Nest Too Big? Maybe It’s Time to “Right-Size” Your Home

Large nest
As the old saw goes, the only constants in life are death and taxes. Everything else seems to be “subject to change without notice.” Actually, however, changes come in two flavors: those that happento us and those we initiate.

Because we are wired to seek pleasure, the changes we make on our own are usually positive — maybe even joyful. We try a new haircut, find a better job, exercise, marry our sweetheart, make babies, remodel the house, etc. We dare to dream.

It’s the uninitiated changes — especially the losses we suffer — that tend to throw us for a loop. We may lose our hair, lose the job, lose our health, lose the spouse to divorce or death, lose the closeness of family as parents die and children leave the nest, or lose the home to foreclosure. Our instincts are to hunker down and nurse our wounds, and our instincts are correct.

Grieving is necessary, but there comes a time to face the new situation and take charge of our changes. And the biggest change we can make, the one that can have the greatest impact on our happiness, is called “rightsizing.”

Ciji Ware offers this definition in her excellent book, Rightsizing Your Life (Springboard Press, 2007, p.4):

Rightsizing… is a conscious, practical, and psychological evolution in the way one lives one’s life, a process that enables people to create new surroundings that will profoundly impact the way they feel and behave. It leads to simplifying, de-cluttering, perhaps even redesigning ones’ environment. It may even prompt a move – either to smaller, more practical quarters or to a home (or homes) that could be larger, but more suited to your needs. The transition will, if executed properly, liberate you from many real-life burdens and free you in ways you cannot now imagine.

At first glance, it seems totally overwhelming. Truth is, we like our ruts. We grow attached to our comfortable habits, even to the point of confusing our habits with who we are. Yet now is the time to re-examine our lives as objectively as possible and ask ourselves, “Does my old life still fit who I am today?” If not, it’s time once more to dare to dream.

In the first part of her book, Ware guides readers through that process in chapters titled, “Am I Ready to Rightsize?”, “Is My Family Ready to Rightsize?”, and “How Long Will It Take to Rightsize My Life?” Part II walks readers through seven “simple” steps of rightsizing. The final chapters are dedicated to the good part: living life to the fullest in your new surroundings.

One area that the book downplays is the financial side of rightsizing. If rightsizing means redesigning, remodeling or removing from your present abode, you will require cash. And cash, especially for seniors on fixed incomes, is not always readily available. While older adults may be sitting on thousands of dollars in home equity, it doesn’t make much sense to take out a line of credit that must be paid back with social security income or pensions.

Fortunately, there is a safer way for those over the age of 62 to tap into the cash they need for rightsizing. Government-backed Home Equity Conversion Loans (HECMs) allow borrowers to get the funds they need to improve their lives without having to pay back the loan until they permanently move from the home. For example, if your rightsizing plan calls for moving to a smaller place, you could first move, then take out an HECM (a safe type of reverse mortgage) on the equity in your new home to help pay down any existing debt, furnish the new place, travel, help your adult children meet their expenses, pay those inevitable taxes, or whatever else you dream of doing.

The best part? Rightsizing with — or without — a reverse mortgage puts you in charge of your own change. And that can be a joyful thing.

For more information, take a peek inside Rightsizing Your Life and read the reviews on Purchases made through this link benefit ReVisions Resources.


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