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Living Small: Designing a Home for Your Needs as You Age

For many, retirement is an exciting time in life. After years of working hard, you finally get to sit back, relax, and spend your time however you’d like. However, life after retirement can also come with its challenges.

Downsizing to a smaller home, for example, is something that many retirees often face. Whether your retirement savings are minimal or you simply can’t physically take care of a larger home anymore, having to move house can be stressful — but it doesn’t have to be.

There are many ways to make a smaller home work for you while still having a space you enjoy and feel comfortable in. Just because you are downsizing doesn’t mean you have to compromise on having a home you love.

In this article, we’ll offer you downsizing and decorating tips to make the transition to a smaller home a little easier.

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1. Carefully Consider Your New Budget

First, before you start buying new furniture and decor, it’s a good idea to sit down and review your budget. If you’re downsizing, it’s likely because you don’t have as much money to spend in retirement, so you’ll want to be more careful with your finances.

When dealing with a downsized budget, start by reviewing your monthly expenses. This will help you get an idea of what money you need to lock down for fixed expenses and what money you have left over for extra spending. From there, you can then determine how much you’re willing to spend on designing and decorating your new home.

It’s also worth considering the cost of staying in your current home versus moving. Once you understand your budget and expenses better, you might find that it will cost more to move to a smaller home than it would to stay where you’re already living.

2. Keep Mobility Modifications in Mind

Accessibility and mobility modifications should also be high on your priorities when moving to a smaller home. Even if you don’t have a disability now, you could end up developing one as you get older. So as part of the moving and designing process, make sure you leave room in the budget to make accessibility modifications to your home.

For example, are the doorways in your smaller home wide enough for a wheelchair, or is that something you will have to pay to update? Do you need to add railings and grab bars for stability in the bathrooms?

Even if you don’t need these things now, you may need them down the road. So it’s a good idea to make sure your new budget can accommodate these upgrades or that your new home has the space for accessibility additions.

3. Declutter and Learn to Let Go

Before you move and start decorating your new home, it’s also wise to sort through what belongings you already have. You don’t want your new home to feel crowded, especially if you’re moving to a smaller space, so you’ll need to declutter and potentially get rid of things you no longer need.

Understandably, this can be difficult, especially if you have a lot of things that hold sentimental value to you. Give yourself time to go through this process. A good way to start is by making four piles for all of your things: donations, items to sell, items to toss, and the items you’ll keep.

4. Smaller Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Simpler

Once you’re ready to start designing and decorating your new home, remember that smaller doesn’t mean you can still have a stylish, cozy home. Unless you’re into the minimalist aesthetic, you don’t necessarily need to go basic and simple just because you are downsizing.

Bringing in art and colorful accent pieces like rugs and throw pillows helps smaller spaces pop and feel more stylish. You can also use lighting to help make your smaller space feel cozier. So even if you can’t bring in more furniture due to a lack of space, you can still create an inviting space with accent details.

5. Consider Multifunctional Furniture

When you don’t have as much room for furniture, it’s helpful to opt for pieces that serve more than one purpose to make the most of the space you do have. For example, you can get a couch and bed that have storage space built into it, or you can buy an ottoman that serves as extra seating and as a coffee table.

It’s all about purposeful planning when you buy new pieces for your smaller space. Don’t just buy things because they look good and will fit in your new home; buy things that will serve multiple functions so you don’t have to buy as many new pieces.

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Final Thoughts

Perhaps one of the most important tips of all when moving into and designing a smaller space is to have a little patience and go easy on yourself. Transitioning to a smaller home after retirement isn’t easy, and it’s okay if you’re not thrilled about it at first. Allow yourself to adjust, and know that with time, you will learn to love your new home and feel just as comfortable as you did in your old one.


Sam Bowman authored this post

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Karen LeBlanc

Karen LeBlanc is a travel host and writer with a popular travel show, The Design Tourist, and a companion lifestyle blog. As a widely published travel journalist and content creator, Karen is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association. She also serves as the Design and Travel editor of the national lifestyle magazine, LaPalme. Karen believes that every destination has a story to tell through its local art, architecture, culture, and craft. This immersive creative exploration begins with authentic accommodations where the narrative of place unfolds through art, accessories, accouterments, furnishings, fixtures, and food. 

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