Downsizing Your Home or Right-sizing? Sustainable Living

One of our friends, a well-known author who recently passed 65, decided to “downsize” his home. His reasons were numerous, though none were financial (except that with less to pay to live, he would have more to share with those in need.) His wife was not in total agreement at first, but she has adjusted over time. Without children, they really didn’t need all the space they had. 

downsizing your home to a high performance home

What is downsizing? 

The word “downsizing” implies different things to different folks, and many of the implications are negative. For example, John Q. was terminated from his job because the company downsized. He’s been on public support ever since. Frank and his wife, Mira, had to move into a 2000 square foot town home from their 3500 square foot home in the suburbs. After Frank retired, their income could no longer sustain the larger home’s ongoing costs, including taxes, maintenance, and utilities. The cost of living was somewhat unpredictable on a long-term scale. For them, fixed income in the face of potentially escalating costs was not sustainable. But parting with the extra space and some of the “stuff” was nearly as hard as telling their children they’d have to stay in a motel when visiting. 

By contrast, Bob and Dale Cunningham, of Croydon, NH, “downsized” by combining the resources of an old energy-hog home and their even draftier cottage on Rocky Bound Pond. They tore down the cottage so they could take advantage of a green building design practices and build a new energy-efficient home on the same site. Geothermal heating and cooling, combined with the new home’s heavy emphasis on maximizing envelope and shell performance, keeps them cozy or cool year-round. This kind of downsizing is really right-sizing – making maximal use of your space so you can live your life, without worrying about what month of the year the oil tank should be filled to keep heating costs as low as possible. And it’s prudent, too. Here’s a case study.

What is right-sizing? 

The term “right-sizing” was coined by Gale Steves. He is the former editor of “Home” magazine, whose 2010 book, Right-Sizing Your Home: How to Make Your House Fit Your Lifestyle, launched a dialogue about this concept.  The book was geared to helping people figure out what they really need to consider before remodeling, or even before building a new home that matches their lifestyle, without wasting an inch of space, utilizing sustainable energy sources and high-performance construction elements planned from the start.

Part of the dialogue has been carried on by bloggers like Mary Umberger, who isolated five key elements of right-sizing based on Steves’ book.

  1. Perform an audit of every room (or space) in your home, listing all the ways it is used now, followed by a second analysis that lists how you would prefer to use each space.
  2. Prepare for surprises, one of the most common being how rooms like the “living” room, “dining” room, and “family room” are actually used versus how you had expected them to be used
  3. Ask yourself which room(s) you could do without, or use for other purposes. Steves’ research with 300 couples before writing her book found that the three most common answers were: (1) The living room; (2) the foyer; (3) the dining room.
  4. Be sure to evaluate the “office space honestly” so all parties who share your living space may find it useful. This evaluation may show you what modifications are needed immediately, and which can wait.
  5. Finally, analyze your eating styles, particularly when and where you typically eat meals. If it’s the family room, certain changes might make that experience more enjoyable.

We can help you make the most informed decisions about downsizing your home and right-sizing into a new home, for you or for a loved one. Right-sizing has the same goal as sustainable living. Our goal is to help you to “down-size” your life and make your life more economically sustainable for the future. Our net-zero homes reduce the costs and utilize sustainable and universal design practices to give you the “right-sized” home for all of your family members for years to come.