This week SMART Living 365 is delighted to introduce you to Janis Heppell as our guest blogger while I am traveling. I have been reading Janis’ blog Retirementlly Challenged for a couple of years and believe her perspective on rightsizing is something many of you will appreciate. Thank you, Janis, for filling in with SMART thoughts while I’m traveling.
When my husband and I bought our home almost 25 years ago, retirement was a distant dream. We had been preparing for it most of our working lives, but we still had quite a few years before we’d be in the position to take the plunge. We chose our home based on its general location and the particular neighborhood, not on its suitability after we left the work-world.
Now that we are retired, how our home functions in our day-to-day lives has supplanted our concern with work commutes. This shift in focus often prompts many other retirees to rightsize to a home that better suits them. Maybe they want a smaller, single level house, perhaps they want to live somewhere without harsh winters, or maybe they decide to move closer to their children and grandchildren. For whatever reason, rethinking where they call home makes sense as they embrace their new lifestyle.
For now, my husband and I have decided to stay where we are. We are fortunate to live in a climate that offers nice weather year-round. We like our neighborhood and socialize regularly with our neighbors. And, right now anyway, this just feels like home to us.
Because we are staying put, we are focused on making our home work better for us now, for our current – and future – selves, not the people we were. In our quest to rightsize in place, we are slowly but steadily working towards what I call our S.P.O.T Goals:
Simplified, Pared-down, Organized, and Turnkey.
A big focus has been on simplifying our day-to-day lives. We want to minimize what we don’t want to do so we can spend more time on things that do matter to us. This includes simplification of our financial life, simplification of our yard care, and simplification of time commitments. I’m even considering simplifying my transportation by selling my overly-complicated and unnecessarily powerful gas-powered car and replacing it with an electric car.
Like many – if not most – retirees, we realize that we have too much stuff. Some of the stuff is important and useful, but much of the stuff is just… stuff. Through a combination of donating, selling, and just giving things away for free, we have managed to make a large dent. If you saw our kitchen, living room, bedrooms, and bathrooms, you could think “mission accomplished.” However, if you walked into our offices or the garage, you’d understand that we have a ways to go.
We still have too many boxes filled with the flotsam and jetsam of our former lives, including unfinished household and craft projects and random tchotchkes picked up along the way. I even have a few boxes of items once owned by my parents that I’m having difficulty letting go of. Even though we can fit two cars in our garage, there are boxes of stuff on shelves that we haven’t opened for years.
I’ve always been a collector of paperwork and articles. If we need to know when we installed our alarm system, I have the receipt. When we need to find the owner’s manual for an item purchased long ago, I can find it in a matter of minutes. Planning a trip to Mexico? I have lots of travel articles that I’ve collected over the years.
Fortunately, modern technology has made getting and staying organized easier. Between machines that scan and digitize receipts and Google, it is hardly necessary saving anything in file folders anymore.
In real estate, turnkey is defined as a home that is fully functional and ready for occupation. By simplifying and automating, our home functions better and requires less effort for its day-to-day upkeep. This also helps when we travel for extended periods since we like to have house sitters for the peace-of-mind they provide. Up until now, we’ve had people we know stay in our home, but we’ve also been intrigued with the idea of house-swapping. Whether we are home, or it is temporarily occupied by friends or even complete strangers, a turnkey home means having fewer things to worry about.
Rightsizing in place is a work in progress. But, as we move further along on the path to a fully simplified, pared-down, organized, and turnkey home, the stress of complication and clutter fades as we gain more time to fully enjoy life and our retirement.
Janis retired three-and-a-half years ago and hasn’t looked back. She loves to stay active traveling and swing dancing with her husband,enjoys relaxing with a good book, and relishes the freedom to explore her creative side. On her blog, Retirementally Challenged, she writes about her various adventures, and shares observations about life in general and retirement in particular.
Nice post, Janis. I agree that the effort of simplifying is worth it. My husband and I are about 7 years past a huge purge of ‘stuff’, and I am now noticing a bit of clutter collecting. So, maybe your next post can be about the need to ‘Re-SPOT’. Cheers – Susan
Dr Sock says
Janis, you are so organized! Despite sorting through and eliminating lots of stuff in order to move this summer, we aren’t committed to the “P” part of the strategy. In fact, now that we are settling into our new place, we are taking up some new activities that will lead us to acquire more “stuff”. So far, this has included yoga clothes (me), equipment for woodworking shop (Rob), new easel for art studio (me), fuel for new wood stove (both), and so on. I see a new couch for the living room in our future, and some kid-sized furniture for the grandkids too, who are now close by. And as long as we have our elderly pets, we won’t have a turnkey house (and now we also have goldfish to care for too). It is great fun, and I suppose paring down will have to wait for some future time in our lives.
Hi Jude! The items you listed are things that support your new life and will bring you pleasure. I think that’s what rightsizing is all about: getting rid of whatever no longer serves you, and keeping (and maybe acquiring) whatever does.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Everyone! Thanks to again to Janis for this great post and to all the great comments. Rightsizing is near and dear to my heart (and yeah, that’s why I wrote the book) and it is awesome to see so many people engaged with the idea in their own way. And yes, that’s the beauty of rightsizing–it is what fits each of us the best. May we all continue to support and encourage each other to find that rightsized path. ~Kathy
Rightsizing, yes I like the sound of that too. Better than the slightly negative aspect of downsizing. But it is sometimes hard to accomplish. I’ve done some of it this past year…divesting myself (painfully) of my grandmother’s baby grand piano that loomed over my tiny living room and glared at me for ignoring it. And it’s hard to part with some of the tchotchkes that are a connection to a place and time in our lives. And then there’s the temptation, after having sloughed off the detritus, to fill those places with newer version of “stuff.” It becomes a continuing process.
Hopefully that baby grand went to a good home where it will be played regularly and cherished. I found that it was easier to get rid of items I inherited if I knew they were going where they would be appreciated. I try so hard not to fill in the empty places. I’m not always successful, but I try.
I like the expression of Rightsizing instead of Downsizing. Sounds less negative. However, like some of your other readers, when we moved cross country 9 years ago (both of us still working, as we still are), we moved from a 5-bedroom house to a much smaller 2-bedroom condo. It helped us do everything you talk about with SPOT. Four years later, we moved back to the other coast, and bought a larger 2-bedroom townhome that we figure will be our ‘forever’ place. Bedroom on first floor so when we age into our 70s and 80s, we won’t need to use stairs if that’s difficult. We’re trying to use library books instead of buying, and spend less on a mortgage so we can travel whenever/wherever when we want. Besides all that, decluttering helps us feel so much lighter and freer, doesn’t it? I live in Henry David Thoreau territory, where he urges: “Simplify, Simplify, Simplify. Thanks for the great post.
Moving from a 5-bedroom home to a 2-bedroom condo – across country no less – would be a huge challenge but would certainly instantly focus you on what’s truly important. Even though we don’t plan to move anytime soon, I’m trying to pare dawn and simplify as if we were. I do love the freeing feeling and the calming look of an uncluttered environment.
Gary Lange says
Great suggestions Janis. We especially like the simplifieed and paired-down parts. I remember reading one time about counting all of the bags we carry into our homes after shopping and KNOWING we need to pair some of this stuff down. Always good to think through any purchase!!! Thanks.
After almost a lifetime of unfettered purchasing, I found it difficult at first to stop myself and think carefully before buying something. Do I really need this? Is it of any true benefit or is it just another “thing” to have? Is there a better use of my money? Now that we are more focused on getting rid of stuff, it is apparent how many “must haves” were just momentary “want to haves.”
Everyone has their own solution to the life time of accumulations challenge. We had a cross country move so that helped us move the needle. We got rid of so much that when we purchased a new entertainment center, I didn’t have anything to put on the shelves. 🙂 One of the things we do now is make extensive use of our local library and have no need to purchase and retain books. I also organized the entire family collection and got it all labeled and stored in a plastic container so I know where everything is and also took photos out of old albums and into labeled boxes. I drive to our local Goodwill store regularly and feel a great relief when I drop off a bag or box for someone else to enjoy. I also use Pinterest for a variety of topics. Happy sorting. 🙂
Moves are a great motivator. This acorn hasn’t fallen too far from the tree so I haven’t made any moves that require more than a few friends with trucks. My plan now is to declutter as if I am making a big move. I know that one of these days I may have to so I’d like to be ready. And, in the meantime, I get to enjoy a neater, less packed house. We also make good use of our library and ebooks.
I love love love your SPOT goals acronym! We truly are alike in that hubs and I have gone through exactly the same thought processes over the last 5 years. We had purchased 21 acres with the thought of designing and building a new home – and then we realized that it would be CRAZY for us to start all over in a place that would require that much time and effort. Now we are in the process of paring down and making our own home here more organized and turnkey. We realized we really love our location, and want to spend our voyage years on so many other pursuits! Thanks for a “SPOT on” post!
It sounds like you made the right decision for your living situation. We have nowhere near 21 acres (not even 1), but we sometimes feel that we have way more yard than we want to deal with. Loving your location is so important. I know that I would miss our neighborhood friends terribly if we moved.
Anabel Marsh says
This all makes so much sense, and we do some of it – but not enough. One of us is quite untidy and the other one* tends to sigh and give up after a while because what’s been cleared just seems to come back twice as big. Maybe when we’re both retired and John has more time we can tackle it together. We have certainly started thinking about how we rearrange the house when that happens. We have one study which during the week I regard as mine and I would not take kindly to being evicted! So we need to make another study without having to leave our house because we love it and where we are.
*That would be me.
I am not a natural purger. That’s why I have to take little bites of the whole S.P.O.T. pie. We are lucky to have two offices in our house. I once thought that it would make sense to combine them and use one of the rooms for something else, but decided against it. Since we are both retired, it’s important that we each have our own space (as messy as they can get).
Still the Lucky Few says
I especially liked your reference to the recipes you collected over the years, and never use. For some reason, recipes are harder (for me) to part with than many other items. Maybe it’s the love that has gone into every meal I cooked for my family. Also, many recipes are in my older sister’s handwriting, and some contain script copied from my mother’s favorite’s. How to part with them? I’m sure taking the first step would help! Thank you for this great post, Janet!
I have some recipes written out by my mother and they aren’t going anywhere (even if I no longer use them). Some things just are meant to be cherished. So many of the recipes in my file folders are just for random dishes that looked good so I clipped them out. I never use them, though. It’s so much easier to use the googles or Pinterest. Recipes I use over and over again go in a recipe scrapbook. By the way, I saw somewhere that you could have tea towels or aprons made that are custom printed with images of your old hand-written recipe cards. I thought that would be a nice way to preserve those memories.
Thank you, Janis and Kathy – These SPOT goals make sense to me. Better still, they can each be applied a little bit at a time, with a larger goal in mind. I can’t wait to meet up with the two of you soon! Be prepared for a PILE of questions!
Hi Donna. I get overwhelmed if I try to take on too much at once. As long as I have my ultimate goal in mind, I can make slow and steady progress. I’m looking forward to seeing you soon also. You won’t be the only one with questions.
dan antion says
We have realized for some time that we need to take these steps, but we are only recently getting started. You seem to have made good progress.
We’ve made some progress, but we have a lot left to do. I have discovered that taking on this project in small chunks works best. And to-do lists… there is little in life that I like more than checking items off a list. 🙂
Anne Mehrling says
*sigh* Our intentions are good. We’ve had guests in our house for four months straight, and we were able to keep up with meals and laundry. I hope that counts for something. We need to continue decluttering when no one is sitting on a chair we want to give away.
Ha! That is a lot of entertaining, meals and laundry! Are they gone yet? If not, maybe they could each take a box of stuff as a parting gift. 🙂 Good luck transforming your intentions into your reality.
Yes Janis you and Kathy are on the same page! My husband and I talk about our yard. We both love to garden and get joy from it so until we can’t we will keep it up. When it becomes too much we will hire out the big physical chores.
We are starting to be more open to hiring out the big chores in our yard. Not only is the physical labor daunting, but loading it up in our cars and carrying the cuttings to the greens recycling isn’t something we want to do. I love the “gardening” part, but not so much the “sawing and hauling” part. Thanks for your comment!
Beth Havey says
Great ideas. I wish I could wrest myself from paper. That’s very hard for me. And with the
weight of internet attacks, it’s getting harder to believe that banking online etc etc is the
best way to go. Thanks for helping Kathy out, she’s great.
After spending last week freezing our credit reports on five sites, opting out of pre-approved credit offers, and requesting our credit reports, I am starting to agree with you. I read somewhere that the U.S.P.S. is less safe, but I’m not so sure that’s true anymore.
Kathy is great and I hope she is enjoying her time off! It’s been fun filling in for her.
Hi Janis, As always your advice is SPOT on! Right-sizing is a lot of work, and getting rid of stuff can be emotionally difficult. I am still holding onto three boxes containing my grandmother’s old stamp collection. I have no interest in collecting myself, and the stamps aren’t even worth their postage value, but the fact that I ended up inheriting her hobby makes them worth holding onto.
I have discovered that if I can find someone who is passionate about the item (like a stamp collection) I don’t mind passing it along. I would much rather know that it is in the hands of someone who appreciates it then that it is taking up room in the back of my closet. I often have to give myself permission to let inherited, but unwanted, things go.
Lynne Spreen says
The O point, Organized, has really changed, as you point out, due to digital everything. But here’s how it has changed for me. I used to keep notebooks or folders containing topics of interest. Places I want to travel, crafts I want to enjoy, writing tips for my fiction writing, etc. But then I realized I never look at those folders, because the information is all over the internet, where it’s updated. I can look at Pinterest for new ideas, and I can even search my blog for certain posts I know I did on a particular topic. So holding onto the paper becomes less and less important. Thanks for an inspiring post, Janis!
I’m right there with you, Lynne! I still have a couple of file drawers filled with that sort of thing. Have I ever looked at the articles before a trip? Nope. Do I look up recipes that I’ve saved? Um, no. All of these files are located in the black hole otherwise known as my office. Some things need to be kept, but I’m pledging to myself right now that I will go through my files this weekend and purge. Thanks for the nudge!
Karen Hume says
This was a very enjoyable post, Janis. I like the acronym, and am all for the practice of – um – spotifying??
I live in a single level home (not even a basement), with halls that are extra-wide because the previous owner (who had it built) wanted to be able to easily display his art. So my house is perfect for present and future. However, a trip to anywhere is always by car. I envy you the walkability of your neighbourhood.
Spotifying… I like that! Your house sounds like it will be perfect for you well into the future. Unfortunately, trips to our area grocery stores and most other errands require us to get in the car too. I would love to live in a neighborhood that was completely walkable, but I wonder if that would mean living in a dense, urban area… and if I’d like that. Thanks for commenting, Karen!
cathi turow says
Great post! My husband and I want to stay in our house as long as we can. We say we’ll have to leave when we can’t walk up and down the stairs anymore. And…I hope if we have grandchildren someday they can visit the house we live in now. On the other hand, like you, we have a lot of STUFF! I think about it often and your post is inspiring me to actually do something about all our junk.
Hi Cathi! I like to think of our stairs as providing exercise for us at the moment. I’m sure at some point they will probably be a challenge. My folks stayed in their two-story home almost to the end for both of them; they just moved their bedroom to the downstairs. My husband and I have discussed making some modifications to our house so that we’d have that option too. In the meantime, working slowly and steadily on de-cluttering and simplifying makes the home we have now more livable and enjoyable, and any future changes easier to make.
Ally Bean says
I like your easy-to-remember acronym. I’ve been slowly preparing our house for us in retirement, but have also been working toward my theoretical scenario in which someone offers us big $$$ to sell our house and be out of it in two months. Your “T” is the perfect way to explain my ideal home sale dream.
Hi Ally! That’s the great thing about slowly working towards a clutter-free house: you will find greater enjoyment living in it now and, if that someone offers you the big bucks (after admiring your pristine, beautiful, newly remodeled interior), making the move is so much easier. I love your “theoretical scenario”!
Laurie Stone says
Great tips about right-sizing, Kathy, especially about turn-key ready. That’s what I’m trying to do for our house, lived in 15 years! Not easy, but starting months ahead of time.
Thank you for your comment! You are smart to start early… it’s not an easy process. We have a notebook with “how to” instructions (including pictures) to help anyone taking care of our house. We consider it a living document and are routinely updating it (including adding information based on the suggestions of our house sitters). I’m especially glad you commented as it has introduced me to your wonderful blog, which I am now following.
I love your S.P.O.T. goals and approach, Janis. By the sounds of it, you are making a lot of progress towards rightsizing your place. With the digital age, it is easier to get rid of some things, like books, but when it comes to stuff from your parents, souvenirs and memories, this becomes much harder.
When you live in such a wonderful location as yours, in a mild climate, I can imagine it would be hard finding a better place to live. As you say, you can always house swap or travel to discover those other places.
Hi Liesbet! You are so right, items with little or no sentimental value are easy to let go of – especially when they can be donated to thrift stores that benefit a cause you believe in. So much harder are those items that hold a lot of memories. Boxes of those items just might still be here after I’m gone (then they will become someone else’s problem 🙂 ).
Good advice. I’ve been retired 6 years and I’m still working at some of these but I’ve made a lot of progress. I love uncluttered and simple and I keep striving for that.
Hi Kate! I have learned that the best approach is to give yourself time and do it in small chunks. I tend to look at all that needs to be done and feel overwhelmed. It’s taken us a lot longer than I thought it would, but we are starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel (just don’t look at my office 🙂 ).
Antionette M Blake says
I am looking forward to paring down and right-sizing after our youngest son leaves college.
I remember feeling like I had finally grown up and was on my own when my mom took over “my” bedroom and made it her office. Even though I knew I could always come back if I needed to (and I did need to once between jobs), I felt like I had officially left the nest. Thank you for your comment!
Lovely photo of you and your husband. Also, getting to know you a wee bit more. Excellent that you can stay in the same house when you have retired. It will be interesting to see what we choose as our next home, not sure if we will build again or buy one that we can put our mark on!. Thanks for sharing and shall have a look around this interesting site.
Hi Suz! As much as I love our house and neighborhood, they do have some limitations. Our house is two levels – no problem now, but it could well be in the future. In addition, although we live in a “walkable” neighborhood in the sense that it’s safe and attractive, you have to get in a car in order to grocery shop and to do other simple errands. If we weren’t so tied to our neighborhood (and if wouldn’t end up costing us more to move, even to a less expensive area), we’d probably consider a condo in a smaller community.
Hi… I’m retiring in 18 months. Thank you for the motivation!
Yay! Good for you! Decluttering and rightsizing seems to be on just about everyone’s to-do list when they retire. It starts with all the career clothes and other work-related items you no longer need, then moves to cabinets and closets. Good luck with your journey!
Janet Miles says
What wonderful tips, Janis. My husband has retired and I am getting there, although I want to work a little longer so I can get higher Social Security benefits. Your tips will help a lot as we transition. Kathy, you picked a great guest host and I’ll be following you now too! Thanks
Hi Janet! It’s smart for you to choose to work a bit longer for added benefits later. I retired two years after my husband did (although it was hard to leave him every day as I went off to work). You’ll find a lot of great tips on Kathy’s site, from rightsizing your home to slowing down and simplifying your life.
Hi Kathy! Thank you so much for allowing me to contribute a guest post on your blog! You really have helped me focus on rightsizing our retired life so we can spend more time enjoying ourselves. My S.P.O.T Goals are a direct result from what I’ve learned from you.
Enjoy your travels!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Janis! THANK YOU so much for filling in with these SMART thoughts while I’m gone. I’m sitting in LAX right now waiting for my flight to leave and it makes me REALLY happy to see so many people engaged with your post–you have definitely touched on a part of rightsizing that many people can relate to reading. Mahalo and I’ll talk to you soon. ~Kathy