If you follow my blog you know that a couple of my recent posts feature the practice that I call right-sizing. What I hope you’ve picked up on is that right-sizing is actually a way of life—at any age—not just those entering retirement. For anyone just joining us, I define right-sizing as creating a life that uniquely fits and satisfies you and your family with the greatest amount of joy and contentment and the least amount of stress or worry. While the lifestyle offers tremendous benefits to those of us in midlife or contemplating retirement, every person who is interested in a more simple, meaningful, and happy life will benefit. The first post “Step One” focused on the consciousness behind a right-sized life, while “Step Two” got down to the nitty-gritty of finances. In this, the final step to right-sizing your life, I want to throw out a few random thoughts that can help to increase your understanding and awareness. Finally, I’m hoping that each and every one of you who reads this post will offer at least one small suggestion you already practice, or think will benefit you, so that we can all learn and grow together as we right-size our lives.
So here are a several thoughts that I think round out a right-sized life:
1) Find role models for the kind of life you want to live. If you watch a lot of TV chances are the role models you find there are living extravagant, overly dramatic and unrealistic lifestyles. What we can’t see is the day-to-day pressures many of those “personalities” go through struggling to pay their bills or learning to live with other people in a loving and meaningful way. On close examination the “lifestyles of the rich and famous” come with their own set of complications and headaches.
I suggest instead that you look around at the people you know (or maybe have only recognized from a distance) who are living a happy, content and stress-less lifestyle—and then follow their lead. It’s also likely that if you ask those people how they have accomplished their lifestyle, they will be more than happy to share with you what has worked for them. Gradually, as you surround yourself with others who are living the lifestyle you long for, not only will it become easier, your contentment will grow.
2) Research locations to find the right-sized place to live. There are a number of people in retirement who are convinced that they can only afford to retire in another country to happily live the lifestyle they crave. While I have nothing against living anywhere you’ve always wanted to live—I know you don’t have to go international to live a simple, rewarding and relatively inexpensive lifestyle.
By my own example, I live in Southern California in a resort type location and we’ve worked to drastically reduce our living expenses. Truthfully we planned it that way. You can read some of our steps in previous posts if interested—but what’s most important to note is that we could not live anywhere in the world for less money while enjoying our high quality lifestyle, than where we live right now. Sure we had to scale down the size and scope of our home as well as forgo certain amenities—but by carefully “right-sizing” we made sure that our home offered dozens of alternate low or no cost benefits that made the trade-off easy in our minds. Every single one of us has that option but it does require intention.
3) When you love your work (or life) you’ll automatically reduce the need to spend money. I think if you pay attention you will find that people who dislike what they do tend to spend more money trying to find happiness to offset the struggle/stress they have at work (life). On the flip side, when you love your work (life) you will spend more time doing that—Why not? It makes you feel purposeful and happy!—and you’ll be much less likely to spend money self-medicating by shopping and buying needless stuff to overcome your unhappiness.
No matter what your age, start looking for work (or life practices) that satisfy your soul on at least a few levels. The more your efforts provide you with satisfaction, and bring meaning and purpose to your existence, the more you will be able to recognize the simple and everyday things that offer you the greatest happiness and peace.
4) The only person who fixes your income is you. Far too many people complain about their income—especially many who are retired and call it “fixed.” But the question remains, who fixed your income? Unless you were forced to quit or retire due to health reasons, there are still dozens of ways to continue to contribute to the world in meaningful ways. Besides, if you make an effort to find work that you enjoy and feel it has meaning and purpose—you might be surprised at the unique opportunities that show up and how much extra income can flow into your life.
5) Make gratitude a habit that you practice every day. While I realize that this suggestion could be added to just about every article I post on this site—it HAS to be included when writing about right-sizing. Not only does gratitude make you feel better about your self and your circumstances the minute you start doing it—it also puts the focus on all the incredible good filling your life right now. The big problem is that we often tend to overlook and become conditioned to everything that is good and working well in our lives—and let the problems occupy our main attention. Instead, when you make gratitude your habit, your mind zeros in on the good and overlooks the less desirable. That my friends, leads to a much happier right-sized life.
6) Storyboard the right-sized life you want to experience. Ever heard of storyboards? (Sometimes called a vision-board) A storyboard is a visual way to subliminally remind ourselves of what we would like to experience in our life. How do you do it? Get a big piece of construction paper, fill it with photos and words that describe your right-sized life in 5 years from now, and then hang it on a wall in your house where you will walk past it every single day. We hang ours right next to the garage door entrance to our house.
Thom and I have made several storyboards throughout our lives. The latest one was made right before we decided to right-size our home and start practicing a more simple and sustainable lifestyle five years ago. Of course that didn’t mean we wanted to sacrifice—my storyboard was loaded with fun events and travel opportunities. But to fulfill our right-sized ideas we added things like solar for our home, a hybrid car, a raised bed garden, and certain technology tools that made our lives more enjoyable. It also included pictures of us involved in healthy activities, having friends over for dinner, going dancing and taking walks in nature. Five years later just about everything on that board is now a part of our lives. This summer we are working on a new board to help us visualize the next five years. Maybe it’s time for you to make one of your own.
7) Find Your Tribe. Nearly every study done on successful aging points out that those with strong social ties live long and happier lives. My father was a great example. For most of his life he was deeply involved with the local Elks Club. While such membership organizations aren’t as popular these days—it was very important for my father. I am convinced that his heavy social connection to this club contributed to his long, happy and relatively healthy life. Whether your tribe is family or friend related it doesn’t matter—what matters is that you feel connected and close to a circle of friends. Find your tribe to live a right-sized life.
8) Love the one you’re with. Let’s be honest here—if you aren’t deeply in love with your significant other and prefer being with him/her more than anyone else, then retirement could be challenging for you. I have a difficult time understanding women who constantly complain that when their husband retired that it drove them crazy. What? If you consider your partner nothing more than a bothersome roommate—that’s another discussion altogether. But if you really, really want to enjoy a right-sized life, make sure the one you live with is someone you prefer to be with above all others. (And yes, that means your kids or your own parents too.) Sure its great having a wonderful relationship with your children, your family and girl-friends/guy-friends—but in this day and age a live-in relationship should be a partnership of choice—not an obligation or convenience. If not, find someone else to connect deeply with and make them your right-sized life partner.
I’m sure there is more I could say about right-sizing, but for those who are interested it’s time to “be the change you want to see in the world.” Of course, no matter how many ideas I offer, if you aren’t ready or don’t see the value, none of these will make much difference. However, if you suspect that the life of routine and always wanting more continues to make you unhappy, or you’re stressed all the time, give these ideas some thought. And if you are considering retirement in the coming years, please remember your happiness in retirement will have less to do with how much money you have saved, than your deep awareness of what it is you value and the steps you take to enjoy it. In the end, I’m fairly convinced that you’ll find out, just like Thom and I did, that a SMART and right-sized life is just the practice you need to stay happily alive for the remainder of your life.
*Please comment below with at least one thing in your life you consider “right-sized” to offer each of us more ways to experience the benefits.
I just found your site and am scrolling through to read “essentials” now, and I will come back to read the rest over time. One of the biggest lightbulbs in my life was realizing that I could write my own script for the next adventure of my life, retirement, and that it could reflect the happiest days of my life: right after high school when I was “homeless” and living out of a backpack, and, when I was a graduate student. Of course I don’t expect a replica of those times because I have changed in body, mind and soul, but comprehending that I can live as free spirited as I want is the most valuable asset in my retirement toolbox. Rightsizing my life is making this happen. Your articles provide thoughtful, practical steps to take, which allow me to implement my dreams, values and inspirations into real life. Thank you!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Brickhorse! So glad you’ve found a way to “rightsize” your life. Ideally, as we all get a bit older we are able to sort through all the stuff of our lives (figuratively as well as physically!) and make adjustments that really do lead to a more fulfilling and content life. Sounds like you are well on your way. Thanks for sharing. ~Kathy
As usual I am a little late finding a great post. Rightsizing–I love the term. It reminds me a little of the passage from Ecclesiastes–“To everything there is a season…” In retrospect, the pattern of my life has mostly been rightsized. First married: 600 sq’ apt, few dishes, little furniture, parks for recreation/exercise, coin laundry (off site). Raising a family: 2300 sq ft. fixer upper, more dishes, large roasting pans & many 9×13 casserole dishes, added furniture, great yard for recreation; super size washer/dryer/numerous clothes lines. Empty nest (but 2 German shepherds) : 1600 sq ft, renovations not needed, modern & solar, moderate dishes; some furniture, gave away all but 1 large pan, only kept 2 8×8 casserole dishes, moderate yard, exercise room, cute laundry room, two small drying racks. Followed the same pattern for extracurricular type things.
Thanks for the post–lots to digest.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi CTY….thanks for stopping by SMART Living and leaving your perspective. And it’s GREAT. You explained the path that so many of us take as we progress in life. We start out with whatever everyone else has told us we should need and want…and as time goes by we realize that isn’t necessarily “right” for us. Of course some of us never “wake up” and we certainly all wake up at different times. But doesn’t it make for such a more satisfying life to “right-size?” Thank you for your very descriptive journey! ~Kathy
Kathy, your posts give me so much to think about. Three years ago I went looking for what it was I wanted. I had no direction when I started except the knowledge that life wasn’t working for me. I had rented my last apartment based solely on the accessibility of the apartment and the cost, nothing else. This time I listed what I wanted, and was able to find everything that I needed, and learned quite a bit about what I didn’t need. Not only is this place cheaper than my last, but being smaller and having less stuff I found more time to explore new hobbies. Life really is better when you take the time to reflect first on what you want.
One thing that came out of my move was deciding what I didn’t want any more and the number one item on that list was the negative relationships I had. Some with family, some with friends. These relationships were toxic to me and while it took time to disentangle myself from them, it has done a world of good for my well-being and opened the door for relationships that were healthier for me.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Lois! Your story is a great example of what I like to think is something deep within us pulling us toward our next evolutionary growth. As you said, you might not have consciously known what you wanted, but something within you knew what it was and sort of guided you in that direction. But even then it didn’t happen completely. As you said, you started out just looking for accessibility and cost–and gradually came to the understanding that by being more specific about your needs and growing interests (and what you didn’t need) you could find a place that fits you perfectly. THAT’s a great story of right-sizing. We are all so unique that every single one of us will have a different “right” but when you find it–it is great!
And thank you also for bringing up how important our relationships are to a right sized life. I’m pretty good at letting go of toxic relationships, but I struggle with “sort-of” relationships. For a lot of us, (definitely me!) it has been difficult to let go of a relationship with either a friend or a family member when they are nice enough people, but have absolutely nothing in common with me and no interest in taking things beyond the superficial. Because I consider myself pretty busy, I much prefer to spend my time and energy with people I resonate with and are close to–than casual acquaintances–but I’ve had a harder time just cutting things off. But thanks to rightsizing I am considering what “fits” me in all ways and doing better as I go. And as you say, it helps tremendously with your personal wellbeing and opens the door to much healthier relationships. Thank you Lois…hm….I think there just might be a blog post in all those ideas! ~Kathy
That’s a thought provoking write up .Right sizing is what we all need- very frequently.I understand that we all are so infected & indoctrinated by our surroundings that we simply feel compelled to keep up with the Jonses.The end result is not a very pleasant experience.
Gratitude is the sturdy boat which helps us cross the turbulent sea of frustration and dissatisfaction ,when we “self- maroon” ourselves.
Also when you say we must love the one with whom we spend our life,it is of utmost importance to love our own selves first.Because with our own selves do we spend the entire life.Of course that does not mean we ignore our significant relations in life.Rather we are better able to greet them well when we are good to ourselves first.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Mona…thank you for your GREAT comment on this post. I completely agree that I neglected to say that we must primarily love ourselves in order to achieve a happy and peaceful right-sized life–we are after all, the one that we will spend the remainder of our lives with, regardless of who else is around us. And if we don’t love, respect and care for ourselves we will have to live with that experience above all others. Then, as you say, once we are in tune with ourselves, we are better able to live with others. Thank you again for pointing out that very important part of the right-sized life! ~Kathy
(Clap-Clap-Clap) This was such a good post, Kathy, and I’m happy to share it.
You covered so many good points. What it all really boils down to is that we’re the only ones responsible for our happiness and how we live.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Pat! Glad you liked the post…but what about sharing some of your wisdom and plain talk about right-sizing. I’ve been reading YOUR blog long enough to know you have lots to share with all of us…I guess we’ll all have to come by and check it out. 🙂 Actually, I get ideas for blog posts from all the blogs I follow anyway–it’s so much fun to cross-pollinate that way! And yes, you got the major point about how we create our own happiness! ~Kathy
Oops – Guess I didn’t do much of that did I, Kathy. I think we’ve pretty much down-sized/right-sized most of our married lives together. When we wanted to start a family and have me stay home, it took us 9 months to get down to one income. We did it similar to the ways you suggested by doubling up and paying off bills and getting rid of extra vehicles. It was tight but we did it.
Now, in our golden years, I look around and see all this stuff we’re not using. If I get past procrastinating, I’ll look to unload it, i.e. piano, old vinyl records. Maybe, Craigslist, E-bay, garage sales, or donating. There are things gathering dust that may have some value and others may enjoy.
To earn some extra money and work from home, you can check out E-Lance (https://www.elance.com/). Not only with earning a little extra $, it’s also a good place to hire someone for a job you need help with. I did for a professional-looking cover for my e-book.
Don’t want to get carried away, Kathy. But, you’re right, if you work at it, there are lots of opportunities out there that will fit anyone’s situation in making life easier and happier.
Kathy Gottberg says
No worries Pat! 🙂 Thank you for throwing in some things that have worked for you. I think one of the most powerful things we can all do is share ideas –and even if they don’t apply directly to us–I think we are all encouraged for showing that not only CAN it be done–but in most cases the journey of it offers so many more benefits than we expected. Plus, by your own admission, if you just took the time to sell off (or even give away) some of the stuff you’re not using you might have a bit of cash laying around to buy something that you really liked and/or needed. AND thank you especially for the link about earning a bit of $—I think most people sell their talents short and if they just looked around a bit they might either be able to earn a bit more money–or do a trade with someone for something they want/need. Thanks for “coming back” and sharing!!! ~Kathy
Always welcome, Kathy. You’re the best! 🙂
Kathy this was a great post. I think the idea of a vision board became somewhat mystical and a bit unbelievable because of that. But there is something about the concept of a vision board that, at its very basic level, really works.
I know that five years ago I created a journal that detailed (visualized) where I wanted to be in five years and five years later I am where I wanted to be. So I am a great believer.
You remind me here that I might be coasting now and when you have no plan (vision) of where you are going, you do not go anywhere or you go somewhere where you wonder how you got there. 🙂
I am going to get busy on my five year plan for the next five! Thanks!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Kelly! Glad you liked the post and it spurred some renewed thoughts for a current vision or story board too. Because so many of us process in a visual way it just makes sense to me that it can be used as a fun way to list our goals. I try not to get to caught up in some of the criticisms of certain ideas as long as they seem logical AND prove themselves worthy of the time and effort. Thanks for verifying that they do help move you towards things you want to experience in the future.
And while I think it is important for us all to stop pushing and appreciate where we are in the “now”–there comes a time when I think it is equally important to know that there is plenty more to come. And as you said, a story board can make sure that what comes next is something you really want to experience. ~Kathy