Are you starting to think about decluttering and downsizing your home? Perhaps you are caught in the pensions trap or have health concerns? But did you know that downsizing can also be excellent for your wellbeing? Did you know downsizing could help resolve the UK’s severe housing shortage? This blog explores in more detail some of the research, the organisatons and practical information that could help persuade you that downsizing is a good move.
In Part 1 of this series of downsizing blogs, I introduced you to the downsizing debate that some people experience at certain stages of life. Whether to downsize? Why, when and how to downsize well? I shared with you a two-minute video which condenses twelve months of my personal downsizing journey. From making the decision to decluttering, finding the potential new home, planning, organising, moving, and renovating my home to future-proofing my retirement.
In this blog, I explore in more detail some of the research that’s available to help people decide whether to downsize. Admittedly, I did some of this research after downsizing my home. It was only by personally experiencing the dilemmas and fears surrounding this whole issue that I fully discovered the wider imperatives, the barriers and the benefits of downsizing. I want to help people make positive and timely decisions about downsizing, by sharing my retrospective learning in this article.
The remaining parts of this blog look in more detail at the decision to downsize:
- the emotions surrounding decluttering and letting go
- the surrounding contexts such as age, financial situation and health matters
- and the practicalities of planning, organising and moving.
To help with all phases I automatically applied business change principles, to plan and organise the many facets of downsizing. This helped keep my stress levels low.
Since my own ‘Project Downsize’, I’ve become more convinced of the personal and wider benefits of Downsizing. However I’ve also become more conscious of many people who ‘haven’t quite got round to it yet.’ This has compelled me to do retrospective research which I hope will dispel the myth that downsizing is a dirty word!
Intergenerational Foundation, 2011 / 2012
I came across the Intergenerational Foundation (IF) and their research report from 2011, headlined ‘25 million unoccupied bedrooms’. This organisation recommends more help is needed to help people downsize. The IF report co-author Matthew Griffiths states:
“It is perfectly understandable that retired people cling to their home long after it has outlived its usefulness as a place to bring up a family in. But there are profound social consequences of their actions which are now causing real problems in a country where new house building is almost non-existent,”
This follow-on report commissioned by the IF in 2012 is one of the more in-depth discussions I came across. As well as exploring the practicalities, finances and family aspects of downsizing, the author, Jeremy Leach, includes the psychology and emotions involved. Concerns like these are important to acknowledge and explore, otherwise they can easily derail plans. So, from that perspective, this report is a helpful prompt for family discussion, to debate the pros and cons, and encourage things like downsizing checklists.
What this 2012 report doesn’t provide is a Call to Action for authorities or for individuals. Presumably outside the scope of this research as commissioned, I was left wondering what has happened on the Downsizing front following this work.
I contacted the IF’s founder, Liz Emerson, who helpfully offered to meet up, and referred me back to the 2011/12 reports. She indicated there are challenges to persuade people of the benefits of downsizing. Progress to date appears limited. I feel the reasons for this are multiple and complex. I see a significant opportunity (gap) to define and sell the real benefits of downsizing. There is need to demystify the pros and cons of downsizing for the general public, and potentially for the decision-makers and funders.
Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, 2015
In 2015, the Guardian covered some research by the RICS:
“More than 2.5m homes could be released on to the property market if older owners were given better incentives and information on downsizing, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has claimed.”
The report quotes Bristol City council, which said it offers a fund to support moving costs. The same report identifies the overall picture though:
“Almost a third of over 55s have considered downsizing in the last five years; yet we know that only 7% actually did,” he said.
National Housing Federation, 2019
According to 2019 research from the NHF, the situation persists. While the Government has delivered 430,000 affordable homes since 2010, the NHF estimates that 8.4 million people in England are living in unaffordable, insecure or unsuitable homes. Of these:
- 7 million are in unsuitable housing such as older people stuck in homes they cannot get around and families in properties which have no outside space.
The Intergenerational Foundation (IF) welcomes the 2019 National Housing Federation report and advocates more help for downsizers in this October 2019 article.
“The NHF’s inclusion of older people who are ‘stuck’ in homes which are too big for them …. recognises that this is an important part of the problem which all too often gets overlooked.”
“Clearly, it’s an emotive issue and one that needs to be treated with sensitivity, but we would like to see central and local government provide older people with the information, practical and financial support they need to downsize if that is their choice.”
Latest Government thinking, 2019
Even the Government Select Committee’s debate on the subject acknowledges a lack of clarity around the reasons that people downsize (see page 33). The resultant Government report makes little, if any mention of downsizing as an intergenerational fairness strategy. Instead the report focusses on social housing provision and the relevance of apprenticeships for young people.
Practical research, various dates
For the most part, once you have made the decision to move, you just want to get on with it. Here are three articles that focus on just that.
Advice about the financial aspects of downsizing. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/mortgageshome/article-7261111/Downsizing-guide.html
A practical guide that also mentions the effect on wellbeing. https://www.reallymoving.com/removals/guides/five-easy-ways-to-purge-your-possessions .
And here is someone’s story.
American based, it entirely reflects the practicalities, thought processes, and emotional decisions that I went through.
So – what did all my research teach me?
- Downsizing is a growing subject, intertwined with the need to resolve the housing situation.
- The reasons for the housing crisis are multiple and complex, with no agreed way forward, politically, socially or economically to address it. Understandably articles and reports researching this issue generate contrasting views, and pose various priorities for resolution.
- There’s a groundswell of opinion about the need to improve our wellbeing , and one way is to declutter and downsize our possessions to upsize our lives.
- There’s a growing recognition of the need to take personal responsibility for reducing our energy consumption, our consumables, and our personal carbon footprints.
Most importantly, I learnt how I can do my bit to help. While I can’t single-handedly solve things like the pensions gap or the housing crisis, I can use my story and my business approach to open people’s hearts and mindsets to downsizing. And perhaps I can, in some small way, help to influence and improve the wider social challenges.
If you are considering decluttering and downsizing your home, or other big life-choices and need more information, please get in touch. I have enough for a book! Part 1 and Part 3 of this Downsizing blog are also available here.
Good luck in your change endeavours, whether downsizing, other life-changes, or business change.