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4 Downsizing Tips for Empty Nesters

All your kids have flown the coop, and this can mean only that—you guessed it—you’re an official empty nester. Although this stage of life can seem daunting or uncomfortable at first, there’s also freedom in knowing the kids are off to spread their wings, and now it’s time to prioritize yourself.

For most empty nesters, the first order of business is downsizing the clutter and extra space that’s been demanding too much of their time, effort and attention over the years. If this sounds all too familiar, here’s an invitation to unburden yourself of all that excess, so life can be manageable—not weighed down by “stuff.” If you’re an empty nester looking to embrace a simpler and freer lifestyle that’s more conducive to this transitional phase, these ideas can help jumpstart the process for you.

Decrease Your Possessions before the Move

Downsizing often means sorting through a lifetime of memories, but as difficult as it can feel to divest yourself of these keepsakes, decluttering on the front end equals less to unpack and create space for in the new house. You’re not going to permanently wound the kids if you throw out their preschool artwork or that seventh grade report card. So remain objective about which items you cannot live without and which can be sold, donated or bagged for trash pickup. As a general rule, if there’s no functional purpose or deep sentimental connection behind something, treat it as clutter and dispense with it.

Consider Your Future Goals and Priorities

Before selling your current house and deciding where to live next, think about what your needs and desires are in this new stage of life—and in the years to come. Do you intend to travel frequently and be gone for extended periods of time? Then a small condo or rental house to serve as your home base between trips might be the most realistic option. Are you seeking a community to retire in with access to social activities and public amenities? Then an active living neighborhood might be the ideal solution. Choose a home and location that can accommodate your shifting priorities in the future.

Review Your Finances and Adjust if Needed

It goes without saying that a larger house means higher costs accrued over time. From utilities to maintenance to property taxes to lawn care, the more spacious your home is, the more expensive its upkeep will be. As you head in the direction of retirement, you’ll need to start thinking how to curb expenses. This transition is all about pursuing hobbies, interests, travels or aspirations that were on the backburner while raising children, so downsizing makes sense economically. In order to determine what you can afford to spend on housing, it’s also worthwhile to perform a cost-benefit analysis.

Track the Housing Market for When to Sell

After you’ve disposed of the clutter, decided on a location and assessed your finances, it’s time to place your current home on the real estate market. Before listing the house, though, it’s beneficial to research the market preemptively to ensure that you obtain the highest resale value for the property. Track the forecasted real estate trends in your area, then avoid rushing the process—wait for the largest return on investment. Another option, depending on where you live, is to recruit a local home-buying company to purchase your home for an expedient cash offer without additional fees or hassles.

With an empty nest and grown children who are spreading their wings, this is an exciting time in your life to create space for new possibilities. After all, downsizing, simplifying and making room for a fresh start is your well-deserved rite of passage as an empty nester.