While there's often an assumption you should downsize as you grow older, right-sizing your home to fit your lifestyle may be a better option.
Right-sizing is the concept of making better use of the space in your home to help you live your life more fully, according to Gale Steves, a housing and home furnishing industry consultant and author of "Right-Sizing Your Home".
Downsizing your home doesn't always work. Post-college kids might need to move back in if they can't find a job; you might want to rent out your extra space to supplement your income; or you might need space for a home health care provider as you grow older.
Yet right-sizing your home is a "sensible approach", because people think about "how their homes can support their families" and how to "create a home that identifies with their personality," according to architect Richard Sherer, principal with Deep River Partners in Milwaukee.
Here are four tips and right-size solutions for your home to fit your changing needs and lifestyle.
1. Analyze Existing Space
The first step in identifying right-size solutions is to assess your home and identify your priorities. Ask yourself such questions as these:
* Are you using all of the rooms in your house? Or do you use some rooms just on special occasions or for storage only?
* Do you use any rooms just as a walk-through to other parts of the house?
* Do routine activities seem inconvenient in your home's current layout?
* How often do you have overnight guests?
Go through the house and think about what you need, not what someone else told you the room was designated for, Steves advises.
If you seldom use your formal living room, for instance, it might be more sensible to transform the space into a home office to increase productivity as you work from home more frequently or start your own consulting business.
The most-frequently mentioned space people say they would give up is the living room: "You use it once a year for the Christmas tree," Steves explains.
2. Explore Options
Take notice of other people's homes and floor plans. Are there features in other homes, design magazines or visual-inspiration websites that would help make your home more functional? Re-educate yourself to think how things could be different.
"If you don't use your dining room, reinvent it," Steves says.
For example, the dining room might better serve your needs if you transform it into your new studio for scrapbooking and other art projects.
3. Consider Future Uses for Your Home
Ask yourself what you will need to live in your house now--and in the future. If you anticipate babysitting grandchildren once you retire, perhaps you'll need to convert that dining room into a playroom.
Alternatively, if finances will be a concern, perhaps you should reconfigure your home to accommodate a future roommate. The point is to think about your housing needs now and in the future-- and then find creative solutions so your home compliments your needs, even if your health and income change.
4. Design for Functionality
Ultimately, a home with right-size solutions accommodates its inhabitants. You might find that moving into a smaller, one-level home is the best option if your current home has three flights of stairs and you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis.
On the other hand, downsizing your home may not be a good decision as you grow older if you anticipate the need for a functional, multi-family dwelling in which you and your children--or even grandchildren, boarders or caregivers--all are housed under one roof.
The majority of home buyers say the most influential characteristic when buying a home is "living space and the number of rooms that met their needs," according to a National Home Builders Association survey.
In other words the right-sized home is all about the quality--not quantity--of space to meet everyone's needs.