By Steven R. Fleming

As I write this, I am in the middle of moving. The move is from a large, five-bedroom home with a lower level “mother-in-law suite” to a one-level, two-bedroom with den duplex. It’s the right move for me at this time in my life, but I am faced with what to do with all my things, which will not fit in my new home.

“Downsizing,” they call it.  But I don’t like that word. It implies, at least to me, that I am going “down” in some part of my life, somehow taking a step backward. I prefer to call it “rightsizing,” because this move is the right thing for me. I need to keep those pieces of furniture and personal possessions, which will be “right” for this new chapter in life. The rest needs to go. This move is a positive step forward for me, not a “downer.”

In the process of this transition, I am using ideas I taught to thousands of persons in my pre-retirement planning and retirement living seminars. Some of these may hopefully assist you when the time comes for you to “rightsize.”

*Do some preplanning. Most “rightsizing” comes when we move from one place to another. Even if you are moving to roughly the same space, take the time to walk through your new location. Look at the walls, windows, doorways, closets and other areas. Make rough sketches with key measurements (room sizes, window placements and other spaces), which will dictate where furniture can go, or not go. Check available storage space. How much will you be able to put out of sight such as holiday decorations or other seasonal items? When you actually make the move, you will at least have an idea of what will go where.

*Whether or not personal possessions go with you is not only dictated by space but also by your “attachment” to those items. Even if you have the space, now is an ideal time to “rightsize” your possessions. Find a home for items which are no longer needed or fit your new home and lifestyle. Many people hold a “moving sale” for these items to generate a little cash. In our area, I belong to a free Facebook “online” yard sale site. There are more than 12,000 members so when I post items for sale many people will see it. An alternative is to use a good consignment shop or auction house.  Find those that specialize in your things. Just don’t be disappointed if what you have doesn’t bring in a lot of money. Collectibles, for example, which brought me joy over the years, are no longer in demand.  Remember, you are “rightsizing.” The freedom that comes doing this is very valuable in and of itself.

*Now is the time for you to have your children or family come in and take things to their homes. One family I know had several children, so they gave each the same quantity of different color “sticky notes.” They were told to put them on items they wanted. If more than one was interested in the same item, they were told to “negotiate” who would get what. Straws were picked if negotiations failed. This went far more smoothly than I anticipated and these items stayed in the family.

*Items which have special memories attached, but you really don’t need can be difficult. A seminar participant reminded me it is the memory the item carries that is important. She told me to take a photograph of the item and put it into a “memories” album (physical or digital). Then get rid of the item. Another participant gave special items away as wedding or housewarming gifts, including their personal “story” of each item in writing. This was much more personal than a gift card or using a registry and preserved the memory for the next generation.

*If you are not sure about something, don’t fret. If you can, put it into a storage box dated six months or a year from now clearly marked on the box. Then, if you haven’t needed or used the item by that date, dispose of it. It clearly is no longer “right” for this chapter of your life.

The wonderful Shaker song helps put my “rightsizing” in perspective:

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free, ‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be … ”

Don’t  downsize. Rightsize!  I have shared some ways I am “rightsizing” for the next chapter of my life and already am feeling “freer” as a result.  It’s exciting to anticipate what lies ahead. May you, too, have a similar experience. 

Steven grew up in Hagerstown and has spent his life working with people in their life journeys. For more information or free resources, go to


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