August 27, 2012 — Downsizing from your big house in the suburbs could be one the smartest retirement decisions you make. Assuming your children are grown and out of the house, there is usually not much logic in having all of those extra bedrooms to heat, maintain, clean, insure, and pay taxes on. Generally you can sell that big home and use the proceeds to buy an easily maintained and energy efficient smaller home or condo, and still have a considerable sum left over to add to your retirement income. Not to mention saving thousands of dollars a year in reduced expenses.
One of the most challenging chores that comes with downsizing is what to do with all that stuff you have accumulated. Much of it won’t fit into your new home, and quite a bit wouldn’t look good in it anyway. Many people want a totally fresh start with new furnishings that match the style and scale of their new home, which means unloading everything you have. This article will provide you with a downsizing checklist and advice to help you cope with this challenge.
As one of the commenters to this story points out – it is very important to start early in the process. The last thing you want is to be pressured on time when you go through this process:
1. Measure what you have room for in your new home.
2. Will your old furniture and accessories fit, both spatially and stylistically?
3. Decide what you want to keep from your old home (what you will move, what you will store).
4. Compare the cost of shipping your older items to your new location vs. selling or giving them away.
5. Formulate a plan on how to dispose of the items you decide not to keep or put into storage.
6. Do you want family or friends to have certain items? If so, figure out a way to distribute those items. If there is a lot of interest in the same items, consider an auction using a point system (there are even some online services to help you do this – see bottom of article).
7. Figure out how you want to sell or dispose of the remaining items.
Here are some of the best alternatives, along with pros and cons. Please see additional commentary below
eBay or Craigslist
Hold a tag sale (self)
Use a tag sale manager
Hire an estate sale pro
Give to charity
Might get a high price
Get 100% of proceeds
Low hassle factor
Pro managed, everything goes
Low hassle, good cause
You have options
Huge amount of work
High work, could be disappointing
Give up commission
High end stuff only
Might never sell, low prices
More advice about downsizing
First of all, relax: many people find the idea of getting rid of their clutter liberating. Try to enjoy the process!
Most people have unreasonable expectations about what their stuff is worth. For most furniture and art, take a zero off what you paid to get an idea of what it might get on the market. The recession slammed resale values for most items (there are more sellers than buyers). The average home might yield $5000 to $15000.
Consider hiring a professional to manage the sale.
They generally offer these advantages:
- Access to more buyers
- Better advertising
- Realistic understanding of prices
- Will often dispose of everything, including unsold items
- Reduce your work and hassle
- Help with security issues
Do your homework before you sign a contract with a professional:
- Most are unlicensed
- Ask friends, real estate pros, or estate lawyers for referrals
- Get references
- Look online for complaints
- Read the contract and know what is expected of you, and the professional
- If you have specialized collections like cars, stamps, or antiques – consult a specialist
eDivvyup – a Web-based tool for dividing property
How to Run an Estate Sale
About Home Downsizing (eHow)
Downsizing Tips (Yahoo)
Downsizing Baby Boomers Looking to Sell Their Stuff (Smart Money)
6 More Downsizing Tips
What are your Comments? Perhaps you have experience downsizing – please share your thoughts. Or, do you have concerns, questions, or ideas. Let us know in the Comments section below.