In the world of real estate, downsizing generally refers to reducing the size of the property you live in and the amount of stuff you have. Downsizing is something most homeowners will do at some point in their lives and it can be a very positive and necessary experience when property needs change. So why do many people have a negative reaction to the word?
When I hear someone say they are ‘downsizing,’ my writer’s imagination goes into high gear and I immediately picture this elderly couple, giving away most of their worldly possessions, leaving the home they have lived in for 50 years to move into an anonymous condo somewhere — maybe in Florida — far away from the familiar faces of friends and loved ones and the city they call home. And even though the move to a more manageable property may be a good thing for a variety of positive reasons — “downsizing” to me still feels like something is being lost…
Buying and selling property comes with some hefty emotional baggage, so why add to it by using words that can have negative associations when new, more positive selections are available?
After a quick Google search, I found precisely the right word to replace downsizing in my vocabulary: Smart-sizing. Don’t you feel a rush of positivity right now?
I’m guessing many people would prefer to affix “smart” to their own activities. But, what exactly does the term mean?
Smart-sizing means finding the right-sized property for your individual needs. It makes sense to purchase a home best suited for your lifestyle, needs and budget, at any stage in life. This applies equally to first-time home buyers who want ultra-energy efficient houses with a smaller building footprint, to property ladder climbers with expanding families, to baby boomers with shrinking families, and to seniors who would rather spend time with loved ones, or travelling, or any other form of recreation without the burden of maintaining (or paying for!) a large property.
Here is what might be happening. “Down-sizing” implies that people are getting out of the status seeking game, possibly because they can’t keep up or no longer want to. Americans tend to like bigger homes and more stuff – it is built into our individualistic, consumeristic DNA. If people are moving to a smaller home and getting rid of stuff, they are moving back down that status ladder. “Smart-sizing” gets at something else. It covers up the bigger is better consumption motives behind homes and stuff and replaces it with customization and what individual homeowners need. Some people might need a pool and hot tub, others might still want a McMansions, others might need a cheaper home that suits their income. All these people win with a “smart-sized” home that fits their needs. Others have made this pitch before; architect Sarah Susanka argues for the Not-So-Big House. However, given the lifestyles of the individual owners, such homes may not really be cheaper or all that less luxurious.
In the end, do people with “smart-sized” homes have smaller, greener homes with less stuff? Maybe…