By Rita Wilkins
The Downsizing Designer
What do you do when you want to downsize and your spouse or partner doesn’t?
Just know that you are not alone. It’s very common for one partner to want to downsize and the other not. As an interior design and downsizing designer, I am frequently asked to be part of that conversation, often times acting as a mediator to help the couple determine if:
- They should stay at home and age in place.
- They should downsize to a smaller, more manageable home.
I am often able to help diffuse the battle while keeping peace in the family and coming to a peaceful resolution.
What I have discovered is that there are definitely ways to break the impasse and have common ground.
Top 5 Ways to Break the Impasse and Get on the Same Page if You and Your Spouse Are on Opposite Sides of the Topic of Downsizing
Let each of them talk about their concerns without judging or cutting each other off. In that conversation, try to understand that letting go might be more difficult for one but not for the other.
- Sentimental items can be a reminder of special times, people, and places in our lives. Letting go of those triggers, upset, and fears can be very emotional and challenging for either of the couple.
- Another is letting go of the homestead or the house that you raised your children in. The neighbors that become your dear friends, local restaurants, stores, and ball fields bring back memories, making it difficult for them to leave what’s comfortable for them.
Having them talk about it and letting them express their emotions, helps the other partner understand why they want to hold on to the memories. After listening he/she may begin to realize…
- That the kids are grown.
- They now have their own lives.
- That the neighbors have also gotten older and that they may also be downsizing.
- That the memories are actually what they hold on to, not the sentimental items or the house itself.
Having them realize the memories will always be there, often helps the other to start listening to the other side. Conversely, it’s important to have a conversation about why the other partner wants to move and to change, so let them talk about why that matters to them so that the other partner can begin to understand their point of view.
Understand That Change Is Hard. Harder for Some Than Others.
Fear of the unknown is one of the reasons people have a hard time facing the idea of downsizing. It can be scary. It’s uncomfortable to leave what you have known for many years.
Understanding that your spouse is afraid of change can help with the discussion of whether you should stay and age in place or downsize. When you can convince them to at least look at smaller homes or new neighborhoods as part of opening their eyes to what may be possible, it might get them excited about the possibility of starting a new life in a new home together.
Regardless, change is hard. It’s harder for some than others. When you give them time to adjust to the possibility, that life could be easier in a smaller home and that it can give you more time for fun things you’ve been wanting to do. It helps to open the door to the possibility of downsizing.
Take Baby Steps and Start The Decluttering Process.
- Start to declutter your home now.
- Get rid of things you no longer want, need, or use.
Once you begin to see the progress, you see how much easier it is to live with less. The other partner might actually come to you and say “Why don’t we downsize?”.
Let it be their idea.
Create a Vision for What Your Life Will Be Like in Five or Ten Years if…
If you stay…
- You will need to renovate your bathroom and other areas of your home to age in place.
- You might need to renovate for first floor living to avoid climbing stairs.
- You will have to continue maintaining your home, which includes the ongoing cost of labor and repair.
- You must address the question: “If one of you dies, will living in a big house alone be right for you?”
- You must also consider this question: “Will your kids have to manage all of your stuff after you are gone because you haven’t dealt with it yet?”.
If you downsize…
- You move to a home that is already prepared for aging in place (i.e. walk-in shower, skid-proof flooring, handrails, additional lighting).
- There will be no renovation headaches or costs.
- And move to a fifty-five plus community, maintenance is by the home owner’s association intended for carefree living.
- You get rid of your stuff now, so you will not be leaving it for your kids to manage when you’re gone.
When you weigh the physical, financial, and emotional costs of both options it will help you make a better-informed decision.
It takes time. Help each partner understand…
- The enormity of the decision.
- The upheaval that it will temporarily cause.
- That one partner might arrive at a decision sooner than the other.
- That it takes time to make a decision like downsizing is life-changing.
Use this time of discernment to…
- Visit friends who have already downsized.
- Ask many questions.
- Ask how they made the decision to downsize vs aging in place.
- Ask what it’s like not having a big house to maintain, how that has impacted their lifestyle.
If you are in the midst of a battle to downsize or not, I hope that these suggestions will help break the impasse.
- Remember to listen and understand your partner’s emotions regarding a big move.
- Understand that change might be easier for you rather than your spouse.
- Take baby steps. Who knows they might actually come to you and say, “I think we should downsize now”?
- Weigh the cost of downsizing, the physical, emotional, and financial costs.
- Be patient. It takes time to make the right decision for both of you.
I would love to hear from you!
- Comment down below on how you think these 5 techniques can help you in your conversation about downsizing?
- Schedule a 30-minute complimentary call for any interior, downsizing and lifestyle consult HERE.
Download your free ABC’s of downsizing HERE.