Friday, October 28, 2016

How to downsize without becoming a minimalist!

As I have suggested in earlier posts, moving into a smaller property when you approach retirement does not necessarily mean that you have to adopt a spartan life and live out your retirement as a confirmed - or newly converted - minimalist. Downsizing can be a gentle process and can mean occupying no more space than you actually need and enjoying the savings - in cost, time and effort - that can result.

- As I have noted below in my advice about acquiring a (French) property, owning or renting no more space that you practically need saves money (a surplus can be saved, invested or put into your 'just in case' fund); it costs less in heating, lighting and maintenance; costs less to furnish; and offers savings in local taxes, rates, insurance and uitilities.

- Acquiring a smaller space means that you can consider buying rather than renting - if you buy wisely you will invariably get your money back on re-sale, even make a profit. You may be able to pay cash, using the proceeds of your own sale, rather than paying interest on a mortgage. Every case is different and you need to seek professional advice before deciding. 

- Simply giving up the idea of a spare bedroom(s) can help; Many I have seen gradually end up as a junk store, while you can still invite friends and family to visit and enjoy their stay in a rented house or flat - particularly good value outside the main season, and offering a 'breathing space' for both you and your visitors during a long stay.

- In my smallish loft the couch in the living room quickly converts to a double bed (duvets, linen etc are stored below the seating) and is ideal for close friends staying over for a night or two. I also happen to live above a bed-and-breakfast (chambres d'hotes) which offers another convenient alternative.

- When I lived in a studio on the marina I noticed that many boat owners also own a small studio property for visitors, as even a largish boat can become unbearbaly crowded with too many aboard. (When I left I in fact sold my studio to a 'typical' boat owner couple. They also slept 'on land' overnight if the weather was particularly stormy).

- Living in a small space also means that you become automatically tidy. Choosing your new space wisely means that you have ensured there is sufficient space for your (fewer) possessions and your motto can be the well tried 'a place for everything and everything in its place'. It works.

- Among the reasons why I left the marina and moved into a small town were the fact that the marina and adjoining 7 km beach attracted ten times the local population during the high season (principally July and August) and became eerily quiet for the rest of the year. I lived in a typical 'holiday apartment' block of 60 flats, and at most five or six of us lived there all year round (convenient when I was out and about property selling but lonely during quiet periods).

- As a result shopping and other essential services closed outside the season and a lot of journies had to be made by car (which I wanted to get rid of). I had done this  in Central London, hiring as and when needed. Surprisingly cost effective, with a full tank and a clean car when I needed it, and no maintenance!

- Apartments and houses in the heart a typical small French town tend to be cheaper because they invariably lack car their own parking space or a garage. It is possible to use public (paid) parking in the local streets or space in the many private car parks nearby. Property prices rise for just-off-town-centre properties that include parking - and perhaps a garden - and 10 - 15 minutes walk to the town centre.

- I now live in the heart of the historic old town, in a gated pedestrian alley, and surrounded by pedestrian-only streets. Within 5 minutes walk I can reach my bank, the main post office, my doctor and numerous specialist health services like X-rays and blood tests; plus a supermarket and two mini-markets that are open till 8 pm and Sunday mornings, and the daily open market in the town square (and an indoor market next to my bank in early 2017).

- These are just some of the reasons why I chose to move where and when I did. I had a lot of freedom of choice to make my own decisions and your own personal case may be entirely different. As noted above you should seek professional advice for some decisions. I have made mistakes and had a lot of advice from close friends - which I have tried to follow. Honest!

Posted by