A New Year brings a clean slate, a fresh start, and a sobering perspective: The gluttony has ended. The blooms are off the poinsettias. The holiday lights suddenly look stupid. And the number on the scale is real. What better time to take a wide-eyed inventory of, well, everything in our lives — our finances, our health, our careers, our relationships, and our homes, which frankly are as tangled as the Los Angeles freeways.
You know what I’m going to say next: It all starts at home.
For reasons mentioned above, January is the perfect time to reflect and reassess how and where we live. That’s right, before you head full throttle into 2024, and you just start doing what you do because that’s what you do, pause to think, then ask: Am I living where I should be? Have my home and I outgrown each other? Is this the year to make a change?
I pose these prompts because my new book on rightsizing came out this week, so the subject of house fit is front and center. (Another book? What more could this woman possibly have to say? you rightly wonder.)
First, let me explain why I wrote another book. After writing my last book about converting everything you own into a meaningful legacy (when you die) and the books before that about downsizing (as you grow older), I needed to cheer myself up, and talk not about aging or dying but about living, about making the most of right now.
So, as you and I begin a new year, and as long as the topic of personal improvement is on the table, let’s look at whether you are living in the home and the place that is the best fit for you now by considering the following questions:
· Why do you live where you live? Do you live in your town because you were born or grew up there? Did you land there because of a job you no longer have or don’t need to commute to? Is your home near schools your kids no longer attend? Or do you live in the house you have because it was what you could afford when you bought it, but maybe not now? A yes to any of these doesn’t mean you should move, but should prompt you to at least ask: Would you choose the same place again today, or is this place holding you back from a better life? Does your home still fit who you are?
· Where else would you want to live? Where we live influences how we live in major ways. The question of whether somewhere else would be a better geographic, personal or financial fit is worth asking. Would you like to live closer to family or friends? To never have to shovel snow or drive on ice? To experience four seasons? To be able to walk to good restaurants and shops? To live near water or mountains? To enjoy a lower cost of living? You might not get all that in one place, but consider what matters most, and find what you need.
· What does your dream place look like? Imagine a home that is the perfect combination of location, size, furnishings and affordability. It’s close to what and whom you love. It makes doing what you enjoy most possible. It’s neither too big nor too confining. It supports you without your having to struggle to support it. Now hold onto that vision as you explore whether a home other than the one you’re in is a better fit.
· Stay or go? Deciding whether to leave the home you’re in or stay can be an overwhelming decision because it involves many factors. The trick is to break the big decision down into a sequence of smaller decisions. The decision tree can start with the question of whether to stay in your house or move. To answer that consider whether you have more house than you need or want to take care of, or whether you don’t have enough house to accommodate your family or friends, or whether you’re not close to the places or people you want to be near. Consider whether you want to free up some equity to travel, or whether you want to take care of less yard, or live in a community with more people at your age and stage of life? If you decide to stay where you are, figure out what you need to change in your home to make it fit your lifestyle moving forward. If you decide to move, the next question is whether you want to live in the same community in a home that’s a better fit or in a new city. Then ask which type of housing would better fit you now—cabin or condo, on the water or on a golf course, apartment or single-family home.
· What’s stopping you? Now the hard part. Face what is standing between you and your ideal life. Is it your furniture? You can sell or donate it for a write off. Memories? They will stay with you. Fear of change? It’s coming for you anyway. Complacency? Don’t let laziness coupled with thoughts of all the reasons you shouldn’t create your best life paralyze you. Visualize then realize. Sorry to stir things up, but if not now when?
Live. Well. Now. Happy New Year.
CAPTION: Home (Out)Grown — Homes need to evolve to accommodate those who live in them. If your home is no longer a good fit, rightsizing may be in order. A rightsized home is neither too big nor too small. It’s near what matters to you, and contains only those items you need, use and love. Illustration courtesy of Aleutie/Dreamstime.