The Empty Nester Downsize: We now call it “rightsize”

empty nester downsize
Craig and I in a sea of boxes at the old house

The Empty Nester Downsize

Maybe it is because I am knee deep in an empty nester downsize, but I am now hearing from e-nesters everywhere who have already successfully completed this same adventure. They are telling me: “Been there done that” and many of them have done it several times. My generation is selling their larger family home and opting for a smaller footprint, something more manageable, more cost effective.

Many mid-lifers have chosen to move closer to their aging parents and nearer to their new grandchildren. (No grandchildren here yet) They have given away, donated and thrown away items that are no longer considered necessary.

empty nester downsize
Packing the kitchen – not too much fun

I have been using the word “downsize” to describe our move from a larger home to a charming older one that is half of the size and needs extreme renovation. My husband Craig likes to use the positive description “rightsize”, so I am embracing this new term.

Honestly, we own truckloads of stuff that we do not need, do you? Countless idle purses, childhood baseball cards and memorabilia, our kids’ favorite stuffed animals, their childhood artwork, sports equipment and even great grandma’s doll collection.

A sense of humor and alcohol can be beneficial

Our cupboards are full of far too many vases, glasses, dishes and a plethora of assorted crap. Our home was large enough that space was never a problem and our extra stuff got lost and forgotten behind the cabinet doors. We knew there was too much, but there was always room for it and we would get to tossing it out…one day.

Surprisingly, in one short week, I am truly getting over the worry of missing my precious and unnecessary extra belongings. It is so refreshing to realize “what we really need” is our family and friends. The “stuff” is so secondary. However, what I am dealing with… is the emotion.

Our children are our greatest joy and watching them grow up in the same house for most of their lives, the emotions tend to jumble together. I remember when our daughter Alex wanted to redecorate her bedroom and when our son Nick topped the growth chart on the wall in the garage. Countless birthday parties, baseball team gatherings, family Christmas Eves, cookie baking and cuddling on the couch watching their favorite shows are some of the incredibly special memories I have associated with our family home.

The growth chart in the garage. Alex is now 5’9″ and Nick 6’4″. Alex’s best friend Alisa did not have siblings, so one year we added her to our measurements.


I will attempt to understand that it is not the house that holds the memories, stories and emotions, but my brain and my heart. I will realize that I don’t need to have the physical structure to cherish our happy times together. Although it sounds fairly simple to do, it will be a work in progress.

My dear friend Kathy

After 23 years of raising our kids along side our amazing friends in our beautiful house, the memories came flooding in when it was time so say goodbye. I know that it is not a forever goodbye, but I won’t be in their day-to-day activities and they will not be in mine. I choke up thinking about how I won’t see their beautiful smiles, start my week with Boot Camp and meet my best friend for lunch on a whim.

My wonderful friends Karin and Barbara. We all look happy in the photos, but I cried after they left.

I am desperately trying to focus on the positive, the exciting future we have ahead and the expressive, delighted look on my Dad’s face when we get together. I have lived here for only a few days and I have already spent one night with each parent, gone out for Mexican food and margaritas with Dad and his wife Pam and out to lunch with my Mom. I have talked with my brothers nearly every day.

My youngest brother Kirk, wanted to “stop by” the new house on move-in day. In 30 years my little brother has never “stopped by” because I have lived 75 miles away. My middle brother Guy, works close by and we all can get together any day of the week instead of just celebrating holidays and birthdays.

An additional heartwarming detail of this experience is the tremendous outpouring of support from friends, family and from “friends” on social media. You can say what you want about what Facebook is or isn’t, but there is a sea of cyber friends out there enthusiastically supporting this new endeavor. I am humbled by the compliments and praise for our “ability to make such a drastic change” and “having the fortitude to try something completely different”.

The numerous well wishes, words of comfort and blessings offered have touched our hearts. I am so grateful to you all and hope you enjoy watching and reading all about this intriguing new adventure.

I am exhausted, covered in dust, living in a house with some very loud crickets and 78 year-old plumbing, but excited to renovate and design an amazing rightsize house with my husband and dog, Rocco. Our kids will come visit, but this sweet little Spanish house (with lots of potential) in Pasadena is a project that will consume our time, as well as enhance our Empty Nester life.

Our rightsize fixer-upper in Pasadena, CA

Stay tuned there is so much more to come!


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36 thoughts on “The Empty Nester Downsize: We now call it “rightsize””

  1. Your new place looks charming and I love that you are embracing the move even as you feel the loss of your old life. Yes, it’s hard to move on, it really is. I wish you all the best in your new place!

  2. We did this in 2012 – moved from our home into a condo and never looked back. We now spend the winter months south in the sun. I DO miss my old neighbours who became such good friends and we do get together when we can.

    • Jackie I think we will feel the same way eventually. This house feels really small – but will feel “just right” very soon.

  3. Love this post! Change is never easy especially when you leave so much more than memories behind!! It is so exciting to think of all the new memories you will be creating and I for one can’t wait for you to show us PASADENA!! Wishing you nothing but the best in your

    Debbie and Paul

    • Thank you Deb! I can’t wait for you guys to come up here! I will miss seeing you so often, but I will go with your “The Best is Yet to Come!

  4. We’re one of the been there/ done that, and love the ease of closing up our townhouse and getting on our way (which, as you know, we so often do!). We laugh at ourselves, because the only thing we really downsized was the yard – this townhouse is actually bigger than our single family home! Well, we do love it, but we know another “rightsize” is in our future…
    I LOVE your new place – what a charmer! I’m sure you’ll make it beautiful and just perfect for you!

    • Anne: I know you can relate. We do travel a great deal and needed a much smaller footprint, less up keep. However… we will need to renovate this first and then it will be turnkey…! Thank you for your supportive comments!

  5. Hi Suzanne! Congratulations on Rightsizing your life! My husband and I did it about 5 years ago and we were as nervous as you sound–but it honestly turned out better than we ever could hope. We are convinced it was one of the “SMARTest” things we ever did. Once you recover from the move you will start experiencing all the many benefits to come! ~Kathy

  6. I love this post because it is so real and close to all of us. During our visit to Seattle, we got to see nearly everyone in the Franco family and everybody in the Wilbur family… It was incredible , warm , lovely. And they all asked , “When are you moving back?” We missed all the milestones of our families since we have lived so far away. I love gat you’re able to do something to reconnect more easily…AND still be close to home in LN. Love

    • Ellen, it sounds like you were experiencing similar situations as we have here in Pasadena. Our family is thrilled to have us “home” again. We are not too far away from LN, but definitely close to family.

  7. I’m so impressed that you’re taking on a fixer upper. One of my main reasons for wanting to leave “this old house” was that it was an OLD house and I was no longer interested in keeping up worth the endless maintenance. We downsized (rightsized) to a rental apartment. If something breaks, I call the maintenance staff and —- voilá. I look forward to following along on your odyssey.

    • Suzanne: We will get to where you are one day. For now we were up for the adventure. It makes sense for us at this moment in time and we do enjoy a challenge. Thank you for reading!

  8. We have the growth chart on a wall in our kitchen, too. You are so right. It is people and experiences that matter much more than things. We are in a rental apartment and the lack of “stuff” feels empowering!

    Moving is the worst part of moving!

    • Irene you are so right! Moving is the worst part of moving and we have not moved in 15 years. I am living in chaos. I cannot find what I need and I keep losing track of where I set something down. I spent four hours looking for my keys!

  9. Downsizing (or rightsizing) is something you have to do in several steps! Since we have moved numerous times we didn’t own that much stuff in the first place, but still…
    The first time we went traveling for an extended period we sold a lot and packed up some, yet it still filled a large storage shed for which we had to pay monthly rent. After almost 4 years we returned from a trip where we lived full-time in a small truck camper. The rent for the shed had more than doubled during our absence (change of management) and was in no relation to the real value of things anymore. When we unpacked our boxes we were wondering why we kept so much. Moving from an RV into a small duplex gave us so much space, but we felt no need to *fill* this space with clutter. So before this trip we sold even more, and -God forbid- dumped a fair bit to. But I’m sure we still kept too much…

    • Juergen: It sounds like you have this all figured out! I love it. I know that this is a work in progress and we will keep tossing, donating and selling all of this extra stuff. We will be moving out in a few months while we renovate the house and I have no intention of bringing in anything unnecessary when we move back in. Thank you for your thoughts and personal anecdotes.

  10. Hi, I read this with real interest and wanted to share our experience, which is differently motivated than yours, but comes down to many of the same decisions! But then I discovered that my husband had beat me to it…
    Great article – I enjoyed sharing this part of your process, and look forward to reading more as the story continues.

  11. I love the look of your new house. I like the Spanish style. We just completed a downsize and move this summer. It was hard work, but it felt so freeing to get rid of so much stuff we didn’t need. Even with that, I think we wound up with enough room to keep more than we need. I admire your choice to move closer to family. I think you will be look back on this in a few years and be so glad you did.

  12. You’re already on your rightsize journey since you are realizing that your heart rather than your house holds the memories. We went through the same experience where we had the grand epiphany that you can always acquire more stuff but experiences, friendship, family and memories are what is truly important. And now that you’re close by your family again there are a lot more memories to make…

  13. I don’t think I have the strength to completely move out of my already small house. But I, too, have been downsizing even though I am staying put. I am constantly pruning. Recently, I had almost cleared out my purgatory area, when I visited my elderly Mum who had herself just moved and I came home with a car full of boxes to refill the space. 🙁

  14. Your new house looks awesome! Wishing you luck (and lots of patience) with your renovation process. It will be worth the effort!

  15. I believe that you made the right decision to move to a smaller place! My parents did the same.. they gave me many of the things that they don’t need anymore and went to live in a small house in the country! They have never been happier! Good luck with the transition! Greetings!


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