What Should Couples Do When Downsizing in Retirement?

Happy couple rolling out new rug in their new home

Happy couple rolling out new rug in their new home











A move to a small space later in life can be rife with baggage—both literal and emotional. So we asked The Experts: What advice would you give to couples who are downsizing?

How to Think About Downsizing Your Life
SARA LAWRENCE-LIGHTFOOT: I confess that I do not speak from personal experience. I have lived in the same big house for 40 years; the home where I have raised my children; where I have written my books, the place that is layered miles deep with family stories and memories. I have never tried to “downsize” my life, although I have spent countless hours anticipating—with dread and excitement—the moment when I will choose to make my exit; and I know it will be like all exit moments, filled with the twin feelings of loss and liberation. I have, however, witnessed the downsizing of several of my friends, and talked to scores of folks whose stories of their “Third Chapters” have included redesigning a new life in smaller digs. Here are a few of the insights that I have extracted from my watching and listening.

We need to change the language we use.

“Downsizing” conjures up images and thoughts of decline and weakening. We envision a life that is descending, withering away, drawing to a close. Perhaps if we reframe the process, we will see its generative—rather than deteriorating—possibilities; we will focus on the gains rather than the losses.
Rather than downsizing, let’s talk about “clearing” and “composing.” As we excavate the layers of our former life, we must clear a space, by getting rid of the baggage that has weighed us down—physically, emotionally and spiritually—for too long.

My sister—who has “downsized” more than once—reminds me that the Latin word for baggage is “impedimenta,” which loosely translates to the things that get in the way of our forward movement. We must banish those encumbrances; get rid of the old burdens in order to light the path towards the new.

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