Have you grown tired of stuff? Maybe it’s time for you to consider downsizing.
The mantra of “he who dies with the most toys wins” led us down the wrong path. We believed the lie that being rich meant the accumulation of stuff.
Seven years ago we lived in a four-bedroom house with three full baths. The house had a fireplace, a 2.5 car garage, a deck, a formal dining room, a living room, and a family room. We managed to full every room with stuff. And there were only two of us.
As I Boomer, I grew up in a culture where more and bigger were better. All you need to do is examine the car industry from 1955 to 1965. Every year the cars grew longer and during this era, people began thinking about getting a second car to park in the driveway.
This attraction to more and bigger, followed Boomers through the decades. We needed two or three of everything; and the bigger the better. Our accumulation of stuff swelled to the point we needed to construct outbuildings for storage. We added on to our house; or moved into a bigger one. Some readers have so much stuff, the car hasn’t been able to be parked in the garage for years.
Do I have your attention?
As we move toward retirement age, an amazing change is taking place. People who have spent a lifetime amassing stuff now feel trapped. They feel as though they are drowning in a sea of stuff.
This is not the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. It is the dawning of the Age of Downsizing.
Here’s why you ought to consider downsizing:
1. The more stuff you have the more you are tied down.
You are entering into the time of life where mobility is more important than ever. You want to travel and see the country. There are many trips ahead to see those grandkids. When the phone rings, and your best friend invites you on a road trip, you want to be able to go.
But the more stuff you have, the more tied down you are. Who will water the plants? Can you find someone to mow your 10 acre yard? Is it safe to leave your trailered boat sit in the driveway for a month?
2. The more stuff you have the more money it will cost.
Keeping your things insured isn’t cheap. If you have a boat, motorcycle, three cars, and a collection of rare tools you know what I’m talking about. The more stuff you own, the more you will spend on insurance.
Maintenance also is an issue. It costs much more to keep three cars running than one. The more animals you own, the greater the feed and vet bills. The bigger your yard, the more it costs to keep the grass mowed and weeds pulled. Your big driveway will cost a fortune to replace when you get tired of the huge cracks. And if you have a large house, a roof replacement might force you to take out a second mortgage.
3. The more stuff you have the more it clutters your mind.
Like a mother hen struggling to keep track of her hens, we struggle to keep track of our stuff. How many times do you want to ask yourself, “Now, where did I put that?” Or, “Who did I loan that to?” The more stuff you have the more difficult it is to mentally maintain the inventory.
4. The more stuff you have, the more there is for your inheritors to fight over.
I know; it won’t happen in your family. Can I be honest? You are wrong. When you are gone and your stuff is sorted through by surviving family members, the emotions run high. No one means for it to happen, but the claws will start to come out. Everyone wants his or her own special thing associated with good memories of you. But if there is less to fight over, there will be less of a fight.
Here’s what to downsize and how to do it:
1. Downsize your expectations regarding the retirement years.
Our culture has conned many Boomers as they head toward retirement age. We’ve been told these will be the years of laying beside the pool while we sip iced tea. We have dreams of jet-setting around the world; or at least spending a couple of weeks in Tijuana. We are expecting the coming Golden Years to be solid 24 karat gold bars.
This stage of life can be terrific but it rarely lives up to such lofty expectations. Even if you have plenty of money invested for retirement, there remain many pitfalls on the road ahead. Health concerns top the list of items which can sabotage your Golden Years. It’s important to establish a realistic level of expectations during this stage of life.
To get an accurate picture of what your financial picture will be in your retirement years consider talking to a financial planner. Take time to review the options regarding Social Security benefits. Once you have done your financial homework, you will begin to see how much you need to adjust your financial expectations.
This has the potential to impact how much you enjoy retirement. If your finances are meager, you will need to find other ways to make this chapter of your life meaningful. This is why I’ve been promoting the ReFIRE process. It helps you to make this chapter of life the best regardless of your financial picture.
2. Downsize your lifestyle.
Most of us will need to find ways to downsize our lifestyle. While working full time at the pinnacle of our career, the money rolled in. If you wanted to eat out four times a week, no problem. Impromptu purchases on Amazon or Best Buy were commonplace. A weekend in the mountains was always an option. But the day is coming, when those things will need careful planning. Depending on your level of financial security, this may mean minor or major downsizing.
Before heading into retirement years, with a realistic view of your financial picture in hand, try to get a picture of the lifestyle you can afford. It is important for you to live within your budget during this season of life. If you can’t afford to maintain your current lifestyle, either find a way to make more money or dial back on your standard of living.
3. Downsize your stuff.
Have you ever seen the 2001 filming of a seven-part Canadian documentary called Pioneer Quest? It’s about two couple who agree to live in northern Canada as pioneers for one year. They start out with supplies but need to build their own log homes, dig a well, and plant their own crops. At the end of the 12 month experiment both couples spoke of how meaningful the experience was and how close they had drawn to each other. What struck me was how the absence of stuff enhanced their lives. You have too much stuff. It’s time to let it go.
Go through your stuff and sort it into three piles: keep, sell or give away, and throw out. Go from room to room and sort. Be ruthless. When you’ve made a pile for the trash man take it out to the curb. Get it out of your house. Store the stuff for sale or give away in your garage. Schedule a garage sale. If you don’t need the money, call Goodwill and have them pick it up for free.
Sell your major items on eBay or Craig’s List. The challenge regarding eBay sales is in shipping your sold items. The challenge on Craig’s List isn’t the shipping; it’s sorting through the scams. Regardless of the challenges, these two venues are great ways to dump the big things.
4. Downsize your car.
Pay attention. Please do not head into retirement age with a car or motorcycle payment. It is the worst financial mistake you can make. Think of it like this: you are paying interest on something that is decreasing in value.
For many years I’ve had no car payment. I drive what I can afford. My current car is a 2001 Dodge minivan which cost me $1200. It has 180,000 miles on it. Yes, there are some repair bills. But those bills are far less than my previous monthly payment of $350 for my last financed car.
Here’s how to downsize your car. Sell it. If you owe more on it than it’s worth then you have several steps to take. Go to the bank and get an unsecured loan. I owed $8500 more on my car than it was worth. I sold my car and had to kick in $8,500 to pay it off. I found an old Honda Accord with 150,000 miles on it. I paid $700 for it and drove it for three years. Over the next 18 months I paid off my $8500 to the bank. Since then I’ve never financed a car. Life begins when you downsize your car and live without a car payment.
5. Downsize your house.
You really don’t your big house. Your expenses decreases when you live in a smaller place. Insurance costs less. Utilities and taxes are reduced. And there is less to clean and maintain.
Call the reality and have them come out to your house. Ask them what they would list your house for. They will be able to give you a close ballpark figure. If the realtor refuses to do this, then get another realtor. These people are experts and refusal to work with you isn’t a good sign. If you have equity, look into the possibility of buying a house and paying cash using the profits from the sale of your current house. Even if you need to borrow money, if you’ve chosen a small house, your payment should reduce dramatically. If you need motivation, close your eyes and imagine your house payment being reduced in half or completely disappearing. Call the realtor now.
6. Downsize the weight of past disappointment.
Does this suggestion seem out of place? I bring it up because this is the “ultimate” guide to downsizing. Most articles on the subject won’t touch this. But it is a vital topic of consideration.
By the time you’ve traveled through this planet for over five decades, you’ve accumulated plenty of hurt, disappointment, and guilt. As time passes the weight of this junk gets heavy. It wears away at us as we try to move forward. The weight of this emotional baggage from the past is as dangerous as carrying around an extra 100 pounds.
Start working on coming to terms with the past. Read a good book on the subject. Talk to a trusted friend, counselor, or minister. Start by reading THIS article which I wrote on the subject several months ago. No downsizing for the future is complete until you have downsized the weight of past disappointment.
When should you begin? Start now. Don’t wait another day. You are closing in on those retirement years. If you procrastinate, it will be too late. Now is the time to find freedom by starting to downsize.