The sometimes-negative connotation some people have when they hear the term “downsizing” is understandable. The term may conjure up images of that time twenty years ago when their Uncle Johnny lost his job and their cousins had to move to an apartment because they could no longer afford their house. Or it may make them feel uncomfortable if they’ve reached a “certain age” and they move to a smaller home because their large home became too much to take care of financially and physically.
“Rightsizing” is so right now.
Perhaps the term “rightsizing” should be substituted for the term downsizing. It may seem a little smarter, a little trendier, and a little more upbeat and positive. Another term that some people use to describe downsizing is “smartsizing.” It’s often applied to corporations and other workplace environments (including governmental, educational and institutional), but it can just as easily be used to describe a personal journey to a different life.
Regardless of what the process is called — by people going through the process themselves or by those observing others go through it — it’s part of a trend toward re-imagining how people want to spend their time. Many downsize primarily because they want to spend money on experiences and not on high utility bills and other costs associated with maintaining a large house. It’s also about how they want to spend their time. They want to be free to take off for a 3-day camping weekend rather than being stuck cleaning the house and taking care of the yard.
Another motivator for people who downsize is the opportunity to have a fresh new perspective on life. Instead of schlepping four (or fourteen) miles to the grocery store by car once or twice a week for a big shopping excursion (and then tossing 30% of the food because they didn’t feel like cooking it or they because they simply overbought), they’re enjoying walking four blocks to the local Trader Joe’s or Safeway every day or two to buy only what they need that night. And because many smaller-living options are located near suburban “village centers” or near walkable neighborhoods in urban environments, there are many more options for quick take-out food, sidewalk cafes, coffee shops, bakeries and farmers markets — as well as for socializing with new and different people than those they’ve become accustomed to.
“You don’t have to be lonely. You can choose to be happy.”
Any conversation about downsizing, rightsizing or smartsizing should mention the social benefits associated with moving into a new area. An article in Arlington Magazine ( “The Potluck Club” May/June 2017) carries the subtitle, “Casseroles, camaraderie and the pursuit of happiness in a Crystal City apartment building.” It describes a 50-ish single woman who moved to Arlington, Virginia, from suburban Chicago. for a work-related transfer. After spending a few Saturday evenings by herself, she hopped onto the building’s intranet and posted an open invitation to other residents to join a potluck club. Within about 30 minutes, 15 people had responded. Today, the club has 120 members ranging in age from 20 to 70, who routinely get together for food, drinks and companionship.
One member of the potluck club said, “I’m single, never married, no kids. Out in the suburbs, it was just impossible [to meet people].” Another said, “Before the club, I went to work, went to the gym and sat in my apartment watching TV. Now, I can’t remember the last Friday, Saturday or Sunday that I wasn’t doing something with a friend. It’s make a huge different to my happiness level.”
Moving to an apartment or condominium community can be unappealing, especially for introverts who often try to avoid human contact. Even for extroverts who have no issue with living in a multi-family development, there are elevator issues, noise complaints, people who break the rules and smoke on their balconies and problems with parking-space hogs. But for many people who move to these communities from the suburban sprawl, the proximity to work, shopping and cultural events and the ability to connect with others far outweighs the negative aspects.