31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 4 — Sizing Down



Those of you who are subscribed to my semi-monthly newsletter have been following along on our latest adventure over here on the central coast of California. On August 10th of this year, we moved from this God-given home set up against the foothills, a place of refuge and retreat for us for the past 18 years. It is located on an acre, with a long driveway and large parking area, a pool in the backyard and loads of fruit trees and roses all over the place. Plus about 3,000 square feet inside, perfect for entertaining — both church groups and family. We found it after nearly five months of searching, me living in a parishioner’s guest house and my husband making the 120 mile commute during the middle three days of each week. And it was a gift when it landed in our lives. A gift.

But the times, they are SO changing! We’ve been retired from our former lives for almost five years now, both of us finding other meaningful work to do and many more hours in the week to spend putzing around our home. And we began to realize that we didn’t need quite so much home to putz in anymore. So I spent about 18 months looking and praying and last spring, this little gem showed up. Tiny yard, about 1000 less square feet, and a view from the entire back of the house. It’s a 1950’s tract house, yet still has character and we are just now settling into it fully, after many weeks of renovation here and there. (Mostly adding built-ins full of shelves for our too-many books. Even after purging, there were a lotta them things!)


Those twice-a-month newsletters have been full of before-and-after pictures, plus some reflecting on what it means to us to choose to do this now, while we’re still sturdy enough to endure the slings and arrows of a physical move. Neither of our parental sets made this move soon enough — they were in their 80s and our dads were each terribly frail and ill. Neither of our moms was able to make choices about what to keep and what to toss, so their kids ended up doing the biggest part of that particular load. After touring our local retirement community (and putting our names on the the wait list — which tends to be many years long!), we opted to size down now by moving ten minutes away, and continuing in home ownership.

One of the big plusses of this house is a good-sized family room (every other room is quite a bit smaller than our previous home) which has its own bathroom and an outside entrance. We figured that if we should ever need a live-in caregiver, that space would be perfect.

Hopefully, that won’t happen.  But you never know, do you?

No, we don’t. We just do not.

We’re glad we made this choice, even though we’re both feelin’ the aches and pains of harder physical labor than we’ve done in a while! It’s a good space for us, we even love our tiny little bedroom-with-a-city-view. PLUS — each of us has a small study. And that, I might add, is ESSENTIAL, if it is at all possible. A long-married couple needs a little space from one another when they’re together pretty much 24/7, know what I mean?

Downsizing has been a good idea. And I’m thinking all the time about ways in which the principles learned in our crosstown move might apply to other areas of living as well.

Have any of you downsized in some way? What are the plusses and minuses for you??

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  1. Oh I’m going to be listening here on this one. Gradually I am going through the house room x room. Pretending we are going to move. It’s not totally as if, but I am tossing lots of stuff. We’ve lived here 34 years. Gradually we are sending stuff along home w our sons who stll had stuff here just because they could. It’s freeing. At least it’s a start. Our move and where exactly is a few years ahead if us.

    • Great idea to move slowly through your home, room by room. Wish I’d done a bit more of that before this long, hard push to resettle! Many blessings as you make this life-changing decisions.

  2. We’re not to this point yet, but we have discussed the possibility for when my husband retires somewhere in the next several years, mainly because with a drop in income we probably won’t be able to afford the mortgage payment we have now. It would be sad in one way not to be able to host family gatherings, but on the other hand, sometimes I am looking forward to passing that baton on. We just moved to our present location five years ago due to my husband’s work, and it was a little less square footage, which has been a big help with cleaning, plus it has NO STAIRS! Love that! Our last two houses were split levels, and my knees were beginning to protest.

    I like the idea of two separate studies. Though I love my husband, with his job I have gotten used to spending quite a lot of time alone and seriously wasn’t sure how I was going to handle having him home all day when he retires. 🙂 But a separate space for each of us sounds perfect.

    I like the idea of going through all our “stuff” so that the kids don’t have to. There are things we keep now because we have the space to, but I don’t know if we’ll truly ever use. Yet I am not ready to depart with them just yet.

  3. You are so wise to make this move while still able in body and mind, Diana. It looks like a beautiful home! I’m glad you’re finding it to be a blessing. I’m ready to down-size as soon as our boys are out! I don’t know if that will happen, but maybe I should start the preliminaries now. Praying many blessings for years to come over your new home.

    • Maybe I should have said something else in this post, but I’ll say it here. When we moved to Santa Barbara 18 years ago, it was a downsize, as I noted in my response to Barbara above. But we made sure there were enough rooms for our kids to come and visit us . . . with THEIR kids. While your grandkids are young, it’s a really good idea to have enough living space to house them whenever possible. So don’t downsize too soon or too much, Laura. Those guys will be coming home all through college — and maybe afterwards, you never know! All 3 of mine came home again — even the married one, when she had to commute the last semester of her senior year of college because they had moved up north for her husband’s job. The younger two were with us all through grad school. They we moved north — and they all wanted to come to Santa Barbara whenever they could manage it. Now our son lives in town, too, so there is space there for the daughter who lives the furthest. They did stay with us here last weekend, but it’s not quite as comfy as they’re used to. It worked, but somehow a pull-out sofa is just NOT the same as an actual queen-sized bed. :>)

  4. Oh, do I hear you about those stairs. The home we lived in before the one at the top of this post was 1200 MORE square feet and was 2 stories. And I began to hate those steps before we left. Hate them. We have exactly one step in this new home and even that bugs me a little. Probably because I’m all too aware of my own propensity to trip and fall! Blessings on you as you grapple with these realities over the next few years.

  5. As our home is of modest size, and we love our location, we don’t intend to move anywhere else if at all possible. I agree, though, that you and your husband have made a wise decision.
    Blessings, Diana!

  6. Downsizing has been something on our minds, more because of yard care (we’re on 2-1/4 acres of semi-rural woodland) and the potential of future home maintenance issues than any desire for less size. The house is all on one floor except for a ‘games room’ above the garage (which used to be our youngest’s suite before she married and moved, and now is a guest suite), so stairs aren’t an issue. And two of the main floor bedrooms became our separate offices. We’ve been in this house for 19 years and are reluctant to move. But I think there might be value in simplifying just by downsizing superfluous possessions. Then, if a move becomes desirable, at least some of the work will have been minimized. (I think I’m rationalizing!) I’m glad you’re getting settled into your new space.

    • Your house sounds pretty perfect for you right now, Carol. And I think you would be wise to sift and sort through the accumulation of the last 19 years and then see how it all feels. It was actually the amount of property that got to us first – and we are delighted to have a very small lot now, yet one that has an expansive view, which makes it feel much bigger than it is. We each have to make this decision for ourselves, in our own unique circumstances. Perhaps this will be your last home — perhaps not. I think the goal is just to be wise while we can, you know?