The do’s and don’ts of downsizing
Insights Team, January 28, 2019

Globally, there’s been a shift towards smaller homes. The “tiny-house movement” (less than 46 square metres) is a social trend that started in the US and recommends living simply and within your means. The idea is to be more financially free and to promote shared community living – almost a backlash against materialism. But people downsize for many different reasons.

Planning to downsize

With daily living expenses skyrocketing, the financial benefits of a smaller home can be appealing as it means a lower bond and more cash to spare. There will also be significant savings on maintenance, utility and insurance costs. Many people simply realise they have too much space for their needs, especially true of older folk whose children have left home. And some people just find the upkeep of a larger property too overwhelming.

Luxuries like swimming pools and large gardens require a lot of upkeep and extra expense and sometimes the sensible decision is to sell your home and seek out a property that is less of a strain on your stress levels and, therefore, enhances your quality of life.

But it’s not an easy decision to make and really demands a change of mindset. It’s almost as if you have to downsize mentally first, and then follow through on how to take action.

If your finances are putting huge pressure on your life and you are getting into more and more debt to simply keep your head above water, then you should seriously consider downsizing.

So, could you downsize, and how would you go about it?

Before you even start contemplating what size home would work best for you, go through your current space and make a list of items of furniture that you absolutely have to have and then start the process of decluttering. And it is a process. There’s the first wave of “tidying up” – getting rid of or donating disposable items; then comes the “nice to have” wave – this you can give to relatives or sell . . . which leaves you with the “have to have” necessities. It’s also good to allow children to work through this process themselves so that they, too, can adjust to the idea of a smaller home.

If you go through your cupboards, you may wonder where all the stuff you’ve accumulated came from. And you’ll probably find you don’t use much of it. Japanese home consultant and author Marie Kondo became an overnight success with her book, Spark Joy: An Illustrated Guide to the Japanese Art of Tidying. She says: “When you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too”. The KonMari Method promises to help make big changes in your life and to “spark joy”.

[Read our previous blog articles on decluttering and simplifying for some good tips.]

The challenges of downsizing

Some people find it difficult to let go of a family home. It’s a place where memories have been made and it’s understandable that there would be some resistance. Take some time to get used to the idea.

  • Others are sentimental about their possessions. There’s the option of placing items in storage which is a popular choice, especially if you own valuable items. These can be sold down the line.
  • There may be a perceived loss of status around a smaller home as many people have grown up believing that a home is a measure of success. But, remember, there are more important things in life – like having more time, a happy family and, of course, less stress . . . As the famous line in the near-cult movie Fight Club goes, “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like”.

The opportunities of downsizing

 There are many positive aspects to smaller homes:

  • Less cleaning: This means you’ll have more time to pursue your personal goals. It also means money that would be spent on cleaning services (if you make use of them) can be used elsewhere.
  • Quality of life: There may be less worry about making enough money to pay bills or accumulating excess material goods, which means you’ll have less stress. Life may be more compact and a bit easier to manage.
  • Focus on family: If you’re a young family, saving on costs means you could be spending more time doing things to foster happy relationships at home. You can also use the extra money you have been piling into your bond to pay off your big house, for education (and save for tertiary education).
  • Embrace your freedom: People in many European countries live in very small spaces, as space is at a premium, and spend a lot of their time out and about. In South Africa we have a fabulous café culture, amazing parks, urban mixed-use venues and wide open spaces – so embrace the opportunity and make the most of your new-found freedom. Get out there and start living.
  • You have options: Luckily, in South Africa, we have various smaller homes to choose from. Apart from stylish modern apartments, there are security estates or retirement villages that often have social clubhouses, pools or gyms and various gated townhouse complexes that essentially offer standalone units with shared garden services. So, going down in size does not have to compromise your quality of life.

Once you’ve made that decision to downsize you want the process to be as easy and trouble-free as possible. So, contact your Leadhome local property expert to talk about your options, and get their support and advice on how to go about selling your home for the best value, aided by the latest technology.

Leadhome is ready to give you all the support you need to make downsizing your home a positive experience, and when all is said and done you will no doubt realise that less is, indeed, a whole lot more.


Insights Team
We're the "thinking arm" of Leadhome, combining expertise in data analysis, modelling, sociology, geography, and philosophy to interrogate current trends in the South African residential property market. Proudly contemplative since 2015.

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