A Moving Question

We have had a decent amount of rain in our corner of Southern California over the last several weeks. Our succulents are happy, and the weeds are ecstatic.

The other day, as my husband and I were enjoying spending the afternoon in guilt-free, rainy-day lazing about, we became aware of a drip, drip, drip sound coming from the downstairs guest bathroom. That couldn’t be good… and it wasn’t. Upon inspection, we discovered water dripping through the ceiling vent onto the bathroom floor. Not a lot of water but no amount of precipitation traveling from the outside to the inside can be considered acceptable. So, when we had a short break in the rain, we climbed on our roof and laid out a tarp, then we called a roofing company to schedule an inspection.

Of all the things that can go wrong with a house (structural, plumbing, electrical, etc.) this certainly wasn’t the worse, but it restarted the conversation we have now and then about where and how we want to live at this time of our lives. Has our house become too much of a burden when what we really want to do is spend our time enjoying our retirement while we are healthy and able?

We love our house and our neighborhood so if we made the choice to relocate, it would be a very difficult decision. We’d give up a lot but living in a home that is virtually maintenance-free (for us, anyway) is tempting. A condo or a townhome, for instance, could mean that our repair responsibilities would end at the interior walls. When we left for a trip, all we’d have to do is lock the door and go. Yes, we’d have to off-load a lot of our stuff, but we’ve been doing that over the last few years anyway. Yes, we’d probably have to give up some luxuries (like having two separate offices), but I’m sure we could work things out.

As with most major decisions there is give and take, and both positive and negative outcomes. When we’ve discussed this in the past, we decided that what we’d lose outweighed what we’d gain. Lately, though, we’ve begun to realize that our priorities are changing. Do we want to spend a large amount of time doing yardwork and house projects, or would we rather let go of house-related stress, have more time to explore our interests, and travel without concerns?

Obviously, there are financial impacts that weigh in a decision like this but, right now, we are thinking about emotional and lifestyle considerations – both short- and long-term. If we move, would we soon regret what we gave up? Or, if we stay, would we look back and realize that we spent too much time caring for our house and not enough time enjoying our retirement?

So, I’m curious. Have any of you thought about moving – or, maybe you have moved – for similar reasons? What were some of your considerations in making your decision? What did you decide? Are you happy with the decision you made? Do you have any regrets? And, those of you who decided to sell your house and buy a low-maintenance alternative, are you now spending your free time in ways that you thought you would?

I know we aren’t the first – and won’t be the last – to think about this. Maybe we can learn from each other.

Author: Janis @ RetirementallyChallenged.com

My blog is about travel, relationships, photography, and whatever else pops into my head (even, sometimes, issues surrounding retirement and aging).

146 thoughts on “A Moving Question”

  1. Hi, Janis – This is a very thoughtful post. It is also very timely for me. This morning, Sam (Loving the 50 Something) read and commented on my earliest posts, including my first one titled “Location, Location. Location”. (Seriously, even my Mom does not do that!) At that time, we had just settled into our new home after uprooting our lives and moving from Beijing. My advice at the end of the piece was: “Take your time, look around, think outside of the box, and then carefully choose where you would like to live –not where you, or others, think you should. Consider all of the quality of life factors no matter how mundane they may seem at the time. It is the smartest investment that I can suggest.” This applies to more than just location, but the type of housing that will best suit this stage of your life.
    Good luck with your decision making. I look forward to following this journey.

    1. I love watching home reno shows because they make it look so simple. Literally- they pick a “fixer-upper” that just needs some paint and new decor and the job is done within a 45 minute episode. Real life is much more stressful, especially when there’s a new renovation to do on a regular basis. I hope you find a place you really enjoy!

      1. Those home renovation shows are fantasy eye-candy! Reality is much different and clearly not as fun. Maybe if we had a whole team of fixer-uppers on speed dial we’d be happier. As it is, we often decide to do the work ourselves because: 1) We can, 2) It’s cheaper, and 3) We know it will be done correctly.

    2. The good news is that we aren’t in any hurry so we have the luxury of time to consider our options. Knowing that there isn’t one, perfect answer, we can weigh the good and bad of any decision. It’s weird, I almost wish we didn’t love our neighborhood so much. That connection makes are choices that much harder. And, of course, living in a part of the country with such great year-round weather, it’s not like we want to escape to somewhere warmer.

  2. My husband and I are going through the same thought process. We are both seventy-five and, thankfully, healthy. I am tired of the responsibility (most falls in my lap) and a retirement community with activities appeals to me. He is more resistant to change and would stay in our home. As a start we are going to visit different communities in our area and see what we think.

    1. Hi Susan! I have to admit that a community like that has some appeal to me also. In some ways, I feel as if we are way too young (early 60s) for a “planned” community but having activities easily available would be nice. It’s smart to visit several to get a feel of the vibe of each one. I have subscribed to your blog and am interested in following your search.

  3. Lots to consider – as you are doing…my two cents’ worth?
    The current craze called ‘Downsizing’ is misleading IMHO. One size does not fit all – and most of the current crop of ‘downsizers’ are very into ‘tiny houses’. Might work for some, but after living without a home base for 3 years during our between homes time several years ago, I learned that as a creative, I really need space to create, space to just ‘be’…not neccessarily a mansion, but more than 600 square feet (and our current rental of 1100 square feet).
    I wouldn’t mind one of those ‘tiny houses’ for a personal studio, tho!

    1. As a creative, I hear you! I love adventure and I love living and traveling in our camper van, but it’s the worst place to write and be creative, without the “taken for granted resources” of unlimited electricity and internet. That’s why house and pet sitting works much better. In absense of those, I’ll be spending a lot of time in libraries the coming months!

    2. Our intension is not to downsize (although we might end up with a smaller home) but to rid ourselves of the day-to-day maintenance of a stand-alone home. A tiny home is definitely NOT in our future… how do people live like that? I guess my home office is my studio (and my sanctuary) and that could be one of the most difficult things to give up.

  4. We bought our present home four years ago. We said it would be our last house; the next would be a retirement home or nursing home. So far we haven’t spent a lot of time on maintenance, but I have to spend more time than I want in the garden. Some day soon we should begin to look at the alternatives, just to know what is available.

  5. After living in our home (our first) for 22 years, we are just starting to do some repairs – siding and a new roof a few years ago followed by a new front bathroom. Now we are adding a shed in the backyard for me to use as my craft space so we are not in any rush to move! We are both mid 60’s and our youngest just graduated college. I know I wouldn’t want a two-story house at this point. Maybe in another 10 years it will be a different story. Good luck with your research!

    1. Fortunately, we aren’t in a rush either, and, right now, having stairs feels like a good thing (more exercise). At this point, we’ll just look around and consider our options. Have fun with your new She Shed!

  6. Janis, you have a lot of thinking to do! Lots of pros and cons to consider. We are far from truly being retired and our house here is shaping up nicely. Luckily Hans loves to work on home and yard projects. We still have to finish the house in Hilo so we can start using that as a vacation retreat and perhaps a retirement home in a few years. Best wishes on your decision, but keep us in the loop 😀

    1. We always seem to have some house or yard project in the works. It’s not always a repair, but I think our house will always be a “work-in-progress.” I will definitely share our progress as we consider our options.

  7. Isn’t life all about compromises? Yes, a house is a lot of work and responsibilities. What would you rather do with that time? And, are the trade-offs worth it? The fact that you are considering alternatives and seriously talking about it, feels to me like you’re getting ready for a change. Maybe all the downsizing you’ve been doing was unconsciously related to getting ready for the next step in your lives. That “list” I suggested on Saturday might be a good start. I’m definitely curious about your decision. I was also thinking that, if you decide to try something new and different, you could rent the house out for one or two years. Just in case the alternative didn’t work out, so you could return.

    1. I love your idea of making a list and have actually started one. We have several friends who have sold their homes, moved away, and now regret their decision. We live in an area that would be hard to return to (financially) if we ever left, so, yes, renting our house for a few years is an excellent idea.

  8. This topic has come up a lot recently for us – as my spouse and I have two people close to us in different “later” retirement modes –
    And we have assessed how they have gone about retirement in general –
    One of them really did not downsize very well at all – and as he relocated and moved – he kept way too much stuff – much of it placed in our care now and he was – not very wise.
    And just thinking lightly about your pondering to move –
    I think it might be getting close to the time for you guys to move and maybe experience the freedom and lighter living hat comes with a condo – there really is something to it – unless you are finding enormous amounts of joy with the house that holds so many memories – but as you noted – the work and demands weigh in –
    But if the topic keeps getting pondered that might be a sign of unsettledness and seriously – my son2 is a minimalist and he has inspired me to let go of things to live a bit more free (hard to explain – but goodness – sometimes we good on to things when the memory is what we take with us)
    — and the second one we know in “later” retirement right now did the condo move ten years ago and has enjoyed the maintenance being done by someone else – and it is amazing to see how we humans can adjust to changes in square footage –
    and you and the hubs likely will not miss two offices –
    In closing – if it were me and I was not sure – I would rent out the house – I know being a landlord could be arduous and more work (maybe get a company to manage it) but it could provide a buffer or some time to try out condo life
    Best wishes as you decide 💜🙏

    1. Thank you for your thoughts! Although we didn’t raise a family in our house, it does hold many great memories for us. We live in a neighborhood where we have a lot of friends, it is easy to get in and out of (although traffic in our city continues to get worse by the day), and has a lovely view… and, yes, provides joy. Certainly a lot to give up.

      On the other hand, having the freedom to call someone else for repairs (I know, we could do that now, but I do have a pretty handy husband who prefers to do most repairs himself), having a minimal personal outdoor space to tend, and being able to lock the front door and take off on an extended trip is huge.

      I really agree with your suggestion to rent before making a major commitment. Thanks for your good wishes!

      1. Well glad to chime in-
        Have to tell ya that I enjoyed reading your thoughts – I am coming back to blogland after a bit of a break and it was nice to read such genuine thoughts in your post. Maybe it also resonated because of the two folks we have been interacting with who are in that later period of retirement –
        so sometimes we have to cut the ball and chain and be free
        Other times we drop the anchor and let roots dig deep

        Right now might be time to feel lighter and freedom
        Best wishes and I’ll be back later to check in on what unfolds –
        Someone once said we plan and god leads – and without getting all religious on ya – I know I have seen it unfold just as it needs to – oh and in the meantime hope the leak is all set too

      2. Hey – check out this post from this awesome writer names Dale (you might know her already @ Dalectable Life) – anyhow, this post connects to the thoughts in your post a lot….

  9. We have not looked back from the moment we brought our apartment and would never again move back to a high maintenance house again. Life is far too short to spend time cleaning a large house. In our circumstances, it was incredibly the right one due to Les’s now having terminal cancer. I am sure you will make a decision that is the right one for you both. It can be a fun process looking towards that next step.

      1. Anabel, it was a word I haven’t used until then. Terminal in the sense that there is no cure and since it is such a rare form of bone marrow cancer each persons life expectnacy varies. We are hoping for a few years!!

    1. Fortunately, our current house isn’t so huge and full of stuff that downsizing would be a big issue (maybe easier said than done). Your recent decision to buy your apartment was right on, even before your husband’s diagnosis. I think that is one of our major concerns: we don’t want to wait until we have to make a decision (hopefully many, many years away) and are forced into a less then desirable choice.

      1. I am glad that you are aware of having to make a decision before someone else makes it for you. It is a hard one, though like all steps we make in life there are compromises to be made no matter what the decision. As Liesbet mentioned on above comment.

  10. We chose not to move many years ago when most people our age were moving from a “starter home” to a larger home. We decided that we didn’t need that, and that we could care for a smaller home/yard longer, on our own. I have been working to make our house and property as maintenance free / easy to maintain, for several years. I still have some projects to complete, but I enjoy doing that work, and I look forward to having it done. We don’t want to give up the freedom of being in our own place, and we don’t really want to be under the control of an association.

    1. One of the discussions I have with my husband is, even though we complain about always having a house or yard project, would we (and by “we” I mean he) find enough to do if all of that went away? He is much like you in that he enjoys having a project to think about, research, and complete. I, on the other hand, probably would be happier with the freedom to ignore the house and yard, and pursue other interests.

      I think your plan to make your house and yard low-maintenance is perfect, especially now that retirement is in your near future.

    2. Dan, we made a similar decision about 20 years ago and decided we would rather spend our money on travelling and building memories rather than more house, more mortgage, more stuff.

      The last number of years though I’ve become very restless and want to move – not necessarily bigger or smaller, just a different space. In a moment of sanity over the past holidays, I realized that was a very poor reason to want to move.

  11. Two weeks ago, we finally moved my parents to a retirement community. Going from over 4000 sq ft to 1500 required a lot of compromise and minimizing. It was a monumental task, especially for my 80 year old father who is my mother’s full-time caregiver, for now. Needless to say, they are happily settled. Apart from the upkeep of a large home, my father no longer has to worry about what to cook, as they have 3 restaurants to choose from and a lot of social interaction which he really needed. I now have piece of mind and can sleep more than 3 hours a night. 🙂 My advice, don’t wait until you’re too old to make that move…I know I won’t! Good luck with your decision.

    1. Wow, that is a big undertaking Jill! Our house is a bit over half the size of your parent’s original home so, thankfully, we wouldn’t have to do that much minimizing. I’m happy that they have adjusted well to their new living situation and that you have less to worry about. We certainly don’t want to wait until we are too old… but also we don’t want to make a move too soon. So much to think about.

  12. A year ago, I moved from a 3400 sq ft home to a condo of 1050 sq ft. Long story short, my husband has advanced stage dementia that required residential placement.

    This was a great move for me. Lots of downsizing, but honestly, one year later I can barely remember all the stuff I sold/gave away/ recycled. I was never a clutter person, so the concept of living in a more manageable sized home with less belongings appealed to me. I have privacy, but am not alone as I share a gym and community room with 30 other condo owners.

    So much to consider. I wish you well on this journey as you consider your options.


    1. Thank you for your comment and good wishes, Carole. Life certainly doesn’t have any guarantees, does it? Your move sounds like a perfect answer to needs and wants. I love that you have privacy (a “must-have” for me) and also connections and community. We’ve spent a lot of time and effort culling our stuff but we aren’t quite there yet. After reading many of these comments, I feel another de-cluttering effort coming on.

  13. Hi Janis – Lots of pros and cons to consider as you’re already doing. Take your time to assess and choose what suits this stage of your life. It helps that you’ve been reducing your stuff. A trial rental living in a condo or town home for a few months may give you factual experience. I know for me, I’m aiming for low maintenance and more freedom from property responsibilities.

    1. We have a vibrant downtown area where we live and I’d love to rent a place there for a while. To have restaurants, several theaters, interesting places to walk, etc. close-by sounds like it would be fun. Of course, there is always trade-offs (privacy, less-than-desirable neighbors, etc.) which is why a trial rental would be the way to go.

  14. Just a comment on condo/apartment living. While it does have a lot of upsides, it does have disadvantages too. Of course there are those pesky HOA people that tell you you dont have the right door sconce. That can be annoying, but minor. What is major for me is noise. Dont like your current next door neighbors much? Or the music they play? What about sharing a wall with them! How about their loud obnoxious friends? Or yappy dog? (That always seems to crap on your strip of common grass.) Those can be issues in any neighborhood of course, but are amplified in much smaller shared spaces. Think about what’s important to you, or what would really push your buttons. Think about what you dont want. Then take a day (or afternoon) a week and go check out some of these places. You’re not in a hurry to make a decision. You have time to shop, consider pros and cons, and find the right fit for you. One more thing, to the person who suggested renting, dont. If you thought you had stress before, it will be multiplied by a thousand. Good luck, (and if you do move you’d better send me your new address!)

    1. I guess any time you put a bunch of humans together in a shared living situation you will have problems. One reason that retirement communities are popular is because older people don’t tend to party and make noise. Condo associations can be intrusive, but they do help maintain peace. I actually think renting could be a good thing (we’ve both been landlords so we know what we’d be getting into) if we wanted to test-drive a few living situations. Too many friends have made a big move, only to regret it and not be able to return. And, yes, I’ll give you our new address 🙂

    1. Holy cow, Peter! That is certainly a unique solution… but seeing where you live, I can understand why you might want to stay there. I’m curious, does your foundation just consist of those cement pillars, or did they build a foundation under your house once in place? Modular homes have come a long way and that appears to be a perfect solution for you. Thanks for sharing your video!

      1. My wife and I lived in a trailer, then as the weather was getting colder, we stayed in a local motel, until the modular home was set up. It was a perfect solution for my wife and me, as we are both over 70 years old. The home is sitting on concrete blocks and has nice skirting all around. Thank you for your kind comment, my friend!

  15. We made the move two years ago, from bigger house to smaller house, from hometown to a new town 150 miles away. Just two observations. 1. A smaller house and smaller yard does NOT necessarily mean less work, esp. in the year or two after you move. There’s always some deferred maintenance when you buy a house, and then you want to make changes. If you really want less housework, and be able to travel on a whim, you’re likely better off with a condo or townhouse. 2. If you move to a different town, you have to make an effort to find new friends, join new groups, fit into the new community — it doesn’t happen automatically. If that’s a worry for you, it might be better to go to a planned community where there’s a clubhouse and ready-made interest groups (book club, bridge club, whatever) that you can easily join. Just my two cents … good luck with your decision(s)!

    1. Great observations, Tom! I doubt that we’d just look for a smaller home – ours isn’t that big and what we want is low/no maintenance. Knowing us, if we have a house that we CAN make changes to, we WILL make changes. A condo or townhome (maybe in a planned community) sounds good right now. I love the idea of having lots of activities close-by and a walkable community with plenty of opportunities to get out and exercise (walk, bike, hike) is attractive. My list of pros and cons to each decision is growing 🙂

  16. It’s not simple, Janis. Most of us are in an indecisive mode until we are faced with something that more or less forces us to consider a move. In my case, when I was single, and living in a house with very large garden I created, (and loved) I realized that spending hours and hours alone in my garden was having a negative effect on my retirement. Sure, this project was satisfying , and I was surrounded by beauty, but suddenly it wasn’t enough. I put the house up for sale, and started the rest of my life. Re-married now, and living in a beautiful condo by the sea, I haven’t regretted it one minute! I think when the time comes, we know it!

    1. What an interesting journey you made. I love some aspects of gardening (even the zen of pulling weeds) but I don’t like the constant attention it needs. Even our mostly low-maintenance succulents require care. “Starting the rest of your life” and a beautiful condo by the sea sounds perfect! Thank you for your input and encouragement.

  17. I just realized that I’ve lived half my life in our current house. My husband is 4 years older, so it will be a few more years for him to hit that same mark. Over the past several years, we looked at moving to something smaller, but then decided to make changes to our house so that it would meet our current needs and desires.

    We figured that what we would pay in condo fees would be about what it would cost for someone to take care of all the outside chores. In fact, today we are meeting with a landscaper to make our exterior even lower maintenance.

    We will stay here until it no longer makes sense for us to do so. Ours is a two story house, and I’m grateful for this built in stair master. I’m also grateful that we have TWO international airports to choose from so we can almost always get a direct flight to wherever we want to go.

    I don’ think there are any wrong answers to your question. You are smart to think carefully about all aspects as you make your decision (or decisions).

    1. You make such a good point, Shelley: what we could spend initially to make a move and then the ongoing costs could easily eclipse the expense of hiring out more of the work we do around the house. Our first inclination is always to do the work ourselves but that isn’t sustainable. We also enjoy having stairs but have thought about creating a master suite on the first floor (for guests now, ourselves later). Even though our city is growing larger than we’d like, I also enjoy the proximity to two airports (one in Mexico). Chances are, if we did decide to relocate, it wouldn’t be too far from where we are now.

  18. This is a big decision – with a lot of moving parts! Some of the comments above are so interesting and insightful. There are so many ways to look at this. A crystal ball would be nice right about now..!!

  19. Janis, You recall hubby and I had similar conversation and decided to move to a “10-year house”. Not to worry about age in place but one that met our needs of the moment. It’s still multiple floors and a yard to maintain. But the house is smaller (2000 vs 3800 sq ft) – easier to clean;, although we have had some maintenance needs (its an older home). And the yard easier to maintain than our last one – I like having a yard (we have a dog) and I enjoy gardening a bit.

    A couple of friends of mine rented different types of spaces for over a year, a couple for 3 months, one for 6 months, to understand what they really wanted. He loves to grill so a condo was not going to work – almost all (here) will not allow grills on the balconies. They ended up in a ranch house and love it.

    I think you’re having the right conversations – what are our must-have versus nice-to-haves, what are the pros and cons and can we live with the cons. I think if you get clear on that, the right thing will become clear.

    1. I am warming to the idea of renting in a few different types of living situations. It has been a long time (25 years) since I lived in a rental and it was such a different time of my life (career, single) that the idea is a bit scary. But, the type of rental we’d choose now would be very different (yes, we’d need a grill 🙂 ) so it’s also intriguing. You have a second home in Florida, right? Do you get at all anxious about your house when you travel? After all, old house can go wonky just about anytime.

      1. Janis, Yes, I am quite worried about the house up north on this trip. With the super cold this week, even more so. Interestingly, I don’t worry about the Florida house as much. There is less here to worry about (it’s much more minimalist living) and it’s more normal for houses here to be empty for long periods. Apparently, it’s much easier to “close the door and leave” when it’s a condo! (I have friends who tell me so.) Luckily in both places we do have neighbors who keep an eye out for major things. And I’m trying to not be so anxious!

  20. Interesting conundrum. I am ready for a downsizing (but not to super tiny) but my husband isn’t. He loves the yard work. I do not so I don’t do it. I would definitely miss my neighborhood and the convenient location. My gut tells me that we will move when one of us gets a life changing health issue although I hope that’s not true. I tell him everyday that if he has a heart attack, by the time he gets home from the hospital there will be a “for sale” sign in the yard. The timing is the hard part. His sister didn’t downsize until she was 80 and her husband 80+. Fortunately they were healthy. Moving is work especially if there is no one to help. In hindsight I wish we would have built a home we could age in (we have a two story with the mbr on the second floor). At the time we were in our 50s and thought we had all the time in the world. I’m trying to enjoy the house for now because I don’t know when we won’t have it.

    1. The thought of taking on a move in my 80s is daunting. I hope that the de-cluttering we’ve done – and have yet to do – will make any move we make easier. Since we are child-free, I’m pretty sure we will be mostly on our own when we move so now is the time to plan for it. You say you don’t do yardwork but I know that you maintain the pond… that’s work for sure. But, also good exercise, right? I’m enjoying our house now too (I really do love it) as long as it behaves itself.

      1. Somehow I never consider the pond work. I always speculate if I’d be able to have a pond in the “new place.” Maybe an aquarium. I’ve come to enjoy fish but I love the frogs even more.

  21. Thought provoking (including all the comments). I love where we live and we aren’t thinking of moving (yet) but we’ve had various conversations about what to do with the house. It’s therefore a bit neglected at the moment because no decisions are being made. Once John retires maybe things will become clearer. In other words, when the time comes we (and you) will know because thought has gone into it already. Best of luck!

    1. I love all the generous comments too! So much to think about. It will be interesting to see what changes (if anything) once your husband retires. What was once a sanctuary from his work might become a task-master. Or not.

  22. I wrote a series of four posts about this issue when I was trying to sell my home (and finally did). The first one is “The truth about downsizing and relocating.” It might help provoke a discussion at your home. Whatever you choose to do now, it’s Ok to revisit the decision a couple of years down the road. https://www.thingscouldbeworse.org

    1. Hi there! I remember those posts… I need to go back and re-read them. And, you are right, no decision needs to be set in stone. After doing some more research, we may decide to kick the can down the road. So far, our house isn’t falling down on our heads so we are good!

  23. Janis, we are considering thinking about it. We love our house, neighborhood, area, etc. Yet, taxes are going up and we have more room than we need. Thank goodness the master is down along with most of the living space. Go slow and think things over, especially with a few months before peak selling season. Keith

    1. “Considering thinking about it” perfect! I doubt if we will make any decision soon either. Just that we are considering it is a big change for us. It seems like a good time to see what else might be out there.

  24. Husband and I go through this stay/leave discussion about every six months. We love our home and neighborhood too and our small community is easy to get around in. And we have even condo/apartment shopped online and in person. Nothing is ever just right! So far the says have it. We have made the yard easier to take care of and are trying to get rid of some stuff while we are here. Moving is a hard decision after 41 years in the same house.

    1. You sound very much like us… except for the small community (our city is large and getting more crowded). We will keep moving towards easier, less cluttered living so we can be better prepared if – and when – the time comes to move.

  25. We’ve thought about moving quite often. We think and hope that we won’t have to do it for quite some time. Our plan is to stay put so long as we can keep up with the maintenance/yard work (or afford to pay someone, if it comes to that), afford to get away during the winters, and at least one of us can still drive. Once any of those conditions changes, we’ll have to move.

    Things we will consider will be weather. Right now, we flee for five months of the year (with the windchill, it feels like -51 C or -59F at home, today). If we have to move, we’ll pick somewhere a bit less extreme, so we can enjoy more time at home.

    For those times we do want to get away, we’ll want to be reasonably close to an airport.

    We know we’ll lose space, but we’ve spent months in an RV, so we can handle downsizing a bit.

    Community and neighbourhoods are key. After moving many times, we know how challenging it can be to recreate a sense of community in each place. We’ll look for active communities with plenty of activities.

    Perfection would include the ability to walk to shops, even if just for the basics.

    Whew! Sorry you asked? With house sitting, we’ve spent a lot of time living in very different neighbourhoods, and we’ve had a lot of time to discuss the pros and cons of each! LOL

    Good luck with the roof!

    1. We are fortunate that we already live where the weather is good year-round… which, of course means that gardening/weeding is year-round. We’ve done a little local house-sitting and actually stayed in a townhouse that we liked. It’s a great way to test-drive different living situations. You are so right about the challenge to make new connections in a new community. But, if they are walkable, active, and offer lots to do, it would be easier to find people with similar interests. I’ve been reading about your latest RV adventures and am impressed that you do well in such a small space for an extended period.

      1. I’ve often thought that gardening would become a chore without those months off over the winter. I can see the appeal of having someone else look after some of those tasks for me, as in a condo situation.

        I’m glad you’ve had the chance to try out house sitting.

  26. So sorry about your roof…that is a pain! But as for when to move, that’s a very good question. My husband isn’t yet retired, so our decision is a little way off, but we are already talking about it. I love our house (despite it’s flaws) and have a strong emotional attachment to it. But I would also love a house in a more walkable neighborhood, with a tiny lawn, and a master on the first floor. So the question is the same as what you wrestle with: do the pros of moving outweigh the cons? We haven’t decided yet, but are beginning to waver!

    1. Like so many life changes we Baby Boomers have gone through, we have plenty of company doing the same thing. We have reinvented retirement and want to stay active and involved. Smart community designers are getting that message so hopefully we will have a lot of options.

  27. This post is as timely as this month’s topic here at Chez Bean. We’re thinking about maybe downsizing, but still love our neighborhood and this house, but could maybe consider going elsewhere, but do we really want to go through all that hassle when we’re happy here, but are we really happy here…? It’s enough to make my brain explode. I’ll be looking forward to reading about what you decide– and why.

    1. Oh my gosh… you are have the same discussions! I have no idea when we might decide but I like that we are at least talking about it… a year or so ago I would have put my fingers in my ears and sang “La-la-la-la-la.”

  28. Funny … I raised that question with myself Janis, right after the plumbing debacle on Saturday night. While I was still thinking how nice it would be making it someone else’s problem and having the freedom of no contractor issues (my 2017 was abysmal), the big snow and its big brother, the polar vortex, crept into the equation. I read the blog posts of people in sunny and warm climates – smiling faces, not trudging out into this horrid cold and snow. I start to think – is a move in the cards? I wonder how one person can have so much stuff and how did others live in this house too when I barely find room to keep everything organized now – for me to downsize would be a mammoth task, and one I would do after I am retired – my boss is saying 2 years, maybe even 3 years before that happens. I am so staid and settled, I wonder if I am flexible enough to make a move?

    1. I guess it’s good when “little things” like plumbing and weather issues start us thinking about alternative living situations rather than something major like a health setback. One thing I encourage you to do is to start getting rid of stuff now, if you can. You don’t have to go full-on Marie Kondo but tackling a little at a time (one room, one category, even one cabinet) makes de-cluttering so much easier in the long run. Then when you retire and want to relocate to a warmer climate 🙂 a lot of the hard work has already been done.

      1. Thanks for the tip Janis – I have accumulated so much stuff, and it makes me a little sad with the clothes. I was a clothes horse back in the day, loved getting dressed up for work, and accessorizing … then I got laid off, my mom got sick and I have been working from home now for 8 years. I look at my clothes and know I’ll never wear most of them down the road. Other stuff too – how did we just keep gathering stuff like that?

        1. I don’t know… but I know that I don’t buy nearly as many clothes and other items as I used to. I found a local charity store (The Discovery Shop) that is affiliated with The American Cancer Society. Donating to a worthy cause that I support, takes the sting out of getting rid of perfectly good clothes.

          1. Yes, that’s a good idea. When my mom passed away, I kept a lot of her tops but she was much shorter than me and her pants and pantsuits were petite sized so I gave them to St. Vincent de Paul … I had a disgruntled employee who told me to “throw everything in the outside bins” … I said “you take them inside or I take them elsewhere!” I’ll never go back there again. Didn’t know about The Discovery Shop. Good to know.

  29. So many responses, so I’m not sure what to add, other than that we just went through a housing transition in year six of our retirement, after 26 years at our former house, so I’ll share quickly here thoughts/decisions that may be relevant.

    First, it took us a good number of years to actually pull the trigger, but it did begin with a singular thought such as you are having now, so I’d definitely listen. Secondly, in our case, we wanted to live closer to the ocean (I’m just north of you a bit in Orange County) and thought a townhome would be our answer given how much we travel, however quickly discovered we weren’t quite ready to share walls.

    We did end up buying a slightly larger home 35 miles from our former home, still same county, but we’ve made it very low maintenance, particularly the yard which is comprised mainly of faux grass and pavers. Our surprisingly long list of priorities, including maintaining our his ‘n her offices, led us to our current, slightly larger home. However, we have ocean views and a ground floor master, and we couldn’t be happier.

    So I guess my advice would be to take time to figure out what you want, and once you do, not compromise in any way. At this point in your lives you likely won’t need to compromise, financially speaking, so enjoy this possibly once in a lifetime opportunity to carve out a situation that is about you two, and not jobs or family. 😊

    1. Hi Tamara! I’m so glad you added to the discussion. I think your advice not to compromise is right on. There is so much we love about our house (including a view, for which I am grateful every day) and neighborhood that to give it up would require a LOT of benefits on the other side of the ledger. Interesting that you ended up purchasing a larger home… for you, it was less the size than the amenities. Having a low-maintenance yard and a first floor master are huge. My husband and I have had many discussions about how we could alter our current home to get both. I hope you are continuing to enjoy your retirement!

  30. We have occasional moments of wondering if we made the right decision in getting a condo vs. a house. They never last long, and they’re usually precipitated by driving through a nice neighborhood. But in the main, the ease of not having responsibility outside our door is pretty powerful. I suspect you’ll know when the time is right to make the next move. – Marty

    1. It’s nice that you are able to realistically weigh the pluses and minuses of your decision… and come out knowing that you made the correct one for you. A detached home has a big emotional draw but it comes with stress and maintenance (even new homes will need some at some point). I expect that you are right, Marty: we will know when it’s time.

  31. Great post, Janis! We’ve thought about this also. We’re in a one-story single-family house in a great neighborhood where we’ve lived for almost 20 years. Lots of our friends, when they became empty nesters, sold their houses and moved to condos in Old Town Pasadena which is more urban, with restaurants, shops and public transportation within walking distance. They’ve all reported great happiness in giving up their “stuff” and responsibility for house and garden upkeep. We, however, love our location so much and our community, that is hard to leave. My husband in particular is very tied to our house and having the space to unwind and relax (and I have more the travel bug than he). And we can’t think of anywhere we strongly would rather be. Our son is active duty military so someday when there are grandchildren we may want to be wherever they are! So our compromise has been to stay in the house and spend time in the community we love, but also we’ve now hired a gardener and a pool guy who also takes care of things when we’re gone. But it’s a tough decision – my parents waited too long before they moved into a retirement community and it was a huge fire drill….for me! Good luck with your planning!

    1. Hi Betsy! So good to hear from you! You sound very much like we do… we love our neighborhood and our house too much to be able to move with no regrets. Downtown urban living sounds like fun but I wonder if we’d get tired of that and maybe even feel isolated. It continues to rain here and the tarp is still up on the roof, but we’ve called a roofer and will get a quote on a fix vs. a new roof. I’m pretty sure that means that we aren’t going anywhere soon.

      Please let me know if you get down this way… I’d love to meet for a cuppa.

  32. Such a conundrum. I more or less had to move about 15 years ago. My husband and I parted company and I did NOT want the big, beautiful house. He did.
    This was a few years prior to retiring, but I had that in mind. I bought a single family home on a narrow lot (shotgun style housing). It has a postage stamp sized yard front and back. It was nearly new when I bought it, so maintenance issues were few and far between. But now things are beginning to need work. And though the yard is tiny, it still requires mowing and watering. This takes very little time, but if I’m not home for a week or more, I must make arrangements for someone to take care of it.
    I love my location, but now that I’m completely alone (and catless), I know I’ll want to be gone more. I’ll keep dealing with what comes up for a while. The bedrooms are all, foolishly, on the second floor. I figure that may be the catalyst for me to make the next decision. When I can no longer negotiate the stairs, I shouldn’t be living alone anymore.

    1. It sounds like you were smart to walk away from your former house and it might be time to think about your next move. You certainly don’t want to wait until you can’t climb the stairs to find something new. That may be (hopefully) years away but, like us, it’s good to look at potential alternatives now.

  33. What a lot of discussion on this topic, Janis! I have become increasingly resentful of our home since we’ve been pouring money into it for the past few years at an alarming rate. The roof needed to be shingled, the driveway needed work, we had trees down that needed to be taken care of. On and on it goes. And now that winter has set in I’m out shoveling or snow blowing every other day. I’ve said on more than one occasion, “I wonder what the people in condos are doing today?” Or I would even be open to an apartment downtown (there are some nice ones available). But my husband is not ready for the move. If he called my bluff I might not be either, but I’m getting closer.

    1. That “I wonder what the people in condos are doing today?” question comes up a lot around here. The freedom of making a phone call if/when something needs fixing and just locking the front door without a care when you travel is so tempting. Then I look around our comfortable, familiar home and out onto our deck and think, “why would I ever leave this?” I guess that many of us have reached the age and/or season of our lives where we start to think “what if?”

  34. Ah this is a good one! When our sons all finished high school we made a MAJOR change and had a MAJOR move. We moved from Chicago to Nicaragua in Central America where we had been visiting for about four years prior. It definitely was a great move. But it was not pain free and we did have to give up things in order to do it. The convenience of our local supermarket, our trainer, our stuff, our house, the comfort of our friends, family and neighborhood. Yet, we gained SO much in our new lives ~ that it was definitely worth it. Sorting through and giving away my kids childhood toys was I think the hardest for me. When I took a huge bin of gorgeous solid wood blocks that they had played with and loved for so many years, I cried… We gave up stuff for a life of experience. After the initial shock and adjustment, it was totally FREEING. All of sudden, it felt like a weight had lifted and it was stimulating because there was so much new stuff to learn.

    And also one thing I have learnt is that no matter where you live, if you own the place, there is ALWAYS shit to take care of. Period. Of course, the smaller the house, the less issues and the less cost and hassle.

    Best of luck in your decision, look forward to seeing what you decide to do…


    1. Thank you for your thoughts! Certainly no decision is completely pain-free, and a move like yours takes a lot of courage. I really understand that feeling of freedom, though, when we off-load stuff. It might be hard to make the decision to let an item go, but I have seldom regretted the choice once we did.

      I agree that there will always be stuff to take care of. Whether we decide that a move is in our future or not, I hope we can learn to take on less of the day-to-day maintenance. Our tendency is to do it ourselves since we (mostly my husband) are pretty handy and we trust our work more.

  35. Janis – wow! what a lot of great advice you are getting to your excellent question. We’ve been retired now for 8 (me) and 9 (him) years, have lived in our tiny bungalow for over 6 years, and are thinking of a change. I decided before the move here that I would make 5-year plans. It may seem unwise for people my age (65) to be unsettled, but 5 years was really about all I wanted to commit to. Good luck with your decision – may it be a good one – for at least 5 years 😉

    1. I haven’t made a lot of moves throughout the years (and, I still live in my hometown), so I can’t imagine having a five-year plan. We’ve been in our house for almost 25 years, which surprises me every time I think about it – how is that possible? You live in such a beautiful part of the state… are you thinking of staying in the area or are you looking for a complete change of scenery?

      1. I wondered the same about you! If we move, it will be entirely out of state. I so admire people who have a sense of ‘home’, which you must have after 25 years. I don’t know if that makes things easier or more difficult. I’ll be following your decisions with great interest!

  36. What a great, thought-provoking post! I’m hoping to stay in our home to get it paid off before retirement so that we can offer our children a safety-net while we can move to an elevator building condo near Lake Michigan. We’ll see…

  37. Such a tough decision – moving. Sometimes I get so frustrated with maintenance issues, but for the first time in my life I have lived in one place long enough to really know my neighbors.

    1. Good neighbors are such a big part of enjoying where we live. We’ll be walking down to a neighbor’s house for their annual Super Bowl get-together. Good food, good friends… who cares which team wins the game? That would be hard to replicate if we moved out of the area, especially if we ended up in some big condo building.

  38. Hi Janis! I’m coming a little late to this post (just got my weekly digest) but you KNOW I had to pop here and put in a vote for “rightsizing.” In fact, I would say that every single person who shared their experience with your (or is facing their own choice) is helping to explain why rightsizing (my version of downsizing) is such a unique and individual choice at our age–as one of your other commenters said, “it’s not a one size fits all” issue. Rightsizing just asks us to come up with all the variables that match our unique situation and selves and do that…not what others say or recommend. There are so many ways to approach a future home that it would be impossible to list all the variety but I am certain there is one just for you and your husband. Of course it does take time and self reflection but it can be fun and interesting too. I look forward to hearing how your “journey’ continues! ~Kathy

    1. Hi Kathy! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I was surprised at the interest and number of comments this post generated. So many of us seem to be in the same – or similar – situation. And, many of those who aren’t currently asking themselves the question of where/how best to live, did so in the past and have answered it in a variety of ways. In many ways, our house feels rightsized for us (not too big, not overly stuffed with stuff). Our yard is larger than I’d like, but yardwork is easy to hire out. Our “rightsizing” is more about how much we want our house to vie for how we spend our time in retirement. A few chores and projects, fine. Chores and projects that get in the way of our enjoying this fabulous time of our lives, not to much.

  39. This is a conversation I know very well! We do talk about it, but my 86-year old mother lives across the street, is happy in her home and doing well, and has NO interest in downsizing or moving. LOL! It’s a bit of a conundrum. This rain is something else, isn’t it? We haven’t had standing water under our trees in a very long time. I have more than a few friends with roofs currently under large blue tarps. 😦

    1. We are very attached to our home too, just not the upkeep. I’m glad that your mother is happy and doing well. Both my folks stayed in their home until they were no longer physically able to. I think the familiarity was good for them… unfortunately it was an older home and definitely not set up for walkers and wheelchairs (and, neither is ours). Btw, our tarp is still up there. Until this (much-needed) rain stops we can’t do anything about it.

  40. This is a very thought provoking post, Janis, with no right or wrong answer. I know a couple in their 80’s that are still in their own house and they are managing quite well. Their children were concerned about their 80 year old parents and consulted with the family doctor. Their doctor advised them that the reason their parents were doing well is because they had to deal with stairs and do yard work. I do not necessarily agree with this, yet I understand it is a very individual decision. There are many good responses to your post and I am curious about your decision. We are also in a similar situation weighing out emotional and lifestyle considerations.

    1. Many of us seem to be questioning our living situation. I’m not sure how I’ll feel in my eighties, but I do agree that stairs and yardwork are probably good for us right now. Gosh knows my knees are getting a workout with all the weed-pulling I’ve been doing with this rain. I think, right now, my decision is to stay… I love my house too much. But, that could change in a heartbeat if our health became an issue.

  41. Hi Janis

    After some consideration, we’ve decided to stay put. We live in a lovely area and the weather is perfect for us. After looking around and we can’t imagine ourselves any place else. We’re also paid off. No reason to take out another loan. Yes, there is yard work and upkeep/upgrading to do around the house, but last year our vegetable garden was awesome. My husband is not big on travel and loves having a place to tootle around in on his off days.
    One drawback, our neighborhood is changing and growing. Soon there will be more houses built and more traffic. So, as that happens we may re-look at our decision in another year or two.

    Good luck

    1. There are a lot of considerations we need to look at before making a decision to move or not. Our home is also paid off but, then again, we’d probably end up with a less expensive home if we moved so I guess we could pay cash. Property taxes would definitely be a big consideration, though. Even a less expensive home would probably end up costing us more in taxes. Right now, I’m only looking at the emotional and lifestyle changes if we moved and, so far, they are telling me to stay. And, yes, the beauty is that we can change our minds in the future.

  42. First of all, your photo is fabulous! I love it. As far as the moving question, my husband and I have started talking about that. We have four bedroom home that is really too large for us, and we want to travel a lot after retirement. That leads us to think about going the condo route. On the other hand, we live in a neighborhood that we love, and if we were to sell our home, we fear we may regret it later. I still have a few years of work, so we don’t have to decide now, but we are starting to consider. I’ll be curious to hear what you decide.

    1. I’m not sure why your comment went into moderation, but… Hi, Christie! You sound like you have many of the same considerations that we do. My main concern is to end up with big regrets about something I can’t fix. Great neighbors and comfortable neighborhoods aren’t that easy to find. I think we’ll be going back and forth with this question for a while.

  43. Timely topic. Rob and I are talking more and more about retirement all the time, hopefully in 2 years. We plan our vacations as driving trips and consider our destinations as ‘Could we live here?’ Several locations have become serious maybe’s. The pro’s are – a change of scenery, a change of pace, financially beneficial (taxes, etc.) proximity to water (!) family, nature & beauty. Oh…and convenience stores and something to do after 5:00 PM. The con’s are moving away from our friends, familiar favorite spots, and water. We both like the ocean. Many places are just to expensive but once one leaves California, the possibilities really open up. Neither of us minds leaving our home state. Social media, cell phones with no long distance fees, and apps like Skype can keep anyone close nowadays. Lots to think about, but that’s part of the adventure!

    1. We used to play the “could we live here?” game when we traveled… and sometimes we still do, especially when we visit foreign countries with vibrant expat communities. It’s true that California can be expensive but so many of my friends, after they moved away, express great regret and can’t return. I don’t want to have those regrets so I imagine we’ll stay until the positives greatly outweigh the negatives. How exciting for you to have just two years until retirement! That will go so fast so it’s good to talk about what you want now rather than wake up one day wondering what the heck happened.

  44. OMG – your ecstatic weeds comment had me laughing out loud!

    Now on to your questions.

    There was a time in New York City when I LOVED my little one bedroom nest more than anything in the world (except my parents :-). I honestly would have nightmares that I’d sold the place and wake up seriously relieved that it was only a dream. I honestly thought I would never leave it.

    But when my goal to sail around the world was formed, the nightmares stopped. I put the house on the market within 5 months of envisioning my new life. It was a seriously tough real estate market at the time (early 2009) and the realtor tried to talk me into listing at a far lower price. But I priced it high thinking ‘If I get my price, it is meant to be’. The first offer came in a really low ball – all cash was supposed to be the incentive, but I didn’t bite. Then, two other bidders came in a bit higher, got into a bit of a war (which was a surprise because the market was seriously stagnating at that time) and I got my price. Honestly, I never looked back.

    Personally, I’d sell and travel but that is just me.

    Hugs from Africa

    1. Hi Lisa! Somehow your reply went to my spam folder… sorry! Your story really illustrates how circumstances can change and completely alter what we think we “would never” do. I can see how your dream of sailing around the world would override your desire to stay in your nest. If we stay in our home we can still travel, it just makes things a bit more challenging. I don’t think either of us are the type to stay away for years at a time, but it’s nice having someone watch our place while we are gone (and, fortunately, we have friends who are happy to do that). But, just like happened to you, things could change and hanging on to the comfort and security of our home might not make sense anymore at some point.

      Thanks for the African hugs! I’m enjoying following along with you on your journey!

      1. I am not sure whether you follow Michelle Vosberg on LifeRedesign101 but she went through a downsizing act, opting for smaller accommodations (although not as small as a sailboat 🙂 and that process really transformed her life. I thought you might be interested in reading her story if you don’t know her.

  45. What a fabulous post, which has created many thoughtful comments. My guy and I raised our kids in one home (in the SF Bay Area) for 18 years. Loved that home but we moved for his job to the other coast and a gorgeous house for 10 years, slowly adding to our family (daughter in law, son in law, grandkids). But it was a big house with a lot of maintenance and I wanted a change. Since then we’ve moved and downsized twice, this last time to a ‘55plus’ community (which I said Id never do) and it’s so freeing to call if there’s an outside leak or roof problem, to see the landscapers mow in the summer and plow/shovel in the winter and we just lock the door, Uber to the airport, and travel to a fun destination. Our condo is an end unit full of windows and light and almost 3,000 sq feet. Best of both worlds. And we keep our possessions light and easy so we won’t be a burden to our kids when we get old (in 20 years or so). 😉

    1. It sounds like you have the perfect living situation! I’m not sure why I’m so attached to our house and neighborhood but I find it difficult to imagine moving. I didn’t move at all as a kid (until I went away to college) so maybe I’ve learned to become attached. I also thought that I’d never be interested in a 55+ community but there definitely are advantages: interesting activities, ready-made connections, ability to lock and leave on vacation, and – best of all – someone else does the maintenance. I’m surprised that your place is almost 3,000 sq. ft. That’s bigger than our house! Maybe if I explored the options that are out there, I’d get excited about the prospect of changing our scenery. Thank you for adding to the discussion!

  46. As with everything else in life, there are pluses and minuses. When we moved across country, we left 10 acres, large home, five car garage, and a lot of stuff. We lived in two different condos for a couple of years and then moved back into a house. Yes, there is a maintenance piece to a home, but remember there is also a monthly maintenance fee and a lot of things that can go wrong outside those walls that you are somewhat responsible for. The other interesting piece are the HOA guidelines. The first condo had a book of them and people would call to remind us if we did something wrong like forgot to leave the garage light on, and they paid us a visit to tell us what type of annuals we could plant. The second condo hadn’t come up with their rules so they made them up as they went. And, that doesn’t even address the $$. Imagine all those different families agreeing or not agreeing on how to spend $$. OMG, my husband was on the board one year and then we just avoided it as much as possible and just paid our dues.

    1. Your tales of HOA woes rings so true and it is concerning. I can’t imagine you being happy with someone telling you what you can and can’t plant. And, making rules up as they went along… yikes! I’m pretty sure we are here to stay for a while. We may look at adding a master suite downstairs for guests now, us later.

      1. Now, that sounds like a good plan. We have friends who moved their laundry facilities up from the lower level into the kitchen area, and changed a dining room into a ‘guest’ room to be used later as a bedroom. I’m here in SC with a lot of seniors, and most have adjusted their homes to be more comfortable. And, almost everyone has a contractor story where they are told it might inhibit the house being sold in the future. The immediate response is we want the house to be livable for us and we’ll let the kids worry about selling it. 🙂 Good luck with your plans.

  47. Hi Janis,

    I think about this all the time. I currently live in an old post office that I have completely renovated. I am also a landlord to a commercial tenant (lives below me, on first floor). I don’t think I’d ever want to go through this all again, although it was a positive experience. My next place will be smaller and I don’t think I will be a landlord again, either. Might be nice to be free-er from worry and responsibility for a change! 😉


    1. I love the idea of living in a renovated post office! My husband was a landlord for a long time and was so relieved once he sold his rental units. No more dreaded calls in the middle of the night or while on vacation. I imagine that a commercial tenant might be better. Small and easy-to-care-for sounds so tempting. Then I look at our view and think about our lovely neighbors and decide, once again, to stay. We’ll see… situations change.

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