The Big Downsize

Our family – my three brothers, our wives, and kids – have all been helping my parents downsize over the last few months. They moved at the end of October. It hasn’t been an easy process at all, but much smoother as everyone pitched in to help.

They moved from the traditional 2-story family house they’ve lived in for the last 31 years to a Senior Living Center not too far away from our house. To do so, they had to significantly skinny down what they had and make some tough decisions about what they wanted to keep for their new place and what they would let go.

A friend of mine went through a similar process with his mother a few years ago. She had so much stuff that they brought in an estate sale company to get rid of the stuff she didn’t want anymore. He said at the end of the sale, she made no money and many of her things ended up in the trash. He said it was a terrible process for his Mom and their family.

I’m happy to say my parents’ move has gone much better.

Most of their things went to their new place, many went to family members, and some into a climate-controlled storage garage. In the end, there is only a small amount of furniture that is getting sold on Craig’s List and another small amount that is going to Goodwill for donation. My Mom’s very big collection of fabrics, for instance, was donated to a local church group that sews things for people in Africa / third-world countries.

I did take a big trash bag out to their old garage last week and was struck by how little ended up trashed. Fortunately, we took the time we needed to get through their things – with the help of a moving company that specializes in Senior moves – and made sure everything was dispensed with in the best way possible. It’s not an easy process, but we started in July and everyone pitched in.

For me, the experience has been another input into my own internal ‘decluttering’ / downsizing debate. It’s caused me to double-think many of the things that I am holding onto. We’re not downsizing yet – in fact we may be expanding with a snowbird place before long – but I’m increasingly looking at all of our stuff with a more critical & wary eye.

How are you planning your downsizing / decluttering?

Image Credit: (c)

9 thoughts on “The Big Downsize

  1. Chief, Decluttering yes, downsizing no. One way I look at decluttering is that your house is worth hundreds of dollars per square foot. Is the whatever that is taking up a square foot of space worth hundreds of dollars. During the China virus lockdown I removed a bunch of clutter from a bay in my garage and was able to repurpose the space for a home gym with a power rack, bench and Olympic barbell set. The home gym brings me much more enjoyment than the whatever it was I threw out or donated. I cannot even remember what the treasures were?

    For many people and I remember an earlier article from you that went through the math of downsizing that considered realtor fees, capital gains taxes and moving expenses you do not end up saving any money to make it worth the bother. I remember once having a similar conversation with a realtor who must be an honest one because she told me that she had clients our age inquire about selling their large empty nest and buying a condo. After doing the math, she would disqualify them because there was no financial advantage to moving into a smaller home. She did this math up front, because she figured someone would eventually go through the same process. By doing it up front to see if the move made sense, she avoided wasting her time.

    Your parent’s situation is different because they need some extra help.

    Here is a thought about the second home in FL. If you live in FL for a day more than half the year, you will end up avoiding state income taxes in MN. This difference alone, might be more than the carrying cost of the second home. The benefit is that you avoid a brutal cold winter.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes – those are wise thoughts on the difference between decluttering & downsizing. When it is cold, which it already is becoming in Minnesota, having a big house has extra value. When you are not outside as much, it is nice to have extra room inside.

      There is a huge tax advantage from Minnesota to Florida. At this point, we’re not ready to do the six months and one day, yet. This coming winter will be up to almost 3 months in Florida, but that is a long way from a half a year. Minnesota was recently awarded Kiplinger‘s “least tax friendly state” – beating even California- so the financial incentives are tremendous to figure out how to spend three more months down there.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am not a fan of the People’s Republic of California’s Income Tax rates which are very high. After my wife and I reach 70 and start Social Security, it will be CA Tax free.

        I imagine the big difference is Real Estate Taxes. Proposition 13 caps the rate of increase to a maximum of 2% per year, which pretty much means an automatic 2% increase every year. You can budget for 2% annual increases. Even people who are just buying are better off. I point out that other states can charge as much as almost 3% and there is no cap on the rate of increase.

        I have friends in other states and the Real Estate Taxes are close to 3% and go up as a function of the increase in market price. Some fool from California moves in across the street and overpays. Next thing you know, your Real Estate Taxes go up because someone paid too much for house across the street. My friends open their Real Estate Tax Statement every Fall wondering if they will be able to afford to continue living in the house where they have paid off the mortgage already.

        I bet the dual threat of Real Estate Taxes and State Income Taxes is how MN won the race to the bottom?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I guess that I am a fool. I downsized and I enjoy living in California. Thanks to Prop13, we downsized and we were able to transfer our property tax basis to our new property as we are over age 55. Property taxes for us are $3,000 less than neighbors with same condo unit. Also my property taxes are half of siblings property taxes of similarly valued properties in Maine and New York.

    Every less expensive state blames people from high cost real estate states for over paying for house prices. Growing up in Maine people hated imports from Massachusetts and Connecticut for driving up real estate prices. Then Washington and Oregon hated California imports and that trend continues. I never hear people complaining about how much their property has increased in value

    I prefer going through life supporting people and ideas.


    1. I love California. We visit there often. As you get older, you get the benefit of not having social security taxed and the property tax benefits of Prop13. We don’t have either of those benefits in MN. Our Scandinavian heritage means people seem to like to pay high taxes! (Our population is growing (+7.6% since 2010), but probably not a lot of Californians moving here and boosting our real estate prices). 😉


  3. The key is one has to do their math before they make a move. In the case of the other CA gent he took advantage of one time over 55 ability to move your Proposition 13 tax base to a new home that does not cost more than the house you sold.

    Many people hear about the high CA income tax rate and assume it must be the worst taxes without adding up all the other taxes. I actually prefer higher income taxes coupled with lower Real Estate Taxes. During my working career I had big swings in my income from year to year. If Real Estate Taxes had grown dramatically during a rough period, I might have run into trouble affording my house. I also like that since I was having a down year, I paid less taxes so government got to share my pain.

    I note that Kiplinger’s article ranks WI and IL near the bottom. When I referred to friends in high Real Estate Tax areas, I was thinking of those states in particular. Here is another big consideration for people considering a move. I have compared medical costs with relatives in Appleton, WI, and theirs are much higher than mine because a Group came into town and cornered the market by buying up all the smaller groups in town, including the one he worked for as a Doc. Medical can easily eat up any tax savings, which gets back to do your Math.

    The funniest thing I ever heard said about the high CA Income Tax is a coworker who declared it “Tithing to the Sun God”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We could use some tithing to the Sun God right now.! The temp is just 18-degrees this Thanksgiving morning. The high temperature will only be a few degrees higher. Clearly we are not paying enough taxes to warm things up! 😉

      I was surprised to see Wisconsin on the list. We live just 5 miles from the MN-WI border and my parents live there. I’m not sure how they ranked so low.


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