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Downsizing your home can be a challenging and emotional process, but it can also be a rewarding experience that brings a new sense of freedom and simplicity to your life. There are, however, some common downsizing mistakes that people make that can turn a difficult process into a disaster – as real estate agents, we see it all the time. Let’s dive into our top 9 downsizing mistakes to help you avoid the pitfalls.

#1 Waiting too long to start decluttering: One of the biggest mistakes people make when downsizing is waiting too long to start the decluttering and purging process. Decluttering is a crucial step that takes time and effort and if you wait too long to start, you’ll end up feeling overwhelmed and stressed (or worse, you’ll end up moving a whole bunch of stuff you don’t need into your new home). To get started early, set aside a few hours each week to go through your belongings. Be honest with yourself about what you really need and what you can live without. If you’re having trouble letting go of certain items, consider asking a friend or family member for help. They can offer an objective perspective and help you make tough decisions.

#2 Not considering your lifestyle: Downsizing is an opportunity to re-evaluate your lifestyle and make changes that will better suit your new living situation. Moving to a new neighbourhood or community is exciting, but it’s important to do your research before you make the move. Consider factors such as safety, access to amenities, proximity to friends and family, access to public transportation and healthcare. We wrote a detailed guide to choosing your next neighbourhood here.

#3 Not getting professional help ASAP: You don’t have to do this alone! When you downsize to a smaller home, you’ll have to declutter your belongings, prepare your current home for sale, sell it, choose your next neighbourhood or community, rent or buy your next home, move and settle in. Involve your REALTOR from the start – they’ll be able to connect you with professional organizers (if you need one), storage companies, mortgage agents, home service professionals, movers, lawyers and more.  

#4 Not having a system in place: When it comes to decluttering your belongings, it’s important to have a system in place that works for you. Some people prefer to declutter room by room, while others prefer to tackle one category of items at a time (such as clothing, books, or kitchen items). If you’re decluttering room by room, start with the room that you use the least. This will give you a sense of accomplishment and momentum as you move through your home. If you’re tackling one category of items at a time, start with the items that are easiest to part with (such as clothing that no longer fits or items that are broken). This will help build your confidence and make it easier to let go of more sentimental items later on. Find a system that works for you and stick to it.

#5 Not considering the emotional value of items: While it’s important to be ruthless when it comes to decluttering, it’s also important to consider the emotional value of certain items. To make tough decisions about sentimental items, take the time to reflect on why the item is important to you. Consider taking a photo of the item to keep the memory or finding a way to repurpose the item so that it can be used in a different way. 

#6 Not considering your future needs. Downsizing to a smaller home is a big decision, so make sure you consider your longer-term needs at the same time. While you may be in good health now, it’s important to consider how your needs may change as you age. If you’re moving to a smaller house, pay attention to how it might be made more accessible if your mobility needs change – those 3 flights of stairs may not seem like a problem today, but what happens if your needs change? If you’re downsizing to a condo, does the building have an elevator? How many flights of stairs will you have to climb if there’s a fire alarm or power outage?  

#7 Not considering your pets: If you have pets, it’s important to consider their needs when downsizing. Make sure that your new space is suitable for your pets and that you have enough space for their food, toys, and other supplies. When choosing a neighbourhood, consider how easily you’ll be able to access dog parks, veterinarians and groomers. If you’re planning on moving to a condo, make sure you know the pet restrictions in the building before you make an offer – most condos in Toronto have rules about the number and types of pets you can have, and it’s not unusual to see weight restrictions for dogs. 

#8 Not creating a budget: Don’t get caught off guard by the costs of downsizing. Plan and budget for:

  • Decluttering expenses – professional organizers, off-site storage, etc. 
  • Costs to prepare and stage your home for sale
  • Closing costs (realtor commissions, land transfer taxes, legal fees, etc.)
  • Moving costs 
  • Utility connection costs

Create a budget and stick to it to avoid overspending. Check out our breakdown of the costs of selling and the costs of buying.

#9 Not allowing yourself to grieve: Downsizing can be an emotional process, and it’s important to allow yourself to grieve the loss of your old home and belongings. Give yourself time to process your emotions and seek support from friends and family if needed. Consider creating a scrapbook or photo album of your old home and mementoes to keep the memories alive. 

Remember that downsizing is a journey, not a destination, and it’s important to be patient and kind to yourself throughout the process.

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