Most of us find ourselves having to downsize after divorce. Maintaining 2 households on the marital income can be a challenge. That’s why I asked Jami Shapiro to put together an overview of the options available for making the transition to post-divorce life as smooth as possible.
Jami is the owner of Silver Linings Transitions, Inc., a senior move management company. It was while facing her own marital separation that she changed her business model to include helping anyone during times of transition, any transition. Together with Bryan Devore, a Pacific Sotheby’s Realtor, also going through divorce, they created San Diego’s Divorce Home Solutions. Their services help divorcing couples through the entire move process from the sale of their house to getting them settled into their new homes. As a result of their own experiences, they wanted to offer support to their clients, relieving some of their stress at such a vulnerable time in life. Jami and Bryan also run a support group for people who often feel alone when they need people the most, such as in divorce. Bryan Devore is one of the top ranked San Diego Realtors who also earned a 5 star rating in customer satisfaction in 2016.
Here are some of Jami’s great ideas for downsizing successfully.
There’s no getting around it; going through divorce means adapting to a new lifestyle. You are no longer a family unit residing in one house. While you face the pain, fear, anger and sadness divorce may bring, you will also likely be challenged with living on the same family budget - maintaining, and possibly co-parenting, between two households. To put it mildly, your definition of "home" and your priorities will undergo a huge transition.
As someone who specializes in helping people reshape their living spaces during major lifetime transitions, I have the opportunity to work with people as they reflect on their lives and the mementos that represent it. When you are suddenly limited to a smaller living space, all your "stuff" doesn’t seem so important. Do you really NEED 47 pairs of shoes?
Here are some creative ways to make your new lifestyle work on a (likely MUCH) smaller budget work.
- One of the first hard lessons you will learn is what’s necessary and what’s excessive. Do you need cable television when you can you watch Netflix and Hulu? Dining out and coffee habits can be a real drain on your budget as is the amount of food that is thrown away. Plan your menu and your indulgences and you can save quite a bit monthly.
- In San Diego there are a lot of "swap" events for clothing, furniture, home goods, and even home-made food items and/or home-grown produce. So, if you need some new wardrobe items, home goods, or even fresh produce, you can get these items (sometimes really high-end stuff) for the price of nothing. The deal is that you bring stuff to swap with others in exchange for you picking stuff that you actually want/need. Parents, friends, and neighbors usually have stuff they want to get rid of and might be happy to give you their stuff to take to the swap events. Many of these events seem to be shared through Facebook. Additionally, Freecycle is a Yahoo group where people post free items in their neighborhood, such refrigerators, furniture, etc. on Freecycle.org. I’d recommend avoiding the "free" section on Craigslist because much of the stuff posted is literally trash.
- List your home on Airbnb. According to their website, Airbnb provides "a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world." It’s free to create a listing, and hosts decide how much to charge per night, per week or per month. They require proof of identity - you send a picture of your driver’s license when you book. To learn more and see the pros and cons of using Airbnb, click on this link.
- Share your house with another family. House-sharing is different than renting out a room because it will typically involve two families. COAbode.org is a single-mother house-sharing site founded on the principle that two single mothers raising children together can achieve more than one going it alone. The benefits include being able to live in a better area with better schools, sharing household expenses and lightening the burden of maintaining a home and raising a family. You might also try reaching out to your community of friends and co-workers to find others in your situation.
- Meetups are a great way to meet like-minded people and find activities that are inexpensive or free. In San Diego, there’s a great one for single parents with over 2,000 members and something going on nearly every weekend.
- Try discount sites like Goldstar (for local events and tickets to shows and events), Groupon (restaurants, services and places) and LivingSocial. A great one for meals out at half-price is restaurant.com.
- Live in a tiny house. A friend of mine paid $54,000 and lives in what might be described as a mobile home. She is able to reduce her footprint and live affordably $1,200 a month including her mortgage, land rental and utilities. Not bad for a single mom living in San Diego!! There are also deals to be had as some people realize this lifestyle is not for them and will sell their used home for a fraction of what was paid.
- Nesting - think of a bird’s nest. The baby birds live in the nest and the parents take turns staying with them. The benefit of nesting is the children are able to stay in one home and not have to be shuttled between their parent’s homes. There are several ways parents can accomplish this. One is by sharing a separate residence and living there when you aren’t on parenting duty; the other is to live in two separate places outside of the residence. This works well for a short time or if a trial separation is your goal. It gets tricky though when one parent is ready to "move on".
- Sharing rooms with family members - my mother-in-law slept on a sofa bed and gave my ex and his brother the main bedroom. You can also have siblings share a bedroom.
- Spouses living in separate bedrooms and adhering to schedules. When we purchased our second home, the couple selling the home was living in separate rooms. Some parents sleep with children and others are able to live in another space in the home. If you are trying to maintain a separate life, though, having a schedule of when you are home and taking care of the kids is essential. The other parent stays out of the way or out of the home as much as possible even waiting until after the kids have gone to bed to come home.
- Renting out a room in your home - there are many ways to go about this but safety of your family should be your first concern. Ways of finding a "tenant" for your home include Craigslist, word of mouth through your friends and family (Facebook), or advertising at local college campuses. There are all sorts of ways to do background checks, and if you are bringing in a stranger, this is essential.
- Become a "host family" for an exchange student. Some foreign exchange student programs will actually pay the host family for room and board. Homestay Network is a San Diego paid host exchange program.
- Sell the marital home and rent or buy smaller spaces. If negotiating the sale of the home between you and your spouse will be difficult and over-the-top stressful, consider working with a listing agent who understands and will be sympathetic to the situation. There is actually a real estate designation, "Real Estate Divorce Specialist," for this niche in the industry.
In my own divorce, there is a casita behind our home. My ex lived there when we were first separated, but after a few months we realized we each needed space to develop our own lives post-separation and now rent the space out.
One of the "gifts" of divorce is discovering how resilient and resourceful you are. Think of your new, smaller, lifestyle as a transition. Remember, "Harry Potter" author, JK Rowling, lived in her car after her divorce, obviously just a temporary setback for her. You WILL adjust and do what you need to do to ensure a successful transition to your new life.
Jami Shapiro, Partner
Divorce Home Solutions