For Australians who are investigating downsizing, the prospect of finally shifting home can be both liberating and daunting.
A research paper published last year showed that the majority of downsizers are ultimately happy with their decision to move. However, it also emphasised that it is well worthwhile doing your homework to ensure the moving experience is not stressful.
“Understanding the post-downsizing experience of others can help better prepare people before they move to anticipate responses and possibly contribute to better retirement adjustment.” the paper by the ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing said.
With this in mind, Downsizing.com.au spoke to five downsizers, to find out what advice they would give to potential downsizers, and what in retrospect they would have done differently.
Margaret Crombie, a resident at Reside Communities’ Samford Grove retirement village at Samford Valley, in the north of Brisbane, downsized in 2020 after she struggled to keep up with the maintenance requirements of an acreage property.
She says her family supported her through the entire process.
“Mine just said 'look we’ll come and help you and we’ll come down for the next few weekends', and then they came down and helped me move in as well. I have really been very fortunate, they were really helpful,” Ms Crombie said.
Her son and daughter-in-law helped her declutter and pack, as well as find a home for prize possessions that she couldn’t hold onto.
For Margaret, timing is critical to a successful move – she values being able to enjoy the community, her garden and activities.
“I have the added bonus of being able to walk down to the village, I just love it, I’m really happy,” Ms Crombie said. “And it is a bonus that I’m well enough to be able to access all these things. I think it’s important to downsize and move before you have to because when you have to you don’t have the option of choosing where you really, really want to go.”
Sonya and Denis Smith from Ingenia Lifestyle’s Plantations land lease community in Woolgoolga, on the NSW North Coast, moved from Greater Western Sydney to be closer to family, but took a while to downsize.
“We actually upsized. We were in Penrith in the Blue Mountains; we were there 17 years. Our daughter is here in Coffs Harbour and we decided to have a sea change,” Ms Smith said.
Ms Smith says there’s no rule about how many times to move before settling into a long-term property, but it’s important to consider your circumstances.
“For those thinking about downsizing our advice would be to talk about it with your family if you can. Do your homework as far as where you would like to be and if it suits your need,” Ms Smith said.
Looking back, Sonya advises downsizers to be resolute in their decision.
“Don’t listen to the negatives from people who think that it’s okay to tell you ‘Oh I couldn’t live there’. You need to do what’s right for you at the right time. We procrastinated for two years and when finally the move was made we wondered why we took so long to decide.”
While Sonya and Denis found change difficult at first, they have embraced the move to Plantations, looking forward to their 53rd wedding anniversary in November 2020.
“It’s like being on a permanent holiday,” Sonya said.
Marian Cahill, who lives at Aura Holdings’ Kingsford Terrace Corinda in Brisbane’s western suburbs with husband Peter, recommends a considered move.
“You have to be prepared well ahead and start a little bit at a time and work through it and you have to be fairly ruthless, I think. If you’ve been in one place for a long time and you have the space, you collect things that aren’t really necessary.”
As Ms Cahill told Downsizing.com.au, she kept space for favourite family items like antiques.
“You have to decide what you have space for and what you really need,” she said.
A few extra items, such as linen, didn’t make the cut but Marian says they utilised storage space.
“We do have a little storage space in the car space that I can put things in until I can move them off or sell them.”
At Kingsford Terrace, residents can purchase additional storage space in the carpark.
With family interstate and breaking her wrist prior to the move, Mrs Cahill enlisted the help of professional organising company Task Tamers. She says it was worthwhile getting professional assistance.
“Our downsizing company was invaluable and arrived on the day and packed everything except what was needed for overnight. Next morning the trucks arrived, and the boxes and the furniture were packed, the remaining items for charity were taken, and we were driven to our new home.
“We waited in the café and reception area while boxes were unpacked, pictures stacked, and everything was sorted to the stage where we could manage by ourselves, even though I could do very little with my broken wrist,” Marian explained.
In addition, below are a couple of pieces of additional advice from Downsizing.com.au:
It’s important to get legal and financial advice.
Buying into a retirement or over 50s community can be complicated – perhaps even more complicated than buying a traditional property. This is because specific rules and regulations tend to be in place for these properties, which doesn’t cover traditional properties.
Prospective purchasers need to consider varying land title and contract options and also consider potential benefits and impacts on their income sources and savings. Given this, seeking out legal and financial advice is vital.
In the lead-up to the big move, create a moving checklist.
You need to think of everything here – just for starters this could include getting rid of old food from the freezer, mail redirections, switching utility companies, organising removalists and organising all your documents.
A good idea is to map out the three months before your big move.