Others see it as a new step forward in life, a responsible preparation for what lies ahead, and an opportunity to be grasped.

Bethany Gardiner is a family counselor who enjoys helping families live better. Always on the lookout for helpful insights and information, she loves to share what she finds by posting on a variety of family and lifestyle blogs.

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