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Downsizing Your Home After the Kids Leave ~ When Is the Right Time?

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Downsizing Your Home is not for the faint of heart. The kids are on their own. They are financially independent and maybe they started a family of their own. You are living in a 4k square foot home. It’s time to downsize your home, right? Fewer expenses often come with a smaller home. But when is the right time?

  1. Does your home currently fit your lifestyle?
  2. Does the home support a senior lifestyle if you have health issues?
  3. Are you starting to fall behind on maintenance projects?
  4. Can you save money by downsizing?
  5. Does your current budget allow for having more fun and travel?
  6. How often do you have visitors?
  7. Are you the oldest person in your neighborhood?

Figuring out the right time to downsize your home completely depends on your personal goals. How quickly do you want to retire? Have the children moved out? Will your children be visiting and bringing their families? Is your home close to being paid for or is there still mortgage debt? There are many questions that are highly personal and will need some thought.

How We Made the Decision to Downsize Our Home

We made this decision earlier in our lives than most and there are some days I regret it. But not for long. We own rental properties and I wanted to be completely debt-free with them by the time I was 50 so we could travel and ENJOY LIFE! So we made the decision to move into one of our rental houses. It was a 2k square foot 3 bedroom home in a neighborhood close by. We gave up the rent on that home but lost the expenses of the larger home.

I loved our home, it was perfect for entertaining and we loved living there. The reality was it was a lot to clean and things like the roof and plumbing would have to be replaced in a few years and I did not want to deal with it. My kids had moved on and we were only using a couple of the rooms for just the two of us.

Utilities, taxes, insurance will all be lower since it is much smaller than our other home. The money we saved from downsizing our home could go towards our debts. We kept our cars a little longer, stopped any unnecessary spending and decided to bite the bullet. Freedom was now our priority over having big holiday parties and friends over for summer cookouts. We wanted to travel!

Here are the financial benefits of downsizing! When you reduce the monthly expenses you can put that money towards other things!

You can pay off your debt.

When you reduce your monthly payments you can easily put that money into use in better places. Like paying off debt. You should never go into retirement with debt or you may find yourself struggling with increasing property taxes and inflation.

Whenever we paid something off we took that payment and put it on other debt. We were able to pay over $500,000 of debt off in 6 years. Here is an example:

Choose your highest interest rate loans or credit cards to pay off first. We never carried credit card debt so for us it was our cars. If you are in more serious debt choose the debt with the lowest balance to get the debts you can pay off quickly, knocked out. Take that payment and add it to another debt balance.

According to the Harvard Business Review, people are more motivated to pay off their debt when they can focus on smaller accounts over high-interest rate accounts. You will need to be honest with yourself when considering your options.

We paid off our cars. We then took that $700 per month and paid down additional principal on our mortgages. This can have a snowball effect on your debt in a huge way.

Save money for emergencies and your retirement.

Once all of our debt was paid off, I increased my 401k contributions which helped lower my tax debt. When you are over 50 the IRS allows you to make higher contributions to your 401k and you should absolutely do that if possible. I also added additional funds to my health savings account for additional tax benefits.

Preparation to Downsizing Your Home Is Key

You have made the decision and you start looking around at all of the stuff you collected over the last 15 years. It is funny how you gloss over the amount of stuff you have until you have to move it. I had enough horse tack to start a riding team.

My husband is a bit of a collector of items from tools to trinkets (can you say, hoarder). Plus if you live in a larger home you realize that you typically limit yourself to certain areas. You forget about the kid’s rooms. The attic. The garage. The closets stuffed with sheets and toiletries you never used. All loaded with items you could not part with but have long since forgotten.


You are ready to downsize. You have a garage sale. The younger couples in the neighborhood stop by and pick up great deals on toys, board games and other items for their kids. Husbands are talking tools and they can glean from my husband’s wisdom on how to care for their homes while he sells them a spare ladder. This will help, right? Oy! 4 garage sales later maybe! It is a slow process. I thought to myself… the proud purger…. what happened to you? Why didn’t you maintain this throughout the years? It is easy to ignore the rooms you do not frequent.

You will want to look at the best places to donate your items. Here is a list of libraries that take books! We had a lot of books!

So after a lot of garage sales, donations, Craigslist ads and trips to the dump we are ready for the truck. I debated hiring a moving company but we are literally moving 3 blocks away. Frankly looking back it was a mistake.

The New Smaller House

Out of 8 properties, we only have one that will remotely fit our needs. It is a 3/2/2 with an office. We had a 3/3/2.5 with inside laundry, 2 living rooms with one living room that was so large it was an office and family room. A sauna room that once it lost its luster became a room for more storage.

I did not want to get different furniture or get rid of a lot of it either since you never get your money out of it. I also inherited some antiques and those had to fit because they had been in my family since the 1800s.

Although we were losing half of our square footage I thought this may work. This house was a mini version of what I had. Unfortunately, I was losing the inside laundry room, I was now stuck in the garage and I lost my large pantry, wet bar, and closet space. The rental house did not have a linen closet. No linen closet? Did I actually buy this house? I kept looking around thinking it has to be somewhere! Nope. Only one small closet off the kitchen that I had to use as a pantry.

I ended up making the third bedroom in the new home a storage room that doubles as a guest room. We are lucky to get one visitor a year since most of our family and friends are right here. We have tons of antique books and photos that have been passed down for generations. I have confirmed that my kids want them but do not have the space to store them in air conditioning so I am going to have to hold on to them a little longer.

Small white house with red trim and a white picket fence.

The Furniture

The dining room table expands so we will just not extend it anymore. I had Jack close off a door to the office to create more wall space for the living room so one set of sofas could work there. I decided to put the leather sofa in the office with the desk and piano and put the chairs for that in the master bedroom sitting area. We got rid of the 65″ TV we never watched that sat in the office/media room and upgraded to a flat-screen that takes less room.

Where the hell were we going to put the bird!? Let’s squeeze her in this corner over here next to the antique buffet and sliding glass doors. Thank God we never bought a large china cabinet because ours fit right behind the dining room table…. kind of. Just make sure you do not push the chair out too far back. Let’s put the wine, Menorah and Challah plate on top of that. Whew! We made much of it fit and had to re-purge again.

It really took about 2 months for us to get everything in order. Giving up family heirlooms and other sentimental items will be more difficult than you think.

What You Need to Consider When Downsizing Your Home

Think about what you love about your house and would hate to give up. I hated giving up the fireplace, closets and inside laundry. But you also have to be realistic. Are you moving into a condo? Maintenance-free villa?

Think about the layout. I have a difficult time entertaining more than another couple or two at the most. During the holidays we pack ourselves in at the dining room table. We are able to extend it but it extends into the living room area and other things have to be moved to make it fit. We make it work.

Think about the neighborhood. A smaller house does not mean a bad neighborhood but you will want to consider this. Are there planned activities? Amenities? Like-minded people? Is there a free clubhouse for you to use for larger parties?

Location, location, location! Make sure you are close to the services you want like restaurants, movie theaters, and medical services. I know people who moved to a rural area and regretted it. Many stores closed on Sunday and they had to drive 20 miles to go to a movie or get to department stores.

Do the math. It may not be that much cheaper to move once you factor in taxes on a new real estate purchase and your existing home is mortgage-free. Maybe you want to move to something maintenance-free and that is the draw. But maintenance fees are variable and go up. Many will look at other areas where taxes are less or they do not have a state income tax. Prices keep rising and you may get less house than you thought. No one should take on debt to make this happen either unless you earn significantly more on your portfolio than you would pay in interest. And that is a risk most should not take.

Hire the moving company. I swore when we moved into the big house I would never move again without professional help. Memories fade and I wanted to save a few bucks. This was probably my biggest regret. Even if it is a local move and all your friends and family offer to help….. just hire the moving company.

In Conclusion

I do not regret downsizing too soon. We were able to pay off all of our real estate debt and I was able to leave the corporate life and semi-retire so we can travel more. There are times when I miss entertaining and if I think I will ever be able to fit my kids and their kids here all at once for an overnight stay, it won’t happen unless someone agrees to sleep on the floor but fortunately they live in the area so it is not a problem. Those are the trade-offs.

Having a second home on a lake for everyone to gather on vacation is more important to me now than the size or layout of where I live. And having the freedom to do what we want is the big payoff.

Downsizing your home is a big decision but it can bring both physical freedoms from work and cleaning as well as financial freedom.

Are you ready to retire early? Learn about why I was glad I planned to retire early! 

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88 responses to “Downsizing Your Home After the Kids Leave ~ When Is the Right Time?”

  1. Cindy Moore Avatar
    Cindy Moore

    These are excellent points for downsizing! We are still in our family home, just the two of us, however we paid it off early. So no debts. I’m excited too about traveling more.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      That is awesome that you were able to pay it off early! It is all about lifestyle.

  2. Kendra Avatar

    Love this article! My husband always wants a bigger house, but I would love to downsize but still get a bigger kitchen if that’s possible LOL

  3. Charlene Avatar

    My mom is currently going through this process and, boy, does she have a LOT of purging to do! Hopefully a garage sale will still bring in some customers during this particular summer. I’m encouraging the donation route.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Good luck! I am sure she is overwhelmed but she can do it!

  4. Lisa Avatar

    I am a long way from making this decision but I dread it already!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      I was sad but also looked at it like it was a new chapter. And it was!

  5. Alice Avatar

    I downsized a year and a half ago. Good information.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Thanks Alice! And congrats on the move!

  6. Erica Avatar

    Having three children, seven, six and three, I can’t imagine being am empty nester. Dream about it, yes! We need a bigger house right now, but are thinking this house will be “just fine” once the kids move out. This is a good article! I’m glad it worked out in the end. Very good tips included as well.

  7. Sandi Avatar

    We are in the midst of prepping for the downsizing move. Looking forward to a condo on the beach!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      That would be lovely!

  8. Lisa Manderino Avatar
    Lisa Manderino

    Yes, I already plan on downsizing and being debt free at 50. It is a great plan!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      We love our lifestyle after downsizing! Good luck Lisa!

  9. Rachel Da silva Avatar
    Rachel Da silva

    Thanks for sharing 🙂 research really is key in any big decision

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Yes it is so important when downsizing! Thanks Rachel!

  10. Angella Avatar

    Excellent points to consider when choosing a new home! Thanks for providing a list like this.

  11. heather Avatar

    Great article. You have made some terrific points. Our house is not that big, as I always knew I wanted to travel and did not want to be house poor like a lot of my colleagues. However, we could go smaller. I really want to live on the ocean, but hubby is not there.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Well he will need some convincing! Who would not want to live at the beach?

  12. Eva Keller Avatar
    Eva Keller

    I share a 2 bedroom 1 bath apartment with my husband and a roommate and I’m always debating whether or not we should plan to get our own place when we have the money. The problem is that we live in Southern California and my husband’s whole family is here and he refuses to leave. To get the 3 bedroom 2 bath that he wants we would have to spend at least $2800 a month on rent which I feel is ridiculous coming from Ohio and to buy anything here is at least half a million dollars which I’m certain will always be out of budget. The apartment we currently have we pay about $950 and I can’t imagine spending any more of our income on rent when there’s so many other things money could be spent on. I’m starting to think we will forever be spending our lives downsized, but it will allow us to do so much more with our money.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      I think it depends on your long term plans, like kids, education and career. I love that you are doing it now! Freedom is what matters when downsizing!

  13. Debbie Avatar

    I have lots of clients that downsize. Who wants a big house, and the expense of maintaining it, when you rarely use most of it?! Cleaning is quicker too, freeing you up for what you really enjoy!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Exactly, the cleaning was a biggie for me. Downsizing definitely allowed me more time!

  14. Holly Avatar

    Great tips and advice! Its hard to do, but so worth it… until they come home for awhile!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Haha! Right, but the smaller the place the more uncomfortable they will be staying for longer periods of time!

  15. Leeandra Avatar

    Great post. The new house look great!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Stock photos my friend. No one needs to know where I live! lol

  16. Barbara Avatar

    Great info! Our oldest is about to begin his last year in HS. We are so ready to travel more and be free from house projects!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Yes! We lived in an older home we renovated when we first moved in. It was time again and I just was not into it!

  17. Danielle Ardizzone Avatar
    Danielle Ardizzone

    Retirement is a long way off for me, but I keep dreaming about it! Looking forward to having a smaller home to maintain. Thank you!

  18. Beth Shields Avatar
    Beth Shields

    What a great post! I have considered downsizing for financial reasons and your checklist is so important. Really appreciated your insight to why and what you were downsizing. And clearly, one thing the whole quarantine has done for me is show me how I can budget completely differently! Thanks for the encouraging information.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Yes! There are so many possibilities! It is all about creating the life you want!

  19. Marianne Avatar

    We made the decision to stay in our home when we grew our family, so that we didn’t need to downsize later. Our home is only 2000 square feet, so it will work when the kids leave. Your story reminds me of why I hate moving!! My Hubby also likes to hoard, ummm collect, stuff!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      LOL They talk about us! I remember one garage sale my husband informed me he was committing to getting rid of everything he had three of. He was quite the collector!

  20. Donna Lynn Starling Avatar

    Probably about 5 yrs out butI have been thinking about this , great tips to consider.

  21. Ivy|livin the life of ivy Avatar

    I am almost an empty nester. Although I can not imagine downsizing, my house is already on the small side, but I do enjoy the peace and quiet.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      I enjoyed it for about a week. Then I was bored! I had to find a hobby! lol

  22. Kirsten Avatar

    We downsized about 10 years ago, when the kids are grown, we will be doing it again! I am trying to get my mom to downsize!!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      You’re a trooper! Love it!

  23. Pam Avatar

    Great tips as we are beginning this conversation. Thanks.

  24. Kathryn at QuestFor47 Avatar

    Layout is so important! You can have a house that works for you on paper, but could be so badly configured that you’d never be happy without knocking all the walls down! Thanks for sharing these great tips!

  25. Jennifer Avatar

    These are really great questions to ask yourself. I recently thought of it, but am not quite there yet. But, always good to think about.

  26. Nicki Avatar

    Great tips! I feel like a lot of people are starting to think about or are starting to downsize. Regardless of age.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      The minimalist movement was a big part of that. I think a lot of millennials were disturbed by what happened during the crash of 07-08 as well.

  27. Dennis Avatar

    Going through this now! Perfect timing! Great post!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Congratulations, Dennis!

  28. Dee Avatar

    My mom is going through this right now. She wants to keep the house in case us kids want/need a place to stay and we tell her that keeping the house with all of the maintenance and upkeep is not worth it for the 3-4 times that we come home.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Sentiment can bring out strong emotions as well, making it more difficult.

  29. Julie Avatar

    You sure took the time to figure it all out. Sounds like it worked out great.

  30. Laura G Avatar

    I am nowhere close to my kids leaving the nest but I always wondered about downsizing. I sometimes feel that, if anything, I might need more space once our kids start having kids…

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Yes, you have to make those decisions as life unfolds. I used to think the same thing. One of my children lives locally so that is not an issue and the other visits. I still have a three bedroom home for guests. But we cut our square footage.

  31. Katie Avatar

    My fiance and I recently moved into an RV. Its crazy to see how much ‘stuff’ you can accumulate!

  32. Ruth Iaela-Pukahi Avatar

    Wow that is a BEAUTIFUL home! Thank you for sharing your experiences! Even your rental that you moved to sounds wonderful! We pay $2170/month to live in a 900 Sq ft house, with 7 kids, my husband and I, it’s…cozy. 🙂 It’s the trade off to live in Honolulu. We still have friends and family sleeping over on the floor & couch and family gatherings in the garage but the most important thing is the love and the memories we make together. 🙂 I really enjoyed reading about your journey! Thanks again! 🙂

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      WOW! I thought it was tough when we lived in a 2/1/1 800 sq ft home with 2 kids. When we moved out of that house into the big one we were so excited but I reminded everyone we were just as happy in the small house. I think it is better anyway to be in a small house. You can keep a better eye on the kids!

  33. Jaimi Avatar

    I’m nowhere near that stage of my life but this is an awesome resource if you are!

  34. T.M. Brown Avatar

    We are already starting to talk about this, but are not ready quite yet. Looks like you’ve got this covered. Great tips!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Having a plan is half the battle, although ours changed over the years.

  35. Trisha Avatar

    My husband is a realtor, so I hear stories about clients dealing with this same issue. It’s a huge step but it sounds like you made the right decision! 🙂

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      It was. And it is huge. A lot to get used to!

  36. alison Avatar

    I have already planned on my move back to the city, getting rid of everything, I mean everything and living minimally. I cannot wait.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      I always say I want to live minimally but never quite get there! Cheering you on from FL!

  37. Michele Vadnais Avatar

    This will be us in a couple of years…so thanks for giving us things to start thinking about!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      The research is key to making a solid decision.

  38. Phyllis Avatar

    Great tips! We are not at this point in our lives yet, but it is something to think about.

  39. Amie Lara Avatar

    While I’ve never had a 4,000 square foot home, I can see how downsizing is a benefit. These are good tips for anyone trying to lessen their load.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      It was a lot of cleaning! Now I can vacuum my house in an hour! lol

  40. Shirley Avatar

    I’m retiring at the end of December so recently went through this too. 1600 sq ft to 800 sq ft. And no garage. Only one garage sale and the rest went to Goodwill which was totally painful and heartbreaking. While giving up so much is still new and raw right now, I’m hoping I come to terms with it soon. Thanks for sharing your experience as it helps me realize I’m not the only one!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Awwww… I get it! The garage sale was the worst for me. I could not imagine having to do what you did but just trust it is for the best!

  41. Sheila Avatar

    Great points for thought. We are beginning to consider this as both our kids are in college now. Time to consider moving to something smaller but there are things I’m not ready to give up here yet. Having less to clean is very appealing but after traveling and spending weeks in a smaller place I do enjoy coming home to my larger house and having room to spread out. I know the time is coming but I don’t think I’m quite ready yet. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Well and having kids still come home is a challenge in a smaller place. I could not do it until I was sure they were solid.

  42. Mary Avatar

    Very interesting! This will come in handy when it’s my turn to make a similar decision.

  43. Teresa Avatar

    Great article! I love all your points you brought up to consider. We moved recently, and you’re right, it is so important to weigh (heavily) if it’s the right location!

  44. Alyse Avatar

    We are in the middle of this process right now. Thanks for the great thoughts on what’s important!

  45. Laura Avatar

    All great tips! Having an empty nest can be so depressing!?!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      In the beginning, it is so boring! You have no idea how busy you are until they are not underfoot.

  46. Kate Wilson Avatar
    Kate Wilson

    Love this story! Looks like it all worked out.

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