From Jean, IL: My children are grown and have moved on. I am a widow, and I am thinking of selling my home to downsize. Two of my children are making noises that things won’t be the same if their families can’t come to visit grandma on holidays. I think they wish they could visit their old neighborhood and their old rooms! Is it wrong of me to want to make this change?
Dear Jean, My opinion (and an opinion only): I think making a positive change that will allow you to live in comfort is a good thing! Aside from the financial savings and possible negative ramifications (selling the house may create a profit that can be taxed, even if you purchase a less expensive home–best to verify those issues with an expert), there are many other issues you will probably want to plan for:
- Dealing with your children: Remind them of what you will gain from a downsize (i.e., funds for travel, for visits with the grandchildren, etc.). Allow them to vent–they won’t have a reason to visit the family home, the hometown, etc.–and let them get used to the idea. If you are so inclined, consult with them about where you might choose to relocate. You may want to be very close, or somewhat close, to family, or you may want a different location, but taking their suggestions into consideration will help you with your decision.
- Managing items of value to you and getting rid of unwanted/unneeded belongings: Allow yourself time to deal with the accumulation of “things.” Be clear about what is valuable to you and what you want to keep. Then sort other items into “maybe” and “sell or give away.” By giving away some things to the children now, you can know they are going to someone who can use them. If you give things away to nonprofits, you can obtain a letter of donation and apply against your income taxes for that year.
- Consider alternatives: Have you thought of renting or selling part of your home? Have you considered renting out rooms? Taking in someone who would be a roommate? While most women are used to being the only “woman of the house,” and haven’t had the experience of sharing, it can be a most rewarding experience. You may have friends or acquaintances who are at a similar stage of life, with “too much house” and too little income.
(I’ve had lots of experience with this–I have purchased a home and developed and ran it as a rooming house, have rented out a room in my apartment, and shared space now for many years I welcome specific questions on sharing one’s home.)
- - You may find a friend who would be interested in a shared arrangement, with whom you can develop day-to-day routines as you go along. You may not know ahead of time all the rules to have, how to deal with day-to-day meals (i.e., option to have separate spaces in the frig and cupboards for each person’s own meals, share some meals, plan to each do a dinner one nite a week, etc.), cleaning, use of common spaces, TV watching, noise, etc. You can set up a regular time each week, for example, to discuss how things are working, what to change, what each of you would like to see happen. The clearer you are on what you want and expect, the better it works. It is also good to listen.
- - You can advertise for short-term rental of a room with kitchen privileges (i.e., student or young professional relocating to the area, travelers from other cities, countries, etc.)
- - You may be able to separate a part of your home for a rental space. If it is to be a formal rental, I’d be careful to know the codes for the area, especially the safety codes (i.e., access to the outside from each bedroom, metal fire door between spaces, and I would think two ways out of each living space).
If you decide to share your home, think about what space you need for yourself and for your family or friends to visit, to keep those things you value and want to have with you, and get advice from a realtor on options available and the prevailing rents in your area. I’d have a reliable contractor or “handyman” available for heavy lifting, repairs, and advice. I’d collect a deposit with the first month’s rent, and do month-to-month, especially for shared space.
Good luck with your endeavor. Change is good–physical activity involved is good–and new challenges are good for our brains!
Not many sources deal with the emotional and family aspects of downsizing. I did find some sources with general suggestions: