We have spent extensive time and energy considering downsizing from our current home in Sedona to a smaller townhome located less than a mile away. My in-laws currently own a townhome in Sedona, rented to tenants on a month-to-month basis. We are considering purchasing that townhome from my wife’s parents once we are able to sell our home.
Last year we decided to put our home up for sale with downsizing in mind to put us in a favorable financial position. This was a way to shorten our early retirement timeline. Our result, after eight months on the market, three price decreases, and two deals that fell through, left us feeling that we had enough. We took the house off the real estate market in May, to re-evaluate our options. We have learned the lesson that real estate is definitely not liquid and subject to fickle market conditions.
In last week’s article, we evaluated the financial considerations for downsizing our home. Today let’s look at the non-financial aspects of reducing our living footprint that can be gleaned from a change in housing.
Downsizing: The benefits to simplifying
There are many financial and lifestyle benefits to consider as we evaluate our decision. For me it has come down to two fundamental themes; having less money wrapped up in real estate and possessions, and simplifying our lives.
The best things in life aren’t things. – Art Buckwald
I have followed the simplify movement for years by tracking some of my favorite bloggers’ journeys. Josh and Ryan at The Minimalists are great examples of people who have “woken up” to the fact that your possessions do not determine your happiness. The Minimalists are similar to our readers in that they worked for the “corporation man”, got caught up with upsizing their life, chasing the illusive American dream. Like many following the ideas in the PF community, they found this dream to be an illusion and soon sought to seek a new way. Rather quickly, they determined that by eliminating those things that were limiting, reducing the stuff that was not important, they found “all that was left” was meaningful.
I have followed several other bloggers that have adopted a minimalist lifestyle by living full-time in either their van or trailers. Those folks include Bob, Glenn, and RV Sue and her crew of two small dogs. I highly recommend checking out their websites and following their journeys.
What I find interesting is how the lives of these blogger friends have changed by simplifying their lives, changing their living conditions and needs for their possessions. It is possible to live in very small spaces and enjoy productive and happy lives. They are living proof!
Is there a non-financial downside to downsizing?
Yes, there are some initial drawbacks to our downsizing plans. We could consider them drawbacks now but I suspect that we will find a way to adapt, once we downsize and begin our new lifestyle. Here are some concerns and possible solutions we have to consider before we make the downsizing move.
Owner Parking. The townhome has two assigned parking spots, one a covered carport and one in the open. If we continue to own two cars, one of them will have exposure from the elements. The primary concern is the intense Arizona sun in the summer beating down on the interior and exterior of the car. We have two options; either sell one car, thereby reducing expense, or purchase a car cover to protect the vehicle from the sun.
Guest Parking. A related challenge regarding the owner parking concerns is the limited guest parking in this townhome community. If we decide to have a dinner party for six of our closest friends, finding parking for them could be a challenge. It would require us to be creative with parking our two cars (or possibly one by then) a couple blocks away at a shopping center or instructing guests to park in an overflow location about 300 yards from our front door. Of course, in the 4 years we have been in our house we have not had a dinner party with six guests!
Entertainment. Sticking with the fictional topic of six guests – won’t we be crowded in our smaller living room area? In this case, the dining room is actually larger and directly connected to the living room in the townhome, making it more conducive to entertaining. It has a more open design and floorplan that our current house. The added bonus is we gain a swimming pool and clubhouse that could accommodate 50 of our closest fictional friends for a lovely cocktail party and dinner. Problem solved!
Living space and storage. When you cut a third of your living space, your stuff has to go somewhere. We will have one less bedroom, as well as reduced storage space from what we currently have in our garage. I think we can solve that with one of three options: eliminate it (sell or donate), store it, or cram it all into our new smaller space. For us, we are leaning toward the elimination approach with the storage unit being an unlikely option.
Upsizing at a later date. I think the biggest concern is that once we move into a smaller space our hedonistic treadmill thoughts will creep in and we will be convincing ourselves we need to move back into a larger space or a single family home. Buying more stuff to fill the space is the opposite of uncluttering our space and minds! This is a work in progress and we will have to deal with those thoughts when they arise.
Small rooms or dwellings discipline the mind, large ones weaken it. –Leonardo Da Vinci
Our downsizing decision?
I have concluded that we need to look at downsizing as the next chapter in our lives. Will it be our final chapter? That is highly unlikely but who knows for sure! This will give us the huge cash reserve as a contingency for who knows what life throws at us.
The added benefit of downsizing is spending our productive time focused on other brainstorming. Taking away buying and selling homes from our conversation will allows us to pursue topics that are more interesting. Those new subjects would include where we go camping next, for how long, or what trail we want to hike today.
As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simplier, solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness – Henry David Thoreau
We will continue to evaluate our housing options, with a decision coming in the next few months. As of today, the interested buyer still wishes to buy our house. We are trying to work out a plan with them to purchase our home before their house sale is complete. The idea is that we would then rent back from them for a few months while we remodel the “new to us” townhouse. If this deal falls through, I think we will put the house back on the market in January.
We will provide updates along the way as a final decision made or as the plans change.
How about you, do you have plans to downsize prior or after retirement? If so, what is the primary reason?
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