Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 403 (141) Downsizing

This is Del Lowery with some more talk about retirement life.

Downsizing seems to be a move that accompanies retirement or just getting older. Changes accumulate and we find ourselves for any combination of reasons looking to find a change in residence.

Last week it was a neighbor of mine who always walks her two small dogs along the trails near our house. I hate to see her go. She has that southern twang to her voice that can only come from the deep south. She has such a soft delivery that I am always delight to engage in some sort of small talk. Well, she said they had just put their house up for sale. They bought a smaller house across town. Our small, warm interactions are about to end. But she will have a smaller house and this good. Always good as far as I'm concerned.

A short time ago I ran into an old friend of mine at a concert. He had just sold his house. Now he has to move. “Where are you going?” I asked. “I don’t know,” he responded. “It’s kind of scary. I'm downsizing that's what I'm doing". He described two different houses he was considering buying but could not make up his mind as to which he should choose. One was very small but in a good location. The other was in a poor location but was spacious and had plenty of room him and for his guitar workshop. (He makes classical guitars). He asked my opinion. It was an easy choice for me.

“Location, location, location” the realtors say that and so do I. That old slogan seems truer today than at anytime in my life. I told him that I would go for the good location and smaller house.

They are two reasons. “Houses are just too big. They have room for way too much stuff. If you have a smaller house then you will be happy with less stuff. That will be easier on the pocketbook, easier on the cleaning, easier on repairs and maintenance, and easier on your mind”. Just think I said; “Your heating bill will be close to nothing and your taxes will be very low. Those are both good things” I went on, “you have fewer things with which to concern yourself. Your mind and body will be free to explore other things”; in his particular case; to build guitars. I was playing back to what he had said earlier: “All I want to do is build guitars”.

This past week I walked around much of my neighborhood knocking on doors on behalf of a political candidate. We are holding a neighborhood “meet and greet” for the candidate here at our house and invitations needed to be distributed. I was constantly amazed at the size of the houses and the age of the occupants. I would guess the average age to be around seventy. Probably ninety percent of these houses are occupied by two or less people. Yet the size of the houses probably ranged from two to five thousand square feet. Now these are houses that demand attention; a lot of attention; so many windows to keep cleaned and repaired, so many walls to keep scraped and painted, so much roof to keep in repair, so much space to heat and furnish. I just can’t figure out why it's desirable to have such a large house.

On top of the above mention disadvantages these houses cost more money than smaller ones. It would seem to me that one would pay more to have fewer walls to scrape, fewer windows to wash or less space to heat.  This is one area of where my wife and I disagree. I am always proposing we downsize. She doesn’t see it that way. She argues - winningly so far - that we need the space for visits from kids and grandkids. Someday.....

The other factor of my opinion for my friend’s choice of houses was location. I told him I would never consider buying a house where a car was going to be need for my daily transportation needs. How valuable is it to be able to walk to the grocery store, the post office, the drug store, the coffee shop, etc.”? He shook his head in agreement. Plus the fact that in his case the one with the good location is just a few blocks from the greatest locally owned hardware store in the Pacific Northwest. How valuable could that be?

We do live in a place right now where a car isn’t necessary. We can, and do, walk to the grocery store, drug store, coffee shop, etc. Our car sits idle most days and the idea of selling it and living without one is discussed on occasion. This is another point of disagreement in the family. It just seems to me that one would be a lot freer without a car than with one in most cases. I mean what if you were told that you would have to buy a car and drive to do all of your away from home tasks. Or you could choose to live where you could walk or bicycle to satisfy most of them. Again it seems to me that it would be worth paying money to not have to drive. This would seem valid for those retired as well as those not retired.

My friend is in facing an  interesting and important decision as he decides on how to fashion the next phase of his life. I am almost envious as he goes about making up his mind. I am curious to see what happens. He smiled and thanked me for my thoughts when we parted. He seemed to be sincere. Who knows, maybe he walked away thinking that would be he last time he would ask someone else for their opinion.  

Time has passed. Since we last talked he bought the house that was larger and would demand driving each and every day. He chose the opposite of my recommendation. He remembers our conversation and whenever I ask how he likes living where he now does he eyes go to ground and he says he wishes he lived elsewhere. He likes the larger place but he realizes that the time in the car makes for a very dissatisfying experience each and every day.

This is Retirement Talk with something to think about.

How about you? Have you downsized? Has it worked out? What little piece of advice would you pass on. Let me know and I'll read your comments in another episode.  


Follow Retirement Talk on Facebook: on Facebook