The Journey of Downsizing with Purpose

Navigating Life's Transitions

As people approach the empty nest or prepare for retirement several dreams and visions begin to grow. Most of us hope to be less focused on work, and have more focused on family and the idea of leaving a legacy. Some people envision a family homestead as the place to gather with children and grandchildren, and – if you are truly blessed – great grandchildren. However, families are more mobile now. Children move away from the place they were raised, making gatherings at the family homestead more difficult.

I am the youngest of seven children. I watched our family gatherings grow from 9 to teens, to twenties, to thirties as my older siblings married and started having children of their own. Then I saw those family gatherings shrink as siblings moved away. And now, with the passing of my parents, that family “homestead” is a gathering place for another family.

A friend bought property, built a large house with rooms for the grand children to come and spend the night. When he bought the property, his children and grandchildren were all within a 30 minutes’ drive. By the time he completed the house, all the children had moved away, taking the grandchildren with them.

Some people see this trend and are embracing this as an opportunity to – dare I say it – downsize. In fact, there is a growing industry building “pocket-sized homes” for people who want to downsize and simplify their lives. People hear of downsizing and think of lower quality homes, similar to the term “starter homes.” Some people do want the ultimate in downsizing, such as a “tiny home.” But most are wanting a smaller footprint while maintaining the same or possibly even higher quality amenities. If you will permit me to create my own term, I suggest we call these “finishing homes.” And who does not want to finish well? 

Whether you are going the simple route, or luxurious “Posh Pockets,” downsizing comes with freedom, and responsibilities. Freedom because you have less house to clean, and may or may not come with a community that pays for the yard work, freeing you up to travel – to visit children and grandchildren, drive your RV across, or travel the world. Responsibility because downsizing means less room for all your stuff. There are important decisions to be made:

What do you keep (move to your tiny house)?

What do you sell?

What do you give away?

What do you throw away?

How much do you have to pay someone to hall away what is left.

Over the years, I have had many conversations with people downsizing, either through a move, or through the death of a parent (the ultimate in downsizing). I have noticed a recurring theme (I am a life coach, that is something I am trained to do). The recurring theme I heard over and over again was this: “I can’t believe we/mom & dad kept all this stuff. Alright, occasionally I heard “Oh my gosh, remember this?” – usually followed by “this” going into the garbage can. I sometimes heard people talking about rediscovering an old treasure and keeping it. The real underlying them is this: Downsizing requires you to rethink your priorities. Will you –

Free yourself of clutter?

Find an old treasure?

Pay for a storage unit and delay the decision?

Ultimately, there are so many possibilities in downsizing. But they are only possibilities if you approach the task with curiosity and wonder.

What am I going to find?

Who might find a new purpose for this?

Do my children/grandchildren really want what I am saving for them? (Spoiler alert! If they don’t want it now, the chances are very, very low that they will want them in the future.)

So, pour yourself a cup of warm tea, wine, or perhaps a small glass of bourbon, and make an experience out of the whole downsizing task. You might just find it incredibly freeing, and maybe even a little fun.