How To Avoid Downsizing Disaster

Written by on February 13, 2020

Moving into an apartment after living in a large house is becoming an attractive option for retirees and empty nesters, as new apartment buildings spring up across the country.

The Productivity Commission data reveals one fifth of Australians aged over 50 have already downsized and 15 per cent of those who have not moved to a smaller home yet have strong intentions to in the future.

More than 4000 older Australians have also taken advantage of a Federal Government initiative that allows over 65s to top up their superannuation by selling their home and moving to smaller premises. 

One of the biggest attractions of downsizing for older people is having less space to maintain and more time to enjoy their retirement.

But with less space comes the headache of deciding what to do with all the possessions that they have accumulated over the years.

Adelaide storage expert Dave Strutton, whose own parents have embraced apartment living, says downsizing can quickly become a nightmare unless you are well prepared.

“Moving is stressful at any stage in life, but it’s even harder when you’re older and you’re downsizing into a smaller home,” Mr Strutton said.

“You can’t just pack up everything you own and move it from one house to another. You have to be realistic about what is going to fit in the available space you now have,” he said.

“It’s tough, but you really need to decide what you can keep and what needs to go before the removalist truck arrives if you want to avoid a downsizing disaster.”

Mr Strutton, who owns Howards Storage World at Mile End, said homeowners often don’t realise how much they own until they have to move out.

“It’s a case of out of sight, out of mind. Most of us have wardrobes, cupboards and shelves crammed with items that we have long forgotten about or don’t need anymore,” Mr Strutton said. 

“Downsizing is a great opportunity to get rid of some of these items and to learn to live with less.”

Mr Strutton says downsizers looking for ways to make moving easier should:

  • Be realistic – have a look at all the available storage space in your new home and try to work out what will go where before you move in. Think about the items that you use most of the time and that you will need easy access to. If you have things you only need to use part of the year or just can’t bear to throw out, use plastic tubs and space saver bags to store them in the garage or at the top of wardrobes.
  • Be ruthless – go through your existing wardrobes, cupboards and drawers and throw out broken or damaged items instead of transporting everything straight to your new home. If you’ve been holding on to items for your children, such as old schoolbooks and sports trophies, insist that they come and take them off your hands. Return all items that you have borrowed to their rightful owners.
  • Be charitable – a number of organisations collect pre-loved clothing, toys and other household items. Donating your unwanted or extra goods to charity could make someone else’s life easier and is good for the environment.
  • Consider your lifestyle – think about what you will be doing in your new home and in retirement. You may no longer have the space to host large gatherings. Get rid of the extra plates, cutlery and entertaining accessories. If you’re taking up a new hobby or recreational activity, make sure you have space set aside for any new equipment you may need.
  • Create your own space – use products and accessories that maximise available spaces, such as baskets, storage boxes, hooks and pantry organisers. Consider building your own wardrobe using easy-to-install kits that come with adjustable frames, hanging rods and shelves or have a wardrobe custom designed to suit your needs. 

Mr Strutton said the same principles apply to those who are renting, including students and workers on the move.

“At this time of year, we see a lot of university students moving to Adelaide and people starting new jobs and for many of them they face the same challenges living in apartments and shared accommodation,” Mr Strutton said.

“It is possible to live comfortably in a smaller space if you know how to maximise the room you have.”

Mr Strutton is owner of Howards Storage World at Mile End

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