Lifestyle right-sizing made easier

Right-sizing and transitioning into a new home

Photo by Michal Balog / Unsplash

In order to live fully and age successfully, we must embrace change and keep moving forward. I want to shine a positive light and new perspective on a life change that is viewed by many as negative, and one to be avoided rather than embraced. Adopting a simplified lifestyle will help you retain your freedom and autonomy. It will also open up space to do more of what you enjoy, so you can continue living fully and make the most of the coming years. How could anyone pass up this golden opportunity?

I fully understand that the downsizing process and physical move can be a huge hurdle to get over. Here’s a “big picture” overview of lifestyle right-sizing made easier to get you started with preparing for your own move and living transition.

Hold on

This is the first secret ingredient for a successful transition: Start this process by focusing first on what you want to hold onto and take with you to your new home. Think of this like you would if packing for a trip or vacation — you can’t take everything you have, so you must pick out the key things you’ll need and want when you reach your destination.

Start by creating your “must keep” list of items for your new beginning and right-sized lifestyle. Make sure that you hold onto the furnishings and treasures that mean comfort and home to you (e.g. your favorite chair, the desk where you spend so much time, your valued tea cup collection). Also zero in on the items you use regularly. And don’t forget to consider which activities, interests, and hobbies you want to continue to pursue along with the meaningful relationships you want to retain. The choices you make will be what you create your new home around. They will also form the foundation for your new life, so give this careful thought and consideration as you make your selections and start your list.

Move on

Next up is focusing on the tasks needed to complete your move and get settled in your new home. The key for this piece: Stay focused on your move and what you want to retain, and ignore everything else for now. By following this hard-earned advice, the number of decisions you’ll need to make will be simplified immediately, and your stress load will be diminished. This approach will also give you a lot more flexibility, and it’ll make your decisions feel less “set in stone.”

Once you get your selected furnishings and belongings moved into your new home, get unpacked and settled in as quickly as possible (including hanging pictures on the walls). Then live with what you brought with you for at least a week or two, as you start the adjustment phase. If you find that you moved too much stuff, take the excess back to your old home and add it to what’s left to be passed on and cleared out. If you forgot anything or wish you had brought something you didn’t, it’s still where you left it and can be retrieved at any time.

Pass on

Step three involves tackling the job of clearing and releasing your excess belongings, along with getting your former home ready to sell. I know that most people start here when they’re considering a move like this, but I’ve intentionally put this as the third part of this process. Why? Because I’ve found that most people have a far easier time letting go of their excess “stuff” (as well as the home they moved from) one they are settled in their new home with their key belongings, and once they have started experiencing the benefits of their new lifestyle.

By pushing this step back and calling it “pass on” (i.e., handling or transferring to another), it can also become the easiest part of your transition. You’ll start by passing on any of your remaining treasures to family and friends. You’ll also want to give the special people in your life an opportunity to lay claims on any surplus items that hold sentimental or useful value for them.

The next part will depend on how much is left to be cleared from your old home. If you still have a lot of excess stuff, bringing in an estate sale or auction service may be your best bet. If there’s little value left, I’d advise that you turn the remaining sorting and clearing job over to a trusted family member or a senior move service, such as Empty the Nest, a free (in most cases) Twin Cities based service that will clear out your home wall-to-wall to ready it for the next family, and will donate clothing and non-perishable food to area charities – plus give you the donation receipts. Find them at or call 763-544-0106.

Last but not least, if you own your old home, you’ll need to take the steps needed so you can pass it on to new owners. For this piece you’ll want to seek the expert counsel of one or more trusted real estate agents. Let them advise you as to what you will need to be done to facilitate the sale. Keys for this piece: Pick an agent that you believe is realistic about the value of your home and what needs to be done to get it sold quickly. Also make this process as easy on yourself as possible. Your health and well-being are worth as much as any proceeds you’ll receive from this sale, so make sure the “passing on” approach you choose for your home is one that’s best for you.

Take on

This is the final secret ingredient to making a successful transition, and the one most often missed by people going through this experience. Change seen as an ending is often resisted, but change viewed as a new beginning can be embraced and welcomed. By making this mind-set shift, you’ll understand that this transition has given you the opportunity to release what you no longer want or need in your life, and free up space for the NEW to come in. This will make all your hard work and efforts worth it. And this approach will allow you to truly reap the benefits and rewards of making this lifestyle change.

Sue Ronnenkamp is a national recognized expert on later life transitions and vital and successful aging.