This excerpt is from Marni Jameson’s new book, “Rightsize Today to Create Your Best Life Tomorrow.” Reprinted with permission from Health Communications, Inc.
The kids are gone. You are retired or about to be. You no longer need to live close to their schools or your work. You’ve outgrown the house; that is, it’s no longer a fit. Rooms go unused. The neighborhood isn’t like it was. So why are you still there? I’m betting it’s complacency. Or perhaps you’re afraid of the unknown costs of buying a new place, including property taxes and the cost of the move itself. Moving means upheaval at every level—financial, emotional, social, psychological. It means going through all you own, facing lots of memories and, for that matter, your own mortality. It means dealing with uncertainty, a thousand decisions and hassles, and actual grief. Whether you are moving to a house that is smaller, similar in size, or larger but that offers more of what you want, you will still be closing a chapter of your life, which feels like loss.
And this is why many older adults remain tethered to homes that no longer suit them, maintaining more house than they need, using time, energy, and resources that they could spend on pursuits they enjoy more. (Would you rather pull weeds or travel?) Meanwhile, attics and garages, basements and back bedrooms become way stations and catchalls for so much yesterday, for the Scout uniforms, yearbooks, sports gear, unfinished needlepoint canvases, ancient paint cans, dime-store flower vases, and more, guaranteeing they will leave a big mess for those behind them.
So when those over a certain age—say, in the last third of life— are looking to downsize, clean house, and move all at the same time, many just say, “I’ll just stay put, thank you very much.”
It’s not just their massive bedroom sets, armoires, hutches, and twelve-leaf dining-room tables holding them back but also the intangibles. Their memories, their family history, their identities are all in jeopardy, or so they think.
If you ask most older adults to get rid of a lifetime of acquired stuff and move from the large family house, where they raised the kids and hosted umpteen potlucks and as many pick-up ball games to a place that better suits their current lifestyle, financially, physically, and socially, and that is easier to maintain, they will tell you they would rather stand naked on the freeway.
And yet, that reluctance to lighten up, let go, and move on is often all that stands between them and a better life.
We can do this.
You’ve probably heard the expression, be careful what you wish for. That is because most significant changes in our lives start with a vision. Dreams are powerful. For better or worse, we often attract, or some call it manifest, what we think about.
For instance, without dreams of the kind of person you want to be or marry, the kind of career you want to have, the kind of home you want to live in, the kind of friendships you want to develop and maintain, the places you want to go see, or the hobbies you want to pursue, you’re destined to live by default, not by intention. You have a choice. You can either live your life like a piece of driftwood bobbing on a current, or a dandelion seed puff going where the wind blows you—or you can grab hold of your life by the steering wheel and take control.
Unless you make the effort to picture what could be and aim for that, you are destined to dwell in what is. Maybe that’s fine. Or maybe you’re missing out on a life that could be much better. For many people over the age of fifty-five, that best life is yet to come, but only if you pursue it with intention.
So let’s dream for a minute. Let’s imagine that you get one more shot at landing the ideal home for this golden time in your life. This home offers the perfect combination of location, size, furnishings, and affordability. It’s near what and whom you love. It makes doing what you enjoy most—whether taking classes, fishing, volunteering, cooking, gardening, hiking, being with loved ones, going to the theater, or socializing—possible. It is the right physical and financial fit. It’s neither too big nor too confining, and it supports you without your having to stress to support it. It’s an easy keeper. And inside, you have only the belongings you need, use, and love—and no more. Your home has everything you need and enjoy and nothing you don’t—no unnecessary stuff is weighing you down.
How does that feel?
Get a pencil, and from the safety of your armchair we will conjure your next best place.
About the Author
Marni Jameson is a nationally syndicated home-design columnist, award-winning journalist, speaker, and frequent TV guest. Her humorous and helpful column, “At Home with Marni Jameson,” appears weekly in two dozen papers nationwide, reaching several million readers and more through social media and her blog. Her fans include readers who have been following the author’s home adventures for two decades. She has been featured on such primetime shows as NBC Nightly News and Fox & Friends. As one reviewer wrote, “Think Erma Bombeck meets Rachael Ray in one humble yet helpful package.” She is the author of seven books, including Downsizing the Family Home: What to Save, What to Let Go, a #1 Amazon bestseller that won numerous awards.