Agent

Downsizing sounds scary — try ‘rightsizing’ instead

Boomers have so much stuff and not enough space
  • Downsizing and "rightsizing" are different. Rightsizing is the opposite of downsizing. It's the concept of working with what you have by making better use of existing space.
  • The promise is that people can live more fully in their homes if they rightsize. It's about the quality of space needed to meet a household's needs -- not the quantity.

Every agent has heard this story: The kids are gone, the upkeep on the big house is a hassle, and then there are those ever-rising property taxes.

On the other hand, every home has so many precious memories, plus all the wonderful things collected throughout life — how can anybody ever consider downsizing?

When we told friends that we had listed our home, their first question was, “Are you downsizing?” Downsizing implies giving something up, which is especially true for forced downsizing due to foreclosure, loss of a spouse or health reasons.

However, downsizing and “rightsizing” are different. According to Right-Sizing.com, rightsizing is the opposite of downsizing. It’s the concept of working with what you have by making better use of existing space.

The promise is that people can live more fully in their homes if they rightsize. Moreover, rightsizing is not just right for boomers; millennials and Generation X have embraced the movement, as well. It’s about the quality of space needed to meet a household’s needs — not the quantity.

Among millennials, rightsizing has shown up as a minimalist movement that has manifested itself in many ways. Millennials are saddled with college debt and have less money to acquire things.

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They don’t want the 96-inch sofa — they would much rather go on a great trip, enjoy fine food or own the latest technology.

As a result, millennials often seek out downtown lofts with minimal square footage located in prime areas. Others are exploring the “tiny house” alternatives. When they do buy a house, they want less square footage and a more open floor plan.

Baby boomers — ‘But we love our stuff!’

In the 1980s, “He who dies with the most toys wins” was a popular mantra among baby boomers. Along with big hair came the desire for big houses, designer clothes, three-car garages and a TV in every room.

As the decades went by, boomers not only collected 75 percent of the real properties owned in the U.S., but they also needed additional storage units to store their extra stuff.

Along the way, they also collected high credit card debt. The result is that many boomers will end up working into their 70s or 80s because of all the stuff they bought.

Barry Izak, owner and founder of ArrangingItAll.com, contends, “You spend the first half of your life accumulating stuff and the second half trying to get rid of it.”

It’s especially common for older people to want their children to take their stuff. The challenge is that if the children are boomers, they normally have plenty of their own stuff. And Generation X and millennials aren’t particularly interested in their parents’ and grandparents’ stuff unless it’s mid-century modern.

How to help clients let go of stuff and enjoy life more

When someone is forced to downsize, they often experience a sense of deprivation. Izak helps people understand that rightsizing is a form of liberation. You have more freedom, more disposable income, and you are no longer a slave to keeping up with all of that stuff.

Izak encourages his clients who are rightsizing to keep only what is beautiful, useful and what they love. The idea is to keep the best and have less of it. As clients sift through their stuff, Izak suggests asking, “Does this bring me joy?” If it doesn’t, it’s time to let it go.

A major stumbling block in rightsizing is letting go of items that have sentimental value. Just because little Johnny made it 30 years ago, that doesn’t mean you have to haul it around any longer.

In most cases, memorabilia is stored in a box stuffed in a closet. Advise clients to take digital photos of these items and view them whenever you want. Best of all, you won’t have to dig through any boxes, and you’ll have more closet space.

Other times, the right solution is a compromise. For example, you love your grandmother’s dining room set that seats 10, but your new condo only has space for six. Consider keeping six of the chairs and looking for a smaller table.

Where to get rid of the stuff

The Salvation Army (salvationarmy.com) lists the charitable contribution value of a wide variety of items that clients can donate, including clothing, electronics, furniture, exercise equipment, etc.

In most cases, this amount is probably more than they would get from a consignment store. The same is true for used cars, boats and motorcycles.

The charitable value is often greater than what you can sell the item for on eBay or Craigslist, and it’s also a lot less hassle. Be sure your clients list everything that they are donating and get a receipt. Moreover, most major charities will send out a truck to pick all this up.

For collections of broken keyboards, old monitors, dead power supplies and the like, Best Buy has an excellent electronic recycling program. Also, many cities have places to recycle paints, batteries and other toxic substances to keep them out of landfills.

If this process feels overwhelming, a rightsizing specialist can help whittle down what clients want to take with them. Then identify what’s valuable and sellable, and then dispose of the rest.

Many of these individuals will also handle the move, including setting up a new residence.

Tell your clients, “All you have to do is open the front door to begin enjoying your new rightsized life.”

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,000 published articles and two best-selling real estate books. Learn about her training programs at www.RealEstateCoach.com/AgentTraining and www.RealEstateCoach.com/newagent

Email Bernice Ross.