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When I was young, I would look at old people living in big houses and think it was all wrong. Young families needed their space, so why didn’t they just move on and let others have their houses? And anyway, wouldn’t they prefer a place that was easier to manage?
Ah, yes. If only it were that simple. As we of older years well know, moving anywhere is a very major decision and a very difficult one. Perhaps some find it easy, but I have yet to meet them. It is a huge upheaval, both practically and – perhaps more importantly – emotionally.
Downsizing means finding a new place to live. Do you move to a new area to live near your children or simply to gain new experiences? That means leaving behind all your local knowledge, such as the best shops for your favourite food. You may well miss the neighbours – the people who look after the cat when you are away or even help out when you are ill. Such support is not easily replaced.
There is also the question of what kind of house or flat you move on to. You expect it to be better, but you also know there may be hidden problems. You may find you miss having that extra room. Or the walls are too thin and the neighbours noisy. Or it is harder to get around by public transport.
But most difficult of all, downsizing means sorting through all your things and throwing or giving a lot away. To young people, such sorting may seem like nothing more than a lot of boring afternoons spent going through old stuff. To us, in contrast, it means confronting some heavy emotional issues.
Many of the things you own have a significance for one reason or another. Some may remind you of your childhood or earlier years. Some may have belonged to your late husband or your parents or even grandparents. Going through these things means thinking about your life and what was important in it. Getting rid of them means saying good-bye to your past. These are very difficult tasks.
Of course, there are many good reasons to move. By buying a smaller place, you will invariably release some equity, enabling you to pay off your mortgage or otherwise cushion your future. Or it might provide capital to allow your children to put down a deposit for a home of their own. It will also be cheaper to run and easier to clean and maintain. It may be newer, brighter, and more in keeping with your current and future circumstances.
All in all, it is a very difficult decision. You may want to act when you are young enough to weather the upheaval. You don’t want to be faced with a move just when your spouse or partner has died.
Thus, a lot of us will conclude it is an excellent idea to move on, but maybe it could wait a few more years. If that is you, you are not alone.
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. My latest book is about the inner thoughts of grandmothers, based on interviews with 27 very different women: www.celebratinggrandmothers.info