Happiness is a state of being, not a state of having. Find out how downsizing can add value to your life and read experts’ tips for going about it.

Top Downsizing Tips for if You're RetiringSouth African writer Angela Horn passionately shares what she believes are the upsides to downsizing through articles, blog posts and lectures. In her TedX Cape Town talk a few years back, she revealed the positive benefits she has experienced since embracing minimalism and leading a clutter-free life. These include more spare cash, more free time and far less stress.

It all started when she had to help her retired parents simplify their lives before they moved into an old-age home. Her parents were ailing, so it was up to Angela to pack up the home they’d lived in for nearly 40 years. While this wasn’t a task she’d wish on anyone else, she says it taught her two powerful lessons – the less you own, the more you have; and happiness is a state of being, not a state of having.


Less is more

If you’re facing retirement, you may have to grow accustomed to lower monthly income and a more frugal lifestyle. This needn’t be seen as a bad thing. Scaling down can leave you with much more freedom. Also, fewer things to take care of can translate into lower costs and more cash for spending on what’s really important to you.

The benefits of moving to a smaller home for retirement include:

  • lower utility bills, especially if you move to a more energy-efficient home
  • more free time to pursue hobbies or other interests, because smaller homes require less maintenance than large ones
  • more peace of mind; psychological “space” and clarity can come from feeling less weighed down by the past.

That last point can help motivate you when you take the step to downsize. You’ll have to get stuck into some serious clearing out. This may be a sizeable task, but it’s one that can benefit you. Researchers in the Journal of Neuroscience revealed that uncluttered spaces make people less irritable and distracted, and better able to focus. In your retirement, you want to be able to focus on the good things in life.


How to go about downsizing

Experts have many tips to get you started. Angela, for instance, has two top tips:

  1. Follow a six-month rule, or even a three-month rule, as you declutter. If you haven’t used or looked at an item for the last few months, give it to charity.
  2. Stop buying for the sake of buying. Hold off on getting new things while you do the downsizing, and be a more discerning buyer in the future to avoid cluttering up your new space.

Other top tips for downsizing include the following:

  • Imagine your current house burned down in a fire. Now make a list to identify your “must-haves” (which you need to take with you), “can-live-withouts” (which should be the first items to go) and items you could perhaps sell and replace with smaller, more economical versions for your new home.
  • Hand on clothes you don’t wear, donate books you’ve read and sports equipment you don’t use, save your DVDs and CDs to an external hard drive and then sell or give them away and scan documents for saving on the cloud.
  • Reconsider your collections and ornaments. Marie Kondo, the author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising, says anything that doesn’t “spark joy” should find a more appreciative owner.
  • Avoid duplicate items. For instance, will you really need several crockery sets for entertaining? Do you really need so many handbags?
  • Have the modern equivalent of a garage sale to get rid of unwanted household contents and furniture in one go, using a service such as Moving On.


Storage solutions

self storage units

Of course, clearing out the clutter is easier said than done. People easily develop attachments to things. One Yale University study found that the anterior cingulate cortex and insula, the two areas of the brain associated with feeling pain, are activated when people who tend to hoard have to let go of items they feel a connection towards.

Also, it doesn’t make sense to get rid of potentially useful or valuable items in a rush. Not all decisions are best made straight away.

If you have valuable collections or furniture you may want to keep, pass on to other family members or sell at a later stage but you have no space for them, a good solution is to put the items in storage. XtraSpace has branches nationwide that offer secure personal storage units for storing personal items, valuables, furniture, bric-a-brac, sporting equipment and more. Visit our website to find your closest branch or to get a self-storage quote online.


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