Constantly Changing or Changing Constantly?
As if our experiences in getting to midlife weren’t enough, the housing freefall and the almost (it seems) constant drumming of poor economic news suggests one truth: things change. It reminds me of the reality learned during my days of consulting for a Fortune 500 company and when managing law firms: The only constant is change!
Maybe you’re working from home more often these days, or maybe you’re not sure where (or whether) you’ll be working after the next quarter. Perhaps you’ve lost a loved one, or want to work less so you know you’ll have less income. Or, perhaps your (former) home equity was the biggest part of your nestegg and most of it’s gone.
Many people in such circumstances consider downsizing — moving to a smaller, easier-to-manage home. But if that new job doesn’t come along or furlows get removed, or if loss of equity has robbed you of your ability to move today, then downsizing may not be an option right now.
But rightsizing may be. We tend to think of our home as a fixed and inflexible structure, but homes can change, too.
Rightsizing is the concept of working with what you have by making better use of existing space. It is a process in which you analyze the spaces in your home, how you currently use them and the practical possibilities to adapt them to better serve your needs and lifestyle. The expectatiation is that you can live more fully in your longtime family home if you rightsize — and avoid the wrenching process of moving, at least for the foreseable future. Whether you’re driven by immediate or future needs, now may be the time to look at your home in a new way.
The rightsizing process starts with an analysis of the existing spaces within your house and how they’re being used. Since home designs and individual lifestyles are diverse, it’s not possible to formulate a definitive list of questions, but typical issues include:
- Do you really use all the rooms of your house?
- Are there rooms that are used more for storing furniture, books and papers than any other activity?
- Is your dining room a walk-through space on the way to elsewhere?
- How many times a year does someone visit your guest room?
- What routine activities seem uncomfortable or inefficient in your home’s current setup — in the kitchen, bath, or wherever you relax or do professional or hobby work?
The point is to assess how you actually use the defined spaces in your home. For example, a foyer may be superfluous if your main entry is through the back patio or garage. Similarly, the oversized great room of the 1990s doesn’t necessarily work for every family. This space might incorporate too many functions to be shared comfortably: TV viewing, eating, homework, reading or game playing. The dining room that gets used three times a year can be repurposed. And for many of us, one home office may simply not be enough; in this economy, more than one family member may be working from home.
How do you want (need) to live in your house?
Next, ask yourself what kind of spaces you really need in your home now. These questions often arise from lifestyle changes that typically occur in midlife, which may make new demands on the spaces available in your home. For example:
- Now that it’s just the two of you, how can you make the house truly your own?
- When Bill cuts his hours next year and starts writing his memoir, where will he work? (You don’t want that messy guy in your home office.)
- With the tough economic tomes of today is there a chance one or more of your childre may move back in? Would you be able to make them and you comfortable?
- You’ve always wanted to paint. Where can you set up a studio?
- When Dad or Mom can’t live on their own anymore, how will you accommodate them in your house if y ou need to?
- What do you have to do so that you can grow old in this house?
Of course, there are many more questions depending on the size and floor plan of your home. But the answers to this set of questions typically can be found in your answers to the first set, which pinpointed the underused and misused areas of your home.
Rightsizing solutions – as varied as your imagination
Start by forgetting about the traditional room names. Give yourself permission to reimagine how these spaces can be used based on your emerging needs. Essentially, start with a blank sheet of paper and write/draw some ideas and answers to the questions you’ve raised in the above exercise. If walls or doors need to be moved, then get some help with what’s practical and what it will cost by calling in a couple of contractors to get additional ideas and cost estimates.
Finally, decide if you want to spend what it will take to make you home livable for your current needs until you are willing or able to make a move in the future.
a Seniors Real Estate Specialist
Do you have a real estate question? For FREE Real Estate Help and Advice tailored to Seniors and their Families please visit www.aseniorsrealtor.com, or call me at (916) 421 5421
CREDIT: Information for this piece was drawn from a recent AARP.com article written by Gale Steves. She is the author of “Right-Sizing Your Home” and her book is available online at Amazon, www.BarnesandNoble.com and other bookstores.