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How to Downsize in Retirement: Checklist and Tips

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

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.

Downsizing checklist
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
Auction house
Consignment shop
Hire an estate sale pro
Give to charity

Might get a high price
Get 100% of proceeds
Professionally managed
Highest prices
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
Sales commission
No revenue
Ongoing expense

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

Additional Resources:

Mission Impossible: Cleaning Out a Big Victorian
A Tale of 3 Downsizings
12 Steps to Downsizing Success
Downsizing Checklist and Tips
Topretirements Members Getting Ready for Big Moves
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.

Posted by John Brady on August 27th, 2012


  1. Good advice my wife and I down sized 18 months ago. Surprised as to what we don’t miss. We will be moving on to a new home in Florida, January 1st.

    by Brad — August 28, 2012

  2. Your writer overlooked one VERY important point: Do the downsizing well BEFORE the dates planned for both selling or leaving the “big house”. Start at least six months before, and one or even two years isn’t unreasonable. That time frame takes off the stress.

    Another is to have a PLAN. Do you want to start with those boxes in the garage? Or are you more desirous of offloading furniture? One of the hurdles to downsizing is being distracted by the process…sitting with those boxes of no-longer-used holiday decorations because of the memories you have, for example.

    If you have other people in your life, partner with them or at the very least be on the same plate about what happens when. Offloading physical “stuff” is stressful to some whilst liberating to others.

    by Ellen — August 28, 2012

  3. It’s been two years since my wife and I moved to North Carolina from Long Island. If there is any advice I can offer with respect to moving and down-sizing for retirement is that we should have gotten rid of even more stuff than we did. Unless you have heirlooms, belongings or furniture you absolutely love or totally can’t part with, I would sell or give away even more of it. The less you have to move the better. Also, many folks that move to a new location will find that things like their old furniture doesn’t work well or fit in with their new homes and lifestyles. Forget about storing a bunch of stuff you will never look at. Give it away or toss it if you can.

    by Artie — August 29, 2012

  4. Thank you for this article and thank you to all those who left comments! Your words of advice are very helpful.

    I’ve been “offloading” things in my home due the passing of my parents in 2009 and 2011. There are things especially furniture that I am getting rid of in my home now, because the furniture my parents had was made better “back when”, is now considered “vintage” and will most definitely go w/us in our retirement. While dealing w/the furniture, I’ve also had the opportunity to rid our home of the totally unnecessary things we’ve been “storing” and it truly is liberating. My step is lighter and I seem to smile more! 🙂

    I won’t be ready for retirement for another 5-10 yrs, but I’m already making the needed changes to make our move easier when it finally does happen.

    by Alice — August 29, 2012

  5. My husband and I have been looking and thinking ahead to retirement and believe we should just keep our home which is paid for and purchase a condo in a small beach town where we would love to spend time. The thought of buying another home at our age in this small beach town area which is quite expensive seems overwhelming. Can others tell me how they feel about living in a condo – the pros and cons. If we kept our current home we could keep our RV, sheds, golf cart, harley, etc. and then still be able to get away to our favorite beach town for however and whenever we feel like it. Appreciate any comments along this line.

    by Karen — August 29, 2012

  6. Karen, the pro of a condo is that yard and other common area maintenance is done by the Homeowners Association (HOA). The con is–there is an HOA. You will pay a monthly HOA fee–and if there is not enough money in reserves to pay for a big capital expense like a new roof—even if it is not on your particular building–everyone can be “assessed” a one-time charge to capitalize the expenditure. Be sure to read ALL the HOA rules and ask questions of someone on the Board of Directors or the management company. DO NOT consult with a realtor involved with the sale of the property. Also, is your condo going to sit empty while you are not there? Are you going to rent it to others at certain times? Who is going to check after renters leave to see that it is in good condition. Do a lot of research before you invest. 🙂

    by Kent — August 29, 2012

  7. Ellen, Artie and Alice’s comments are just what I needed to hear. I just realized it’s not the idea of relocating, it’s what do we do with a lifetime of stuff that is putting the brakes on. Well, guys, you have definitely given me the courage to take my foot off those brakes. My husband’s head is going to spin when I get started. Thank you all for giving me the courage I’ve been looking for. :grin::grin:

    by Patty — August 29, 2012

  8. To Karen, I recommend leasing a condo to “try it on” before making any decisions to buy. That’s what my folks did and they decided against condo living for the reasons you state above. They ended up buying a small house instead of the condo. They’re in their 80s and going strong, and still happy with their decision. It may not be good for you to buy another house, but leasing a condo will give you firsthand information about what is right for YOU.

    by Elaine — August 29, 2012

  9. It took us a good year to clear the basement of 20 years of accumulated “stuff”(much of it gifts from relatives) and renovate the 4-bedroom home we had occupied for so long! We kept asking ourselves – “what will fit in a 2-bedroom apartment comfortably”? We have also told our kids and relatives – please no gifts of “stuff” Have us for dinner instead or donate to a charity. We have opted to rent rather than deal with any maintenance issues ourselves. We are grateful to be done with that. Now we have so much more time and freedom.

    by Sharon — August 29, 2012

  10. Kudos to the person that talked about condo HOA fees. Make sure you know what they are, how much (%) they can raise every year – cause they do! We were lucky enough to rent an apt in the condo building we were interested in. So glad we did it. We found that between the HOA officers/fees and the management company, it is like a Peyton Place. We bought a little 2 bedroom house and good ridance to the condo drama.

    by Patrica Ellis — August 29, 2012

  11. My husband and I moved from a very large home in the suburbs to a town house in the city. Our suburban home had 12 VERY large rooms, a full basement, attic and two-car garage. Our new town house has 6 VERY small rooms, no basement, no attic and no garage. What a challenge — mostly because my husband was reluctant to part with almost anything. As Sharon says, it took almost a year to get ready to move and even then we had too much stuff to fit into our new home. But we did it. My action-plan started with putting out three garbage bags full of stuff that had been culled every single week — at least. And every single weekend I tackled one project: a closet, the workbench in the basement, the junk drawers in the kitchen, etc, etc. So when it came down to really packing up, it wasn’t nearly as overwhelming as it could have been. Best advice: start early, stay on task and put a marital counselor on retainer. (We’re still married! That move and the stress when my husband quit smoking have been the two most difficult periods in our married life — 32 years now.)

    by Pat Kennedy — August 29, 2012

  12. If you are healthy and retired, downsizing by yourself may be a great option. The suggestions are very good. However, if you are still employed and have numerous responsibilities, you may want to consider hiring a professional that is experienced in downsizing and organizing for people looking at retirement or moving to a smaller home. There is a trade organization, the National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM) and you can identify professionals in your area on their website, It might be worth checking out before you jump in.

    by Michael — August 29, 2012

  13. Karen , we too have a paid for log cabin home we love, but are selling. We have opted not to buy a2nd home for vacations for lots of reasons it is a bad idea. Taxes, upkeep, mortgage or price are a lot when you can rent a lovely place for a month several times for much less stress and cost and headaches. Plus you may find youd rather go to different beaches or vacation places and u can afford that if you’re not paying for a 2nd home you feel obligated to use often. Owning two homes is a hassle as you age unless you’re very wealthy. We see lots near us who’ve bought for 2nd home and just don’t use it often enough to cover taxes and upkeep. Think long and hard about whether you’d rather havevfreedom to rent a vacation place oneborbtwo times a year for?2000 or less and you’ll escape taxes and headaches. Lotsofvgreat places to rent vacation homes!

    by Susan — August 29, 2012

  14. Ps , having an hoa control your life is a pain! Avoid it at all costs. Hoas can be controlled by real weirdoes and limit you and cost! Also realize that 2nd home prop taxes are much more than primary residences. You may have trouble selling it one day also!

    by Susan — August 29, 2012

  15. Enjoyed reading all these comments. Retirement is two years away for us, and I’ve been getting the “bug” to start decluttering, getting rid of accumulated stuff, and move to a smaller house. I guess my “bug” hit at just the right time!

    by Betsy — August 29, 2012

  16. Karen: We sold our large suburban home and retired to a Condo in a little beach town in Southern Delaware. Our HOA is great and we are very happy with it. Some people don’t like rules, but they fail to realize it keeps property values up. Buy now..the prices are low now and only will go up in beach areas in the near future. 10,000 baby boomers are retiring ‘DAILY’. So better grab it now. Loven’ the Beach life in Coastal Delaware 😀

    by Coastal Lady — August 29, 2012

  17. Not to be too depressing, but let me remind everyone that all the stuff you hang on to will have to be disposed of by someone, someday. My mother had twin sisters, who are both deceased. I was the person who had to take care of dismantling their homes and getting rid of their belongings. While there were a few delightful keepsakes, and a few pieces of valuable jewelry, most of the stuff was just stuff. hundreds of photographs of people I didn’t know. Piles of old clothing no one would want. It took me a couple of weeks each time, and was a tiresome and difficult chore. I have vowed to not create this problem for my son by getting rid of most of my stuff while I am still young enough to do my own sorting and tossing. Moving is a good time to start the process.

    by Helpful Daughter — August 29, 2012

  18. How do you get the cooperation/courage to “offload” all the stored belongings of adult children? We’re about 2 years from retirement, and our children are mid to late 20s, beginning launching, but live across the country and/or in situations where they only have access to one room. And their previous apartment stuff is stored in our house. We’ve thought of a cross country trip with a unhaul to “helpfully” bring them their stuff, but 2 of the 3 only have one room. What to do?????? (Espcially when my view of some of their things is that it’s really junk, but that’s not how they’re viewing their childhood treasures.)

    by Angela — August 29, 2012

  19. Angela,

    I tell my kids (40, 28,24, and 19) this:

    I love your independence as adults but it is your responsibility to handle all your own stuff. I plan to be retired on (my retirement date withheld for personal reasons but it is a handfull of years away) and your belongings must be out of my house on (6 months before you actually want it out – that gives some room to be gracious) so please tell me where you want to have it stored. Be loving, be kind but be clear that on that date you are free to give it to Goodwill/St. Vincent de Paul/the neighborhood kids. Well maybe not the last option. Part of being an adult is learning to make choices, prioritise, and deciding what stuff is “cool but optional.”

    They might surpriise you and themselves.



    by Glenn — August 30, 2012

  20. To Pat Kennedy — We will moving next Spring. Loved your action plan for going through the “stuff” before moving. Can’t wait to get started this weekend.

    by KathyJ — August 30, 2012

  21. Make that 28 as 38.



    by Glenn — August 30, 2012

  22. RE: adult children using your house as storage–I am now 57 and have had to deal with clearing out my parents’ house (3 stories+ basement, lived in 45 yrs) and my aunt’s house (same size, lived in 60 years), all long distance. No thank you. My own mother (who never got rid of HER things) told us kids, when we had graduated from college and had rented our first apt., that we must remove our boxes of “treasures” over the next two years, or they would be thrown out. So we all did. I work in higher ed, and am continually amazed at the number of parents who allow their kids to not deal with the usual and ongoing issues of life. I see a couple generations now of people who are truly adult CHILDREN–do them a favor and stop enabling them. Set realistic deadlines for them, remind them if need be, then FOLLOW THROUGH. They just might learn something. Help them to move items to a storage unit and then THEY pay the storage fees. Until it hurts someone’s pocketbook, most people won’t deal with things. My two cents….

    by Paula — August 30, 2012

  23. Coastal Lady, thank you for your optimistic comments. My husband loves his home and he grew up in this area but I’m not from here and let’s just say I’d love to spend tme away from this area most of the year. The cost of homes in the area we love are way out of our reach but a modest condo may fit the bill. I’ll definitely check out the HOA situation before we do anything. thanks everyone for both points of view – the pros and the cons. To rent something in this area is $4,000 + a month so to us that is a waste of money. This modest condo may just be the answer to keep both of us happy. When we return to our main home – we will also have time and money to go other places as well in our RV.

    by Karen — August 30, 2012

  24. I love Topretirements, and these comments regarding downsizing, hoas, places to live, etc. have been very helpful. In January, 2011, my daughter and son-in-law asked me to move in with them. Their home is about 1350 sq. feet. It has two baths, and three bedrooms. At the time, they had one daughter who was three yrs. old. I moved into their home from an apartment I had downsized into from a house in 2007. I could not believe how much I had accumulated in 4 yrs. I thought I was never going to finish sorting through everything. At the end of the first year with my daughter and son-in-law, I sorted through my storage unit, and I am finally down to what is in the third bedroom. (Helpful Daughter, your comments hit home with me). On August 9, 2012, my second granddaughter was born. I am 61 yrs. old, and I still work full-time. I have made many adjustments to stay with my daughter and her family, and for the most part, the results have been good. However, I never intended to live out my senior years with them–even though they are planning to move to a larger home in the next few years with more space. I grew up in the San Joaquin Valley of CA, and I have lived for the last 36 years in North Carolina around and in Raleigh, NC. NC is a beautiful state. The healthcare is excellent, and there is much to recommend it for retirees–just not me when I am ready to retire in 4-5 years. I have never been able to adjust to the humidity of the Southeast US. Since 2007 I have been visiting friends who have retired to the south east corner of New Mexico near Carlsbad. With my sister, I have been able to visit Albaquerque, Santa Fe, Taos, Alamagordo, Las Cruces, Roswell, Ruidoso, Cloudcroft, Hobbs, Farmington, and many smaller communities in the state. I love the weather. The land reminds me a lot of where I grew up in CA. Thanks to the comments from Topretirements subscribers I am also going to look at Gilbert, AZ. Later in my more senior years, I may need to return to NC to be closer to my daughter and her family, but while I have my health, I want to live out west for as long as I can. I am amazed at how much thought, research, and planning goes into deciding where and when to retire. This site along with the information and encouragement I have gained from the site bloggers has been invaluable.

    by NancyinNC — August 30, 2012

  25. Re: Disposal of your children’s items: My Mom called and told all of us that we had two weeks to claim our “stuff” or it would go in the dumpster. She meant it and there was a brief scramble when the dumpster arrived.
    Also, if it has been in a box and unused(forgotten) for more than a year don’t open the box, just dump it.

    by KAY — August 30, 2012

  26. In the spirit of down sizing when our 5 grown children came home for Christmas last year we held a “tag sale” of all the things we had been holding onto for them. The items were primarily silver/crystal, etc that belonged to their grandparents and some of our wedding gifts. First the girls, then the boys put the treasures they wanted in large plastic bins, leaving room for negotiation with their siblings. This freed us of all the stuff they wanted and allowed us to freely get rid of what they didn’t want.

    by Sue Moga — August 30, 2012

  27. We were surprised when we moved to our condo in Boca Raton that many of the condo were sold furnished. We moved from NY with only our bed and some personal items. We kept the bedroom set from the previous owners. Additionally, my parents who were already residents of Florida moved into a new condo in Boyton Beach and kept all the furniture in the new condo. It is interesting what happens in other parts of the country. The furniture in our condo was included in the price and that in usually the case. My parents negotiated and paid extra money for their furniture.

    by Joan — August 31, 2012

  28. Many people like to keep their retirement and/or relocation plans on the down low. You need to figure out well before the sale how you are going to handle all the questions and the advice you will get from friends and cooworkers. An easy way is to make it clear in ads and discussions that you are doing the downsizing because the kids are grown and the stuff is not needed is not needed. We didn’t want everyone to know that we had purchased a place in Florida and that we would be making a permanent move. We really didn’t want to listen to all the good advice and concerns and prying that comes with such downsizing. We had several sales and the last being a tag sale with much of our furniture and even an automobile. Then it was truly out that we were getting out of Dodge and soon. Many of those who came to the tag sale came more as a final visit than to actually buy. People wanted to sit down and emote. The sales worked well for us and we got rid of 90% of the stuff. The rest went to charities. Another aspect of downsizing is getting out of all your standing obligations such as service organizations, church groups and clubs, coffee klotches and the like. Downsizing these gives you time to adjust to not being part of them and gives you greater time for focusing on the new life that will be yours. Downsizing and getting out of entanglements often includes a grieving process. This is necessary and will make you stronger. Doing it over many months may be better for you than just saying goodbye and you leave the door. Trust me. You will grow through this process!!

    by David M. Lane — September 1, 2012

  29. My wife and I are looking on the internet at and trying to get some ideas of whether we want a condo or to live in a 55+ mobile home community. Does anyone have comments about the 2 of these? Thank you for your input. Appreciate the helpful advice.

    by Joe — September 1, 2012

  30. Susan – You say you have a log cabin that is all paid for but are selling. Then you mention about renting places for vacations. I’m just curious as to whether you are moving for retirement and renting for vacations or what? Thanks!

    by Karen — September 1, 2012

  31. This is a great article. A couple of thoughts. You can’t start downsizing early enough. My experience is that when I’m going through things I have three piles: One – this stuff goes, Two – Stays, Three – I don’t know. The “I don’t know”is usually because there is an emotional attachment. However, I found that after a few days the mind seems to process it and I look at it again and it winds up in pile One or Two. This takes time but it feels so good to unload stuff. To this day I have to keep guard that I’m not accumulating stuff. Another extremely important thing to remember – Downsize while you are still physically capable to do so. And do everyone a really big favor, please don’t leave your mess for someone else to clean up. It’s not at all appreciated as stated in some of the comments above.

    by Ann — September 2, 2012

  32. Where to Retire magazine publishes an excellent brochure “How to Plan and
    Execute a Successful Retirerement Relocation. Thirty-one pages of advice. A MUST for those of us who are organizationally deficient.

    by Cooper — September 2, 2012

  33. My wife and I are considering retirement in Houston in 2-3 yrs.. Will appreciate any constructive advice,comments,etc.. Thanks.

    by jim knox — September 3, 2012

  34. Jim Knox-I don’t know where you are coming from, but Houston suburbs have high real estate taxes. There is also a lot of humidity.I am not crazy about humidity, but I usually can deal with it, yet for some reason in Houston, it is suffocating humidity-take several trips there during the summer.We are in the hill country of Texas and many people here are from Houston. Most of them are escaping the humidity of Houston. Good Luck!!

    by DianaF — September 4, 2012

  35. Jim Knox, My husband and I have lived in Houston for over 3 years – we are here for jobs. I agree with DianaF: humidity is stifling and very uncomfortable; heat never bothered me much until I moved here! Real estate taxes are high and highways are crowded. Looking forward to leaving next year once we retire. I am curious as to why you are considering Houston for retirement?

    by Fionna — September 4, 2012

  36. Thanks everyone for the insightful comments. You have all added so much to the discussion! Since we wrote this article we have come across 2 additional and very helpful articles on downsizing:
    Yahoo Finance: “Is Downsizing Part of Your Retirement Plan?”
    New York Times: “Supersizing the Empty Nest” (a very different perspective)

    by John Brady — September 4, 2012

  37. I read so much about the things people look at when deciding where to live…weather, transportation, beaches, housing cost, real estate taxes, whether there is a state income tax, how they treat pensions and social securit and so on. All of these things are very important but these are things we know of and can calculate. What is not so evident is the hidden financial obligations states have taken on to fund pensions and medical benefits for their retirees.

    I suggest you take a very hard look at these obligations as they may dramatically change your opinion on where you are looking to move. For example I have read that the State of Illinois has an unfunded legal obligation of $14 Billion. The scary part is the residences of Illinois have already had a major increase in their state income tax in the past twop years.How would you feel if you moved to a state only to find out in a few years you have a new major tax burden you did not calculate into your retirement strategy? Contact the state you are looking at and ask what obligations they have on the books for the next 20 years that are not funded….you may just be very surprised.

    by Steve T — September 5, 2012

  38. Jim Knox — My wife and I moved to Houston four years ago with a job transfer. We live in The Woodlands and love it. Although our intent was to return to Florida upon my retirement, we have decided to remain here instead. Yes, it is hot and humid like most of the south but we have no problem with that. The property taxes are high compared to some states but that is offset by the lack of state income tax, low cost of housing, access to great medical care, lots of cultural and other activities in the area, and very low cost of living.

    by Morris — September 6, 2012

  39. Hi,
    On the downsizing issue…I had to do this while still employed. It took me five years! But it is done now. and the one lesson that hit home is to carefully consider what you plan to do with that item you are going to buy when you are through with it! It takes buying to a whole new level! On more than one occaision I have reconsidered a purchase after thinking it through.

    by Lulu — September 6, 2012

  40. We hung on to a lot of items because of guilt, or because other people thought they would be important to our children. We found out that our children really have no sentimentality towards most of the heirlooms. They would rather buy items that satisfy their own tastes. Our recent move from the large suburban home to an urban apartment was truly liberating. We got rid of almost everything we own. We had to keep a storage unit for the possessions of my elderly mother-in-law, who unfortunately remembers everything she ever owned, and wants to see them on occasion. We will not burden our kids with our “junk”, for that is what it becomes for them.

    by Patty — September 26, 2012

  41. My husband and I have been retired for 3 years and are currently still living in our town of St. Marys, Georgia. However; we’re in the process of downsizing to a smaller place, going through our things, and relocating. Although we haven’t firmed up where we are relocating to we are focusing on going through our things first, selling larger items, etc. We have visited many areas in Florida but are planning to RV throughout the state of Florida to zero in on where we will relocate to. Condo/townhouse fees can be extremely high but we have found single family attached homes to be a happy medium between condo and a house with fees usually much more reasonable.

    by Bonnie — September 27, 2012

  42. […] Further reading: Downsizing Checklist […]

    by » 12 Steps to Downsizing Success Topretirements — June 3, 2013

  43. […] home. Don’t burden your kids with the problem of getting rid of your junk. See our “How to Downsize in Retirement” article, plus a ton of great comments for […]

    by » Checklists for the Retiring Baby Boomer: 10 More to Think About Topretirements — June 3, 2014

  44. We are a few years away from retirement, but have already begun the process of downsizing. We had a yard sale in the spring and will have another one in the fall. If anything is left over, we will donate it to Habitat for Humanity. Every year we will reassess what we have and hopefully, by the time we retire, we will be all set.

    by Norma — June 4, 2014

  45. Is anyone downsizing and moving into an RV full-time? This has been my dream.

    by Terry — June 4, 2014

  46. Hi Norma, yes, WE are downsizing as well, though we have a few years to go before we can retire. I haven’t thought about an RV, though we are open to possibilities. We have 3 dogs and 1 cat, never had kids, so we are concerned about our furbabies. I don’t know if any senior communities would allow pets. My 2 oldest dogs are large, but getting older. I suspect they won’t be around much longer (one is being checking in a few weeks and depending on her condition, may have to be put down. The other one is a year younger than she is, but is getting up there. The little dog is 4 and the cat is 3. They all get along well.
    If you live in an RV, how do you claim your residency? I don’t know the ins or outs about living in an RV. Would this be a large camper like a mobile home? Or the kind you drive from place to place? I am curious as to your accommodations and how you’ll live.

    by Audrey — June 5, 2014

  47. Many of the active adult communities(especially those with detached houses), allow pets, watch for pet friendly in the list of amenities. However, pet friendly alone means nothing…except a place to start. Some have dog parks if you have a dog that is a candidate.

    HOAs often have restrictions that vary by community. Some restrict by breed, number of pets, size of pets. etc. You would have to check about cats especially if yours is an outdoor cat.

    Also check to see if fencing is allowed if you feel that you need that. Again more restrictions about the type of fencing and the area you can fence…usually from rear corner to rear corner so it does not extend beyond the width of the house.

    And I always worry about the lawn and pest chemicals that are used, but is probably just me

    by Elaine — June 5, 2014

  48. Audrey: We plan on having a permanent residence in Florida and living there eight months of the year. The other four months we will be living in a motor home (RV) at campgrounds in Maine. Some years we might even go elsewhere. My husband has his heart set on Bar Harbor, but I think it would get boring going to the same place every year.

    by Norma — June 5, 2014

  49. […] further reading: 12 Steps to Downsizing Success Downsizing Checklist and Tips Topretirements Members Getting Ready for Big Moves eDivvyup – a Web-based tool for dividing […]

    by » 6 More Downsizing Tips from Here and There Topretirements — June 17, 2014

  50. […] Retirement Boston College Center for Retirement Research: Using Your Home to Pay for Retirement Retirement Downsizing Checklist Reverse Mortgages Costing the Unwary Their Homes MarketWatch: Housing is Biggest Expense for […]

    by » The Retirement Piggy Bank You Are Probably Overlooking - Topretirements — October 6, 2014

  51. The checklist is great, it’s practically a plan the way I see it, so I’m definitely using it when I need it. After all a good done plan is half the job done! Thanks!

    by Bobby — June 16, 2015

  52. My brother used 1-800-GOT-JUNK when he was moving. They were efficient, and they recycle and donate items when possible. Some other specific alternatives: Habitat for Humanity ReStore does pick-ups, as does Salvation Army. I used St. Vincent de Paul for a lot of my stuff. Brought clothes into Goodwill.

    My son had a friend in his early 20s who had bought a house and needed to furnish it. Gave him the furniture that wouldn’t fit in the new home (moving from the NE to Florida), and he came over with buddies and a U-Haul and took away a lot of stuff.

    My three kids took a few things, but don’t be distressed if they don’t want much of your stuff 🙂 They took most of their own stuff (they were all living on their own), but I said I’d keep on small box for each of them, and eight years later, still have them.

    Jan Cullinane, author, The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement (AARP/Wiley)

    by Jan Cullinane — June 17, 2015

  53. Jan – I used 1800Junk too (several visits, over $1K by the time I was done), and thought they were great. I liked the fact that they’d show up early on a Saturday morning. Unfortunately, the franchise isn’t in my current location in the Carolinas. Wish they were.

    I had to laugh when I read your posting about the boxes you have for your 3 kids. I swear I have the same boxes for the same 3 kids. My parents had boxes for us too, so it’s a tradition! I don’t understand why my kids feel the need to keep some of their stuff, but I can’t talk — I still have my huge, beat-up teddy bear from 60 years ago. Some things you just hang onto and then the next generation gets rid of your stuff. Part of the cycle of life!

    by Kate — June 18, 2015

  54. If you have room on your property, rent a dumpster and they will deliver it. I have used 1800 GOT JUNK and even though I like their service they are WAY over priced. They charged us close to $400 for a small amount of stuff they took away. We rented a 15 yard dumpster for approximately $300 through our garbage company. It had to hold at least 5X more than what we had GOT JUNK to take away. Plus, we had it for close to 2 weeks and each weekend we loaded it up. Hub was working at the time so he mostly only had weekends to load it. We kept it for more than two weeks so they charged us something like $10 extra a day. It was so worth it! If you have a dumpster delivered, just make sure if they place it on your driveway, have them put some boards under the dumpster so it doesn’t leave huge marks on your driveway. The dumpster we rented had a door you could open and you could walk right into it so no lifting over the top. However, I understand the older we get it is hard for us to drag mattresses, giant TV’s, refrigerators out to a dumpster so GOT JUNK is a good option too. We also bring car loads in garbage bags to Goodwill. They are very helpful and come out to your car to help your unload. Recently we called a Vietnam Veteran organization and they came and picked up stuff for free. We also donated the entire contents of my Mother’s home when she passed to an charitable organization who came with a giant box truck and they removed all the furniture and boxes of stuff. Their truck was full to the top! They did charge us $35 but that was just to cover gasoline for their round trip. Free or cheap is a good option! Also, if you are looking for a hobby, sell your items on ebay! I have sold tons of stuff. You can get free shipping boxes from USPS on line. You can get some sizes at the PO but they do not carry all sizes. I have sold some stuff that I never in my life would have believed would even sell and got really good money! One more thought is bringing some of your stuff to a Picker place for them to sell the stuff. They usually get 40% and you get 60%. Our Picker place is a bit selective and will turn some of your stuff away if they feel it won’t sell. I brought them a plain Jane chandelier and they said NO, they have had them and they just don’t sell! We are a couple with no children who have lived in our home for 40 years and we have accumulated so much stuff/junk it is mind boggling! We have rented many dumpsters over the last 7 years and the house is still full! I am not a hoarder nor my Hub either! It just crept up on us! LOL!

    by Louise — June 18, 2015

  55. One more great idea when moving is having POD’s deliver their container to your home. You load it up and they take it and store it or deliver it to your new home location. You unload it and they come and take it away. My girlfriend did it (Connecticut to Michigan) and it worked out great! Downside is that you have to do all the grunt work or hire some strong guys to help load it up. Plus, you have to be smart enough to load it properly so nothing gets broken once it gets transported. I have heard horror stories with moving companies.

    There is another place called Pack Rat you can look up and use

    by Louise — June 18, 2015

  56. does anyone have ideas for PVC pipes and connectors recycling. I used to build things like jumps and even a teeter base with these and they are not inexpensive especially the furniture grade ones. I have quite a few andI would prefer to donate to somewhere that would want and use them.

    by elaine — June 18, 2015

  57. In September I decided to sell the house I’d lived in for 50 years. After 7 weekends of garage sales, dozens of bags to charity, only a few things to family, and entirely too much to the dump, I was ready to prepare the property for sale. Fixing, painting all the rooms white, & general sprucing up took 3 more months (2 more than I expected). Then I moved to a furnished apartment nearby & listed the albatross for sale. In May it was sold! I’m over 80, have no furniture & very little else — and no concrete plan. I feel free for the 1st time in my life & do not intend to buy property again. One good piece of advice I got from my daughter: instead of holding on to nostalgia items, take photos of them. Worked great for me. I feel a hundred pounds lighter (but gained 10 pounds during the stress of unloading). Good luck everyone.

    by Sallie — June 18, 2015

  58. Elaine, what about Habitat for Humanity or a local affordable housing organization?

    by cindy — June 19, 2015

  59. Hi! We are a few years away from retirement, but I am starting to sell items now. W have been antiques collectors for decades, so there is lots, in addition to extra pieces of furniture, housewares, electronics, kids stuff, clothing. If you use facebook, every town/city seems to have started these “online yardsale” pages, which I primarily use, with much success. Just search in facebook for “raleigh yardsale” (example from my city), and you will find them all.
    TIPS – If the item is small, arrange to meet them in a public location (mall parking lot), if furniture, make sure you have “legit” conversations wit them before inviting them to your house, and have someone there with you. If possible, move the sale items into the garage or onto the porch, to avoid them having to be inside your house.
    It is similar to Craigslist, except you can see the person’s picture, and look at some of their personal facebook page, to get an idea of their legitimacy. Let me tell you, used furniture is a great market, especially if your items are in great condition and of good quality. New stuff is such junk, and so expensive. Oh, and use eBay for more valuable, shippable items! Good luck!

    by helene — June 20, 2015

  60. We tried calling Habitat when we had to empty out my mother’s senior apartment. They weren’t in the least interested. This was in Raleigh, NC. This had been recommended by the Habitat group in Warrenton, NC, so smaller groups may be interested.

    by Linda — June 20, 2015

  61. This comment came in from Sandy, and it is a good one!

    When we moved, we got rid of a lot of furniture. Unfortunately, we hired an interior decorator for our living room. We were afraid of mistakes. We weren’t terribly happy with what we got. What we would have done, had we known in advance, was to go the high end consignment store in Beaver Creek. We found a lot of high end furniture in pristine condition at drastically reduced prices. In resort areas, as you know, people often buy furnished houses but want there own taste. Out go all this beautiful furniture and in comes their decorator. We have many pieces from our store. If one is patient, good things turn up. AND, upgrades of one’s own furniture is always possible and not expensive. We now love our living room and many other pieces around the house.

    by Admin — July 5, 2015

  62. […] further reading: 12 Steps to Downsizing Success Downsizing Checklist and Tips Topretirements Members Getting Ready for Big Moves eDivvyup – a Web-based tool for dividing […]

    by » A Tale of 3 Downsizings - Topretirements — July 6, 2015

  63. Never underestimate the power of Free. Closed my office to retire, and my mother died after a lifetime of world wide world class shopping (and I had already done more than my share), all simultaneously. I want to move so mine has been one more household to sift through. Set it all up for a giant garage/yard sale, gave fliers to my neighbors, the beauty salon etc. promoting that it was “free”. Couldn’t believe the stuff that went in one day. About 85%. I didn’t even have to stay home. Some “good” stuff but also a lot of stuff I didn’t think a charity would even take. And it is fun to learn after the fact who liked what. The stuff I am moving with me is to reflect MY life and my interests now.

    by Cherie Christensen — July 27, 2017

  64. Retirement time is so exciting. It’s fun reading about all your plans. We retired to an RV 12 years ago. We had lots of retired friends at the time and from them got two great peices of advice. The first was to retire as early as possible. There is no amount of money that is better than freedom. The second piece of advice is to store NOTHING. Anything stored gets ruined within a few years anyway, and stuff you don’t need now is stuff you don’t need. If your kids want anything, give it to them now. We’ve had to clean up the belongings of three deceased family members since our retirement and it was weeks of nightmare I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
    We have since purchased an 800 square foot park model home in a gated RV community we’ve visited for many years to serve as a home base and travel in a much smaller RV for several months a year. The only problem we have is that our little mini home is in Southern California and the traffic has become appalling with more and more housing going up around our community. We are looking at NC or Florida and plan to go this fall in the RV to check it out. We won’t get in a hurry and will perhaps take a couple of years to make his adjustment. We will probably rent first in places that take our fancy and see how it goes.
    Good luck everyone, and for your own sake, don’t store that junk!

    by Laura C — July 28, 2017

  65. Laura,
    I will be 63 in September and my job is being phased out of a Church. I am considering selling almost everything I have including my home which is a condo. I could possibly then live on Social Security and my retirement savings in a downsized lifestyle. Freedom is getting close and I can taste it. I am interested in a park model homein gated community and wondered how you found the one you now own your home in. My brother in Portland Oregon says that RV’s are like a car and depreciate in value and that a tiny home is in the same category and a waste of money. Has your Park model retained any value?Many thanks and your comments about not storing anything is spot on! Things we don’t use or need become a chain around our necks.

    by Jennifer — July 29, 2017

  66. Note: We moved a few comments from here that had to do solely with RVs to a Blog on that topic If you wanted to comments on that subject please refer to Thanks

    by Admin — July 29, 2017

  67. BCianrlone sent in this comment asking our experienced members for advice in downsizing:

    I can see that there is an amazing amount of knowledge here with all these members who have actually done what I would like to do, so I am kindly asking for advice based on actual experiences.

    I am 60, and I plan to retire soon from my federal government job of 35 years. I own my home in Brunswick, Maryland, an my only family is comprised of my two adult daughters who live in Albuquerque, New Mexico. So I would like to sell my large home here in MD and buy a small home in Albuquerque.

    I own a lot of stuff, such as kayaks with trailers, many books, and camping gear, and I would like suggestions on downsizing. Also, any good advice on moving my possessions safely would be appreciated.

    Since my area is not good for selling homes due to the depressed real estate market here, and it takes at least one year to sell a home on the average, I was thinking of renting a place nearby, moving all my stuff to the rented place, selling my home calmly and at a good price over time, and finally buying a home in Albuquerque to live there.

    I am no rush, but I am lacking any practical advice. I heard a lot from real estate agents who are looking to “close a deal” and I don’t need more advice from those with self-interest as an objective. Hearing from real retirees is what I would truly appreciate, as you folks are the experts.

    Thank you, God bless you all!

    by Jane at Topretirements — August 28, 2017

  68. This might be a solution for those of you parents stuck with you children’s junk/stuff when you want to start downsizing. Offer to rent a storage unit and pay for 6 months. Put the contract in your kids name. After the 6 months the kid has to pay for continued storage costs. Usually these storage places offer the first 3 months free. So, you’d only be stuck paying for 3 months. The kid might discover that the junk might not be all that valuable when they have to pay monthly fees. You will be free of the junk and you will have offered a solution to the kid not having enough room for the stuff.

    by louise — August 29, 2017

  69. BCianrlone, Renting an apartment seems like a good idea, however, insurance companies frown big time on an unoccupied house. They want a person at the least to sleep there. When I sold my Mom’s house the insurance dropped the policy once they found out no one was living in the house. We had to get insurance thru an insurance company that takes on risky situations and cost us a FORTUNE for a six month policy. They even came out to take pictures of the empty house. My Mom’s house wasn’t grand, it was just a little old house that was about 70 years old.
    As far as the Kayaks and camping gear, do you plan to do that stuff in AZ? I would check out the area you plan to move to and see if you can rent Kayaks. Camping in AZ may be different than what you are used to. You might find snakes and other undesirables in AZ. Not sure what kind of books you are talking about? Collectibles? If you are looking to sell them, there is an app called Book Scouter. It will tell you the value they will pay and you ship it to them free. You would want to get a box full at a time to sell. You have to ask yourself do you want to transport your furnishings and the expense involved or sell it all and buy new stuff? Look into PODS. You can have one or more delivered to your home and placed on your driveway. You fill it and secure the stuff and once filled they will come and take it to a storage facility or to your new home. You pay a storage fee till it is delivered and emptied. Lots of manual work. It is a good solution and a friend of mine did it and was happy. Securing the stuff is important so it doesn’t shift in transit. Give as much stuff away as possible. Fill up garbage bags full of clothes, small appliances, etc and take to Goodwill or call some other places to pick up. They give you a receipt that you can claim as a deduction on taxes. Give things to friends. If your daughters want some stuff, maybe you could pack up boxes full and mail them out. Animal welfare groups are always looking for blankets, dog crates, dog beds and may even take some stuff for their annual tag sale. Put things out in your yard near the road and put out a FREE sign. Look on Craigs list in the wanted section and see what people are looking for. Be careful though with that, heard of rip off people there. Sell some stuff on ebay. Find a picker who will take on some consignments. Bring stuff to them to decide if they will sell it for you. They usually get 60%, you get 40%. Contact churches to see if there are families looking for furniture and other household items. Lots of struggling young single mothers with babies. If you sell most of your furnishings maybe you can find a home in AZ that is fully furnished and live with that furniture till you get settled in. Good luck!

    by louise — August 29, 2017

  70. Downsizing has been an on-going process for us and it took time. You have the right mindset and that is the most critical part.
    Albuquerque is a great choice. They have 1 or 2 Sell Web communities and I would highly encourage you to look at them if you are a social person.
    We used PODS to store our stuff and then move everything from Wisconsin to San Antonio. Loved it.
    You might also consider not moving couches, beds and a few other things. We figure when we are 80 we would rather have a lazyboy that is 15 years old rather than 30 years old.

    by Susan — August 29, 2017

  71. We started sorting through 40 years of stuff a year before putting the house on the market. most was donated to a charity group that picks up right from the driveway. I had them come every few weeks and the more I got rid of, the more I wanted to get rid of! Things that had great memories attached I took pictures of and uploaded to Shutterfly so I could keep the memories and not the stuff. Things with more value I gave to family and friends who wanted them. It would have been more expensive to rent a storage unit and move a lot of stuff than it is worth. The hardest part is getting started but it is so freeing to get rid of all that stuff! Good luck!

    by jean — August 29, 2017

  72. BCianrlone, another thing you might consider if you want to keep the kayaks and trailer is to find someone to drive the trailer out to AZ for you. I know a young guy who drove a person’s vehicle and a big landscape type trailer out west. The people paid him some flat fee and then bought him a one way airline ticket to come back home.

    It is hard to downsize when ‘things’ have sentimental value. I have read people take pictures of items they donate or sell so they always have the memory with them.

    One more suggestion is when you box up your stuff, mark on the outside what is in the box. Or mark each box with a number and have a cheat sheet to tell you what is in the boxes. When you need to find that certain something when you get to your new home, you will go crazy trying to find it if you have no idea what box to start with.

    by louise — August 29, 2017

  73. Does anyone have advice on moving houseplants? I could give them away but some I’ve had for over 20 years!

    by Edna — August 29, 2017

  74. Can I get the name of some charity organizations that will come pick up stuff.
    I started to call one or two and they had no interest

    by Barbara Jayko — August 30, 2017

  75. Salvation Army usually picks up, at least they do here in the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill (Triangle) area of NC. I have a client who just did this. You should be able to go online and schedule a pick up or call them.

    by Huntley — August 30, 2017

  76. I give furniture and household items to Habitat Restore and they will come and pick it up as long as it’s on the first floor level. I have given couches,outdoor furniture, filing cabinets, etc..You call them and schedule a pickup at your home.It’s a great cause.

    by Luanne — August 30, 2017

  77. Check on line, we used several veteran organizations, in which we had to place the items on the front porch or in the garage for pick up. We also used You can drop off house items but for a charge of $150 they come to you home and pick up larger items like couches and chairs. You might think the cost is not worth it but we were able to take the tax deduction which was well beyond the $150. They have a large list of items they take and it really helps out families that need household items.

    by Bruce — August 30, 2017

  78. I use Purple Heart for pick up. In our area St. Vincent de Paul and one of the school/teacher recycle shops also pick up.

    by shumidog — August 30, 2017

  79. Thank you immensely for all your helpful comments! I knew that there was a treasure of knowledge here. The PODS is something I was not aware of. I actually drove around and saw a home that had two PODS out front, and I asked the residents about it, and they told me it works if the items are packed very well with nothing delicate or fragile sent inside them. And then mailing stuff out there to my daughters early at bulk rate in boxes, such as my books (many are signed and rare copies), and the idea of not moving the large bulky furniture, these are excellent suggestions. By the way, Albuquerque is in New Mexico, and not in Arizona. Where I will be in New Mexico, there will still be waterways to use in the northern lakes. Marking boxes is smart, and I can see that it is such little suggestions that save a lot of trouble later on. And I will definitely donate unneeded clothing and furniture to charitable entities. You folks are great! Thanks again.

    by Bob — August 30, 2017

  80. Here in Washington, DC, Wider Circle accepts large pieces of furniture and gives them to people in need. Check them out. A friend in Georgetown who lost her husband last year sold their townhouse in Georgetown and downsized to a one bedroom 800 sq foot apartment.

    by Jennifer — August 30, 2017

  81. Vietnam Veterans
    Local Churches may know people in need.

    by louise — August 31, 2017

  82. TX Jennifer, on the ‘Wider Circle’ tip that wasn’t on my local list before. I have some of their specific things request pending for another of my downsizings and can now better prepare a proper packaging on the multiple items they request and what I have for them.

    by Rich — September 3, 2017

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