From the Experts

Five Ways to Rightsize Your Space

Not that long ago people buying or remodeling their homes wanted as much space as money could buy. But that changed in 2008, when economic, employment and financial uncertainty became the new reality. That’s when rightsizing came into vogue to make the most of smaller, more economically living spaces.

Rightsizing has become the answer for those homeowners who haven’t lost their yearning for the feeling of space, but want it more user friendly with minimal maintenance. Rightsizing works because it can literally be applied to any size or type of home. The concept calls for using existing square footage in a more flexible, creative and functional way. The following five tips offer some suggestions for how downsizing can be applied to rightsizing your own home.

1. Finding Your ‘Active’ Space

The first step in rightsizing a home is to evaluate how you use the rooms and space. Are they relevant to what you and your family’s needs are today or are they based on outdated lifestyle? Does your home have formal room configurations (separate living rooms, dining rooms) that seem to gather more dust than users? The reality is that most of our active time is really spent in a few key rooms for specific reasons (eating, entertainment, sleeping, home office work, etc.) while extra rooms and spaces are filled with furniture or personal items that are no longer needed.

So, ask yourself, could you use more space in your home office? Are you one of many who work from home? Are you an empty-nester whose kids have moved on to a life of their own? Could you be using those spaces for more useful functions, such a spacious hobby or craft room, a quiet reading or TV area, his-and-her’s separate office spaces, perhaps a room for projects? Re-claiming space for its best functionality is at the core for every rightsizing project.

2. Space Planning is Your Friend

Rightsizing a space without going through the process of a well thought out plan is like trying to re-create a gourmet recipe without knowing the ingredients. Work it out on paper before making structural changes. You should also purchase, move or get rid of furniture you don’t need.

Think through the function of each space and after careful measurement, make a scale drawing of your room and furniture (you can also use free 3D online tools such as “Better Homes and Gardens Room Planner” or hire a space planning expert to help). Consider important issues such as window heights, lighting, cable TV/electrical outlets, natural traffic patterns and the scale of furniture (both height and depth). You’ll also want to keep options open in your plan for potential room changes to meet your ongoing lifestyle needs.

3. Mixing Old and New

Once you have determined how to use a space, it’s time to determine if you can incorporate existing furniture and personal possessions into the new space or whether you need to purchase new storage pieces to reduce clutter. Design practices have shifted in recent years to a more blended design which successfully integrates different styles of furniture and accessories for an eclectic look that allows us to continue using treasured items.

These personal gems reflect our personal style, invoke memories of our life with friends and family or have substantial family history. But, there are times when keeping furniture we aren’t using just because ‘it’s pretty’ or ‘we paid a lot of money for that’, actually works against our goal of a healthy, enjoyable living environment. So, be ready to ask yourself whether that end table Aunt Helen gave you is something you really want to incorporate into your new space.

4. Facing ‘Stuff’ Overload

As a professional organizer, I work with individuals every day who are on ‘stuff overload’. We’ve all been there. You wake up one day and are suddenly aware you’re drowning under an avalanche of things you’ve acquired from just normal living. It’s official. Your home is now just an over sized storage unit with a working TV and kitchen.

Rightsizing your home means purging things that are no longer an active part of your life today. If it hasn’t been used in the last six months to a year, high odds are you don’t need it. If you aren’t using it, why not share it with those that do want or need it? Start purging items one small area at a time. Finish each area before you start on a new one. Be truthful with yourself about when was the last time you actually used it. If you are keeping something because you think you ‘might’ use it at some point, you aren’t going to be able to make space available for things you truly can and will use.

5. Flex Space for Today and Tomorrow

The idea of integrating ‘Flex Space’ into homes has increased rapidly in recent years because of a significant change in mind set, both socially and environmentally. It’s no longer uncommon for an adult child, years after completing college, to return home to temporarily live with their parents after losing a job or for an elderly parent who needs care to move in with adult children who are still in the process of raising their grandkids. Effectively re-thinking space in all aspects of your home to adapt to these situations while still enabling you to meet your own needs is an important component in rightsizing your home.

Some examples of ‘flex spaces’ include:

  • converting a ground level den or office into a bedroom for an elderly parent;
  • reconfiguring an over sized, unused room into two functional rooms for a home office and art room or
  • removing an unneeded dining room wall to create a more open kitchen and entertainment area.

Thinking outside of the box and creating spaces throughout your home that’s supportive of your lifestyle will go a long way in helping to reduce stress, lower maintenance costs and provide many other benefits.


By: Deborah Moyer, CRTS (Certified Relocation and Transitions Specialist), President, Your Organizing Answer

 Photo credit: Image by by Sira Anamwong


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