Rightsizing: When is it time to leave your home?

Rightsizing: When is it time to leave your home?

Up-sizing is real easy to do. We start with very little and at each and every stage we add more…and more. Fast forward a few years and young or old, you look around and find yourself surrounded by THINGS (of course they are Family Heirlooms too), but do we really need them?

Could we live in less space? Could we live in multiple locations at different times of the year by selling the larger home. Of course, but the enormity of the job ahead hits with major depression and the reality is that downsizing sucks!

Let’s call it RIGHTSIZING!

There seems to be a universal response to the negative naming of the difficult process: downsizing. However, I remembered that Barry Lebow, Founder of The Accredited Senior Agent Designation refers to it as “Rightsizing”, a term defined as “to undergo a reduction to an optimal size”. I like referring to it as it turns a negative into a positive, so that works for me…

So how does one rightsize?

I am a great fan of writing up the plusses and minuses of any major decision. Sit down with your partner and family and decide what rightsizing will mean to you and your lifestyle. With older readers, those with health issues or caregivers, much of the discussion should be based on safety issues. The ruling decision should be based on “Is this the safest place for me to live?”.

Safety comes first

A few years ago I was called in by a client to give them an idea of the price they could expect for their house. That is my job and I love doing it. However, the situation that I came across I see too often. The seller had stayed in their house too long.

Not only was the house in bad shape and devaluing daily but the seller had aged to the pointwhere he could not climb stairs or walk without assistance. In his large two storey home he was restricted to one room on the main floor with a caregiver coming for one hour every weekday. His mind was sharp, but he was overwhelmed with the prospect of moving anywhere and felt that he had few options. He realized that selling the house would put him in a financial position to easily live in assisted living and his quality of living would have changed for the better, but seemed paralyzed to move forward. Luckily, I do have service providers that can help ease the burden in these situations, but sadly they become estate sales too often during the process.

Clients in this position often worry too much about their children’s wishes and not their own needs. They are so concerned about their independence that they do not realize that they are no longer safe alone in the house, but are also not taking advantage of some of the options that exist as we age.


In the last couple of years I have run into a similar situation at least four times and each time I come away realizing that the sellers have stayed in their homes for too long. Maybe friends and family did not broach the subject when they should or maybe the sellers felt that their physical outlook would alter with time. The question we must always be asking ourselves and others: “Is this the safest and best living situation?”

We live in a city where there are very few spaces, other than apartments, that can allow one to live on one floor. Bungalows only exist in certain areas and those are still mostly accessible by climbing stairs. Staying in your home also means having to maintain gardens, snow removal, and routine maintenance.

In Ontario we have “Community Care Access Workers” who can help you and your family make these decisions. They are trained professionals who can help you function in your own home for as long as possible and provide the guidance needed when it is time to leave. Sadly, most of us have a tendency to fight and rage against change and family becomes the target for that rage.

Restricting independence is a huge issue for everyone. However, staying in a home that is unsafe is worse.

Rather than telling someone they can no longer live in their own home you might try to asking how they would manage if something unforeseen happened. Go through the scenario and if they still are firm, then you must do everything you can to make the home safe.

How to Downsize with Grace and Style

I thought I would give you some ideas from my home-selling experiences that might help you deal with some of the challenges of this new adventure: Downsizing with grace and style.

When I start showing smaller properties to those downsizing, I watch their faces trying to imagine their new lifestyle in terms of their existing furniture, art, entertainment options, cooking, etc. I can see that they are taking all their possessions and mentally cramming them in to tighter spaces. Don’t even try! It will never ever work.

When it comes to what should stay and what should go, call a professional and listen to them. The real estate business is full of third parties we use called home stagers . They pride themselves on showing our sellers how to make their homes look spacious, when they may not be and have a very good unbiased eye.

They’re just possessions

Owners, family and friends may have vested interest in pieces or history around them and may be tied to “stuff”. These are just possessions, so you need to ask yourself: Do you own them or do they own you?

I also hear people say that they are “saving these possions for their children”. As I child I heard that excuse used many times, but the strange thing is that I was never asked whether I wanted those possessions or not.


As my mom aged and passed those possessions on to me and my brother they occupied a large armour in my living room and his basement. They seldom got used, and when asked where they were, it became easier to say that they were in the dishwasher. Of course that never worked with chairs, a sofa or the dining table. The dishes were not dishwasher proof, so I got a further talking to with a gracious helping of guilt.

If you need help deciding what to keep, call Ann Christie of Declutter and Downsize, she’s our go to person when he work with clients who are looking to downsize, and she’ll take great care of you!

How long something has been around is not important as its utility today

  • Make sure you ask your children what they want and give it to them now, without an editorial or history. Remember that you went through the process at their age, but also remember that this generation is known for not being as loyal as we were and seldom care how long you have had it around. With the recent generation we make a mistake by branding ourselves with our history rather than our services or recent successes. How long something has been around is not as important to them as its utility today.
  • Hire a professional stager and play “does it stay or does it go?” at home.
  • Have new floor plans done and use your stager to stage your existing place for sale making recommendations on the new space at the same time.
  • Get sticky notes to place on what is to go. Let your family or friends walk through the “to-go” group while you go for a short walk. If they want something in the “to go” group, it must go today. If it does not disappear, move it out as soon as you can but, don’t move it into a storage locker. Storage Lockers are often a cop-out!
Moving boxes by Nicolas Huk
Moving boxes by Nicolas Huk
  • At all times keep in mind where you are moving to and what the pluses of that new space are going to be. Get excited and get packing! Speaking of packing…at all times hide all packing boxes. There is little as depressing as half-empty or half-filled moving boxes. Always make your home a Moving Box FREE Zone!
  • Keep what you must, but start looking for apartment-sized furniture. Most clients go wrong by not differentiating full size and apartment size furniture when they decorate. A couple of times I’ve suggested to small space sellers that we replace existing furniture with more advantageous sized staging and to their credit, they did at great benefit to them.
  • The issue is the same: When downsizing, try to visualize the smaller space with smaller scale minimalistic accouterments. Start looking at Magazines, TV Shows and web sites that focus on “Living in Smaller Spaces” at HGTV.
  • It is amazing what you can do with small spaces! Visit the IKEA store or web site and look at what their designers do in managing space. I’ve been told that IKEA now features their staged designer rooms with the square footage noted to help you grasp the reality of smaller spaces and what can be put in them. A great idea!
  • Start fresh, reinvent yourself, create a new look, change styles…make it a fun project and approach the next step of your life as a challenge. Don’t focus on what you are leaving but on where you are going and the new lifestyle you can create there. You may be very surprised!

We are a lot happier to assist in a lifestyle change than an estate sale, so let’s all make a commitment that we will not stay too long, making the right move at the right time. Remember, it is not downsizing but RIGHTSIZING!!!



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