SLT042: The Upside of Downsizing

Downsizing is a word we hear a lot about these days, and I’m surprised at how often it’s talked about in the negative sense versus the positive. If you’re not familiar with the term, typically, we hear “downsizing” being used in one of two contexts: the first is as a business term, used when business are scaling down & people are getting fired or laid off. The second context is the one we’re focusing on today. It’s often when people are facing retirement or decide it’s time to make some lifestyle changes and “scale back” their personal econoomies. Heck, sometimes the business downsizing leads to personal downsizing!


In the end we think you’ll agree that downsizing can be a very positive thing. Armed with some information, downsizing tools, and a plan, you too can benefit from the “upside” of “downsizing.” Read more…


Main Topic: Are you missing out on the benefits of downsizing now? Why wait for retirement?

  • How downsizing is perceived

  • Reasons to downsize

  • Some benefits of downsizing

  • Planning to downsize on your own terms


But before we address those 4 things, first let’s look at the starting point…downsizing from what, exactly? Well, most articles about downsizing are home-size centric as opposed to stuff-centric. They focus on going from a big house, to a smaller one. Most articles end there. And home size is certainly relevant. OK, I’m going to throw some numbers at you:

  • According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, the average household size (meaning members in the home) in the United States has dropped steadily from 3.67 members in 1940,  to 2.58 in the 2010 census.

  • The average size of new houses increased from about 1,100 sf (100 m2) through the 1940s & 1950s, to 2505 sf in 2012.

  • That’s about 290 sf (or 27 sm) per person in 1950

  • That’s 970 sf (or 90 sm) per person in 2010

Everyone has to figure out for themselves what size space is right for them. I just wanted to put those numbers out there. But I think it more than just the size of the home that matters.  In Episode 4 we mentioned Parkinson’s Law, which states: Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. You may recall I discussed some corollaries to Parkinson’s Law, one of which is: “Storage requirements will increase to meet storage capacity.” Want that big house because you’ll enjoy the extra space? It’s not likely to last long…it’ll fill up.

 Here’s why we say it’s not likely to be spacious for very long:

  • Back in Episode 14, we talked about a study conducted by UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families that focused on how much stuff is in the typical middle-class American home.

  • They sent a team of professional archaeologists, anthropologists and other social scientists to conduct a systematic study of home life in 32 middle-class, dual-income families in Los Angeles.

  • Four highlights of what they found:

    • With Family #27, they found 2,260 visible possessions in the first three rooms recorded (two bedrooms and the living room),” and that didn’t include “untold numbers of items tucked into dresser drawers, boxes and cabinets or items positioned behind other items.”

    • In another home, Family #1 they looked at a display shelf in a girl’s bedroom and found: 165 Beanie Babies, 36 Human/Animal Figurines, 22 Barbie dolls, 20 other types of dolls, 3 Porcelain dolls, 1 Troll, 1 miniature castle

    • The average refrigerator front panel in the homes studied holds 52 objects. The most crowded refrigerator was covered with 166 different objects. In most cases there was a direct corollary to the amount of stuff on a fridge and the amount of stuff in the home (ie: a more cluttered fridge = a more cluttered home)

    • Only 25 percent of garages could be used to store cars because they were so packed with stuff. One article called this, “The New Junk Drawer” and rightfully so because that’s exactly what it’s become.

    • There are links below to a 3-part video series on this study. It’s pretty eye opening

  • The bottom line is that a lot of house is likely going to mean a lot of stuff! A lot of house plus a lot of stuff equals a lot of cost. It’s life, supersized.

How Downsizing is Perceived:

Note: Dan uses Google Alerts to do research. Google defines Google Alerts as: Emails sent to you when Google finds new results — such as web pages, newspaper articles, or blogs — that match your search term. You can use Google Alerts to monitor anything on the Web. For example, people use Google Alerts to:

    • Find out what is being said about their company or product.
    • Monitor a developing news story.
    • Keep up to date on a competitor or industry.
    • Get the latest news on a celebrity or sports team.
    • Find out what’s being said about themselves.
    • Dan uses Alerts to do research, and one of my alerts is set for “downsizing.”
  • Many links that show up in our alerts refer to downsizing negatively.
  • So, Dan typed “what is downsizing at retirement” into Google. Here are some of the first 10 results (the most negative ones are outlined in red):


Wow….such a negative spin on downsizing! Why not call it “Rightsizing”…to reduce to an optimal size…or creating new surroundings by decluttering eliminating, throwing out, donating and simplifying one’s own environment to create a more functional home that better suits your needs.

 So, why do people downsize? Let’s look at some possible Reasons to Downsize:

  • Frustrated with or don’t have enough time for the upkeep

  • Maintenance and cleaning costs are too much

  • Expecting a decrease in your monthly income (retirement, loss of job, quitting job, lifestyle change/business like us)

  • Home is not functional or not being used efficiently (space not used, or not well designed for your needs)

  • Physical limitations to literally downsize…like take the house down a level..from a two-story home to a one story home

  • Decreasing their environmental footprint


Now let’s take look at Some Benefits of Downsizing:

  • Save money now and direct it towards others important goals

  • You’ll save time down the road

  • Things tend to run more efficiently: less to care for = less stress and confusion….a smaller home = smaller utilities bills…systems don’t have to work so hard.

  • You can decrease the chance of a major inconvenience to loved ones having to help you downsize if you wait until you “have to” downsize.

  • Downsizing now can give you a sense of control.  You’re doing it on your terms as opposed to waiting until you have to downsize…which could cause undue stress and resentment.

  • And watch our for some unexpected positive side effects…downsizing has a funny way of simplifying your life overall. And when you simplify, your more focused of your life goals, more deliberate with your purchases, and more in-tune with what’s important to you like family and relationships.


Planning to Downsize on Your Own Terms:

  • We’d suggest looking at downsizing from the “stuff” centric point of view versus the house-centric point of view (explain)

  • Maximize the market to decide when to downsize

  • Take a good look at your life goals…remember to start with the end in mind.

  • Get in tune with your finances and where your money is really going to see if downsizing is the real issue

  • List was your must have’s in your your life and home are, then work backwards from there to eliminate the excess. It helps to have an idea of what you’re downsizing into.

  • Take a systematic approach…no need to rush.  Just like our edit and forget it challenge…you have an entire year to let go of 2013 things.

  • Edit one room or one area at a time.  It’s probably best to start with the easy and not-so-sentimental stuff first like in the garage…then tackle the more difficult items.

  • Set goals for yourself like: edit “x” number of rooms by “x” date; or sell “x” amount of items on eBay or Craig’s list before “this” date….have garage sell on “such and such” date…put home on market “no later than” this date date……or decide on new home by “this” date… and so on.

So, when it comes Downsizing, there’s a huge upside! Why wait until retirement to make the decision to simplify your life? That isn’t a rule. Do it when it’s right for you. Take some time to think about ways to edit the “stuff” in your life. Take little steps every day to shape how you want your life to be. The benefits can be huge.

We’ve talked about how we’re not following the deferred retirement plan, well why defer the benefits of living life at the right size now…on your terms?

  • Make incremental changes to meet your goals.

  • Bend with the wind.

  • Find targets of opportunity to get rid of the things holding you back.

  • And let us know how it goes!


So, have you started downsizing on your schedule yet?  If not, what’s holding you back from right-sizing your life? Share your thoughts on downsizing in the Comments below.

THING Segment:

Dan’s Thing: The new Get Noticed Theme we switched to on our site.

Vanessa’s Thing: Using the new IX500 ScanSnap to help a client go digital!


  • ScanSnap Scanner Sale at Amazon
  • New Look for Simple Life Together: We’re changing themes to better support the kind of content we want to share. As we’ve said in the past, look for more blog posts, more videos, and a different look to the site and the podcast cover art, as well.
  • Platform Conference: If you’re trying to build your platform within your company, industry or field, or your business, you may want to consider Michael Hyatt’s Platform Conference: 3-5 November, in Dallas TX this time, at the Omni Dallas Hotel at Park West. If interested to and use Coupon Code SIMPLE to save $100 off your registration.
  • Green Juicing Intensive Clinic: You met Farnoosh Brock back in Episode 19. She is the premier expert on juicing and author of The Healthy Juicer’s Bible. Her Green Juicing Intensive Clinic is priced at $147 right now, but we’ll let you know of specials as they come along. Go to to learn more about The Green Juicing Intensive Clinic.
  • Edit & Forget It: We have people sign up every day for the Edit & Forget It Challenge! It’s never too late, so just head over to right sidebar and click the Edit & Forget It Challenge banner.
  • Tutorials: We’ll be hosting all our free tutorials and guides on the Tutorials Page from now on. So, to reach them, just click on the Tutorials Tab at the top of the page.


You can download the full PDF of our show prep, too.

Resources and Links:

Platform Conference: Coupon Code for $100 Off: SIMPLE

Farnoosh’s Juicing Clinic

ScanSnap sale on Amazon

Videos from the CELF Study:

A Cluttered Life: Middle-Class Abundance (Ep.1) Stuff

A Cluttered Life: Middle-Class Abundance (Ep. 2) Food

A Cluttered Life: Middle-Class Abundance (Ep. 3) Space

2010 census

US Home Size 2012


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Photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of Alachia


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2 thoughts on “SLT042: The Upside of Downsizing

  1. Wow, this episode described my family so well. We moved from a 3,000 square foot 100 year old house to a 1,600 square foot townhouse and it was the best thing we ever did. We got tired of spending every weekend at Home Depot working at something or other, and decided to actually live our lives. Haven’t regretted it once!