Turn Your Excess “Stuff” into Retirement Funding

Ready to downsize? If so, you’re not alone. Four in ten retirees move each year, and more than half move to a smaller home. Many adults also choose to move into an independent living retirement community near friends, family or an area they enjoy.

Downsizing means more than just moving to a smaller home, however. Before you can move you need to deal with all the stuff you’ve accumulated over the years. The average American home contains more than 300,000 items. That’s a lot to dig through when you’re downsizing, but it comes with some benefits – you can liquidate a lot of that to enhance your retirement funding. 

Why Downsize?

In addition to making extra money for your retirement by selling unwanted items, there are many reasons people decide to downsize as they move into retirement:

  • To save time cleaning and organizing in the future
  • To save money on storage, maintenance and repair
  • For a fresh start
  • To reduce clutter, which can impact stress levels
  • To simplify day-to-day life

Whatever your reasons, keep them front and center as you move forward. Downsizing and liquidating unwanted items for retirement can be an emotional process that may challenge you at times. The end result, however, is well worth the effort.

The Downsizing Process

Downsizing sounds easy in theory: get rid of stuff and move into a smaller home. It’s a bit trickier when you consider that you’ll likely be getting rid of items you’re sentimental about. Liquidating items for retirement funding adds another layer of complexity: you can’t just give away or donate everything you’re getting rid of, you have to find a way to make money off your items.

These five steps will help you create an actionable plan that will soon have you on the way to a happy retirement, free from clutter and with more money in your pocket!

1. Start with the Big Stuff

Your home is likely your biggest asset and also the most challenging to sell. Meet with a realtor early on so you have a ballpark idea of its value and how long it might take to sell. 

Next in line may be your vehicles. You may find that the downsized retirement you’re dreaming of is suited better to a smaller, more affordable set of wheels. If you are retiring with a spouse, you may be able to get by with just one vehicle. If you’re moving to a retirement community, you might even consider getting rid of your vehicles entirely. Most retirement communities offer scheduled transportation as part of the amenities and services included in your new home.

When selling your home or cars, make sure you work with someone you trust. That may be a friend or family member who wants to purchase a vehicle or a realtor that comes highly recommended. By working with someone trustworthy who has experience selling large items, you’re more likely to make the biggest profit.

2. Keep Your Next Home in Mind 

Once you have narrowed down your home choice, make a list of guiding questions to answer as you go through your items. For example:

  • Will you have a yard? If not, you can sell all the yard work tools.
  • How many bathrooms do you need? Right-size your bath linens and sell the rest. 
  • Do you plan to do as much cooking or entertaining? Cut down on dishes and kitchen items.
  • Will you have a guest bedroom? If you’ll lose one or more bedrooms, you can sell several big furniture items.
  • Will you have room for all your clothes? Contact a local consignment shop, they may even be willing to do a pickup.
  • What about storage? The things you are storing now are prime targets for selling off at this point. You don’t want to move stored items to new storage spaces unless you really need them.

3. Decide How to Liquidate Unwanted Assets

There are two main ways to liquidate assets in your home: through an estate agent or directly to buyers. 

What to Know About Estate Sales

Estate sales are a popular option because they are relatively simple. A company will come in, tag all your items and handle the sale, sometimes through an auction. You can sell everything in the house or choose the items. 

When you go through an estate sale service, you’ll wind up splitting the sale with the agent, who will take a commission. You may also have to pay for services like advertisements and movers to help people load furniture and bulky items. Contact a local estate agency early on to get a quote. 

Selling to Buyers Directly

You can hold your own estate sale or sell items individually through consignment, online listings, word of mouth or a combination of all these methods. Generally, this is more work than handing over the reins to an estate sale agent, but you may come out ahead financially. 

If you decide to go the direct route, consider some popular online platforms for listing your items for sale:

  • eBay allows you to sell items to anyone, anywhere, but unless you luck into finding a local buyer, you’ll have to arrange for packing and shipping. eBay will keep a portion of the sale and charges for each listing.
  • Etsy is similar to eBay but is better known for selling vintage, quirky and handmade items. Etsy also keeps a portion of the sale and charges for each listing. 
  • Facebook Marketplaceis free to use and connects you with local buyers. It’s great for household items, outdoor equipment, sporting goods and even large appliances and furniture pieces. You won’t have to pack up items and ship them, but you will need to meet with buyers.
  • Craigslist is another free option. Much like Facebook Marketplace, you can list items and connect with local sellers. Just be careful of who you connect with via Craigslist, the platform has been known to be frequented by scammers in the past.
  • For clothing, consider thredUP. This company will send you postage-paid bags for you to fill with unwanted clothing in good condition. You get a percentage of what they sell and they’ll donate the rest. 

You can also get the word out through your friends and family that you’re planning to sell off many of your household goods. You may find someone through the grapevine who is moving into the first home or delight a friend who has had their eye on your commemorative plate collection for years. 

Consignment is another route. You bring in your items and when the shop sells them, you come back to get a portion of the sale. Usually, consignment shops will donate what they can’t sell within a specified timeframe. 

4. Get Logistics in Place Early

Decide how you’ll handle the actual transition of your items. Will you need to rent a dumpster? Should you schedule a donation pickup from a local charity? Be prepared to pack up the items you’ll keep as you go. You’ll save time and energy later if you’ve already sorted things into boxes. 

Another benefit of this approach is that you can easily take stock of how many things you are moving to your new home. You may realize that you have a few more boxes than you’d imagined, inspiring a second round of downsizing decisions. 

5. Develop a Uniform Approach to Decision Making

You’ll get through the downsizing process more efficiently if you apply the same basic approach to each decision. For example, a simple method could look like this:

  1. If it’s a definite yes or no, put it into the appropriate pile immediately
  2. If you aren’t sure right away, imagine the item in your new space. Will you really use it or enjoy it enough? 
  3. Set aside valuable items to sell 

Before You Begin, Take Stock of Your Emotions

It’s completely natural to feel a bit sad ahead of this transition. After all, you’ve made memories in your current home, and not only are you moving, some of your items have sentimental value. 

Before you get moving, take stock of how you feel and allow yourself some time to reflect. Remember, though you’ll be letting go of physical items, your memories and current relationships matter most. You may find that taking some photos of special items will inspire the same feelings as holding the objects in your hands. 

The reality of going through your home item by item can feel overwhelming. Still, you’ll likely find that the outcome is worth the work as your retirement funds grow and you clear your mind and life of things you no longer need or want.

Retiring in Oklahoma City? Consider Concordia

As you look to the future, we invite you to reach out to learn more about the Concordia Life Plan Community. We offer a variety of well-designed residences, activities you’ll love and services that will give you time to spend on what’s most important. As a continuing care retirement community, we offer support services for everyone, from independent living that healthy, active adults love, to assisted living and memory care.

As a non-profit community, our primary goal is to serve you and ensure you have the best retirement possible. Contact us today for more information on our Oklahoma City retirement community.

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