Downsizing as a Senior: Here’s What You Should Do with Your House and Belongings

Husband and Wife embracing and lookiing at each other


If you’re finding that you have an empty nest and your house is too big for you or you and your partner, it’s time to consider the next step. For many, this means downsizing to a more manageable home. Downsizing to a home that is friendlier to your budget and more suited to aging in place can simplify your life — leaving time, money, and energy to focus on what matters to you. Downsizing is a relatively simple process, but when it comes to your current home, you have some options to consider. Let’s talk about things you should consider if you want to downsize.


What Should You Do with Your House?


As you prepare to downsize, you’re searching the market for what will soon become your new home. However, don’t get too far ahead of yourself and forget about your current home. When it comes to your house, you have three options available: You can sell it, rent the property out, or give it to a loved one.




If you sell your home, you would be put in a position where you have immediately available funds to purchase a new home, pay off debts, travel, and save. Having those funds available may mean that you’re able to purchase a home in cash, getting rid of the mortgage altogether. At the very least it can be used to make a decent down payment and put a big dent in paying off your new humble abode.

Don’t settle for selling your home quickly and potentially losing out on the value. However, you don’t want to overprice your home, either. So, it’s important to do some research and investigate the average price homes are selling for in your area; in Bellevue, for example, homes sold for around $1.02M over the last 30 days. You may find that it’s not the right time to sell, or you may realize that it’s the best time and that you should start prepping your home. Be sure to work with a real estate agent who can give you a realistic picture of the current housing market and assist you in getting the price you and your home deserve.




If it’s not the right time to sell and you don’t need immediate funds to purchase a new house, then it could be in your best interest to rent out your home. This would provide a steady monthly income, and it also affords you the time to decide what to do with your home. You may even find that you have a family member or close friend who would love to move in, giving you peace of mind that your home is in good hands and taken care of. Be wary of this though, as you may find yourself in a situation where you find yourself putting tension on the relationship should they end up not being the best tenants and eviction becomes imminent.

One of the perks of downsizing is avoiding the maintenance that comes with a larger home. Adding renters on top of the upkeep can make renting feel like a full-time job. You can certainly try on the landlord hat for size, but to avoid the stress that can come with renting, you should search around for a property manager who can find your renter, manage the property, collect the rent, respond to maintenance/repair requests, handle complaints, and even evict should it become necessary. A property manager can also screen potential tenants as well, increasing the chance of a successful and problem-free rental agreement.




If you envisioned keeping your home within your family and passing it on to people you love, why wait? If you don’t need the income from the sale or rental of your home, then you can make a gift to your loved one simply by deeding over the property. It’s a little more in depth than simply handing it over, so work with a lawyer to handle the paperwork and legal side of the transaction.


What Should You Do with Your Belongings?


Downsizing means you will have less space. Over time, you’ve likely accumulated belongings in every nook and cranny. You won’t be able to take everything you own. While this part of downsizing can become overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be. Before you start, take a picture of each room in the home as is for you to look back on. Then, choose one section of your home to start with, and divide all your belongings into four categories: keep, toss, donate, or store. Put together a special pile of items you’d like to gift to family members and friends such as heirlooms, antiques, and any items that hold special memories or have been requested to be kept. If you’re not sure about the sentimental value an item may hold, ask to be sure.

You should plan to take all the items you use on a regular basis with you (you’ll find it helpful to pack an essentials box for the first night too). Anything that is broken, unusable, and unable to be restored should be tossed. All items that are gently used, recyclable, or repairable should be donated to a nonprofit that accepts those types of goods. Finally, for any items that you can’t decide what to do with but are not ready to part with, plan to store them in a reasonably priced storage unit. There’s no reason to give away something you just aren’t sure about, only to regret it later.

There are significant benefits to downsizing as a senior, and coming up with a plan of action will help to make it less overwhelming. If you need to boost your finances, consider selling your home or renting it out. If finances are not in play, gifting your home to a family member is worth considering. Whichever way you go, be sure to thoroughly downsize your belongings, because minimizing clutter will help to minimize your stress.

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About the Author: Jim Vogel

Founder, Elder Action

Jim Vogel is the founder of Elder Action, a website devoted to supporting senior citizens. Jim and his wife, Caroline, built Elder Action after becoming caregivers for their aging parents.