“Rightsizing” for Your Best Life

Being intentional about decluttering can make the process worthwhile and healing.

My husband Jaime cracked open the door and peered through as he yelled, “How’s it going?” I had the task of sorting through our garage storage in preparation for our big move. We were ready to take a big step—sell our home to move into an environment that better supported our new goals and life stage. Jaime, like most of us, knew if he sorted the garage contents, he would want to hold onto everything. As such, he asked me to not tell him what I kept or discarded.

A week after I finished decluttering, he asked me where the “beach sign” was. The beach sign, a sentimental keepsake with faded and worn blue paint and a silhouette of a finger pointing to the beach, graced our beloved vacation home for the many years we spent there with our daughter. And it was nowhere to be found. I told him it was gone, and he was visibly shaken. It was the only item he missed (and remembered) from what I cleared out.

To help ease his disappointment, I surprised him a few days later with a small memory book of our family’s beach memories, which included a photo of the beach sign. I could tell my gesture was well received as he flipped through the book with a giant smile on his face.

This was the beginning of the struggles we experienced during our journey of “rightsizing”—moving from a four-bedroom, tri-level home into a two-bedroom, single story modern condo. 

We spent a year planning for the big move—considering factors like location and what we wanted from a new home. We were not interested in a senior community. Instead, we sought a walkable neighborhood with mixed generations and services nearby; plus easy access to hiking, parks and friends. We wanted a rich home life that would allow us to “pick up and go” at our leisure. This was going to be our “forever home”. Looking back, having clear goals about what we wanted played a major role in getting through this significant life step.

Even with the extensive planning and clear goals we still faced other obstacles.

First, we had to acknowledge we needed to reframe our old dreams. One of these dreams was eventually living next door to our daughter and her family, who were, at the time, splitting time between Peru and Miami. Simply put, living next door was no longer realistic.

As we continued preparing for our move, we realized our situation was opening the door to a new dream—rich long-distance rituals and vacations together. Our daughter embraced this new dream as well, asking we make their home our “Plan B” and spend our free time with them.

At the time, none of us could imagine the freedom and new possibilities “rightsizing” would provide our family.

Our next hurdle was coming to terms with what our move would mean in terms of space. In our current home, we had the luxury of space, enjoying rooms dedicated to hobbies, entertainment and exercising. With our upcoming move, we would need to overcome the “need” for personal space and live with fewer rooms.

The next hurdle was sorting through the treasures and clutter throughout the rest of our home. I thought about hiring someone to help, but realized I wanted to touch each thing (unlike my husband), and consider what it meant. With the help of a dear friend and my daughter, I sorted through items by asking myself these questions:

 

1) What does this item mean to me?

2) Can I meet the need in another way?

3) Is it worth giving up my dream for this?

4) Where can it do some good in my community?

 

My friend and daughter helped me sort the items–allowing me to sit in a chair while they placed items into piles based on my answers to these four questions. They did not bully or force me to get rid of anything. Rather, they did the physical sorting while I did the emotional separating. The experience was not only helpful, but cathartic.

With only three weeks until the moving truck arrived, there was still a lot of work to do! We ended up getting creative—hiring others to help consolidate the remaining items that were too important to give away and digitized physical things to help save space. For example, we provided ten boxes of photos to a local transfer service, and in return received a lovely DVD pack with our photos. It was an investment, but now we could view photos more easily and no longer had to store the ten boxes!

We also needed to decide on what to do with larger pieces, like furniture. We ended up giving some items to a young couple and others to family members. With the two pieces of furniture and several boxes that remained, we decided to temporarily house them in a storage unit.

Our final step in the process was the physical move into our new home—or so I thought! A week after settling in—yes, only a week in this smaller space—Jaime and I found ourselves sitting on the couch staring at each other wondering what to do with our free time. We laughed at the reality and then laced up our tennis shoes, and hit the hiking trail behind our condo.

Reflecting back, while the process was painful and exhausting, it became quickly evident that all the work had been worth it. We were creating new dreams and embarking on a new journey. We would always cherish the memories and joy from our old home, but were excited about the future—visiting our daughter and enjoying a more spacious life with our smaller home.

This was not our last step. It was just the beginning!

The views of Fisher Life Planning should not be regarded as personal investment, tax or legal advice. We give you our best insights at that moment, but we could change our views in the future based on new information or further analysis.


About Fisher Life Planning Services

Fisher Life Planning is designed to help aging adults navigate life’s most complex decisions. Our Life Planning Professionals help you consider and approach some of life’s unexpected challenges around housing strategies, holistic wellbeing, legacy planning, and pursuing purpose with confidence, now and into the future. Better living through education, empowerment and support from professionals who care—that’s Fisher Life Planning.