Have you ever gone through a day with pants that don’t quite fit right? It can be irritating and distracting, and can even affect your decisions on things like whether to socialize or which activities to pursue. 

A house that doesn’t reflect your family needs, values, and goals can be a similar misfit. 

Downsizing and rightsizing are popular terms that both refer to changing your home environment to fit your current lifestyle. Whether you’re preparing for retirement or looking for different living options, they’re both great to consider. However, they have unique distinctions. Understanding the differences between downsizing and rightsizing can help you determine if either is right for you. 

What Is Downsizing?

The boilerplate downsizing is this: An older couple, whose children have grown and left the nest, move into a smaller home after getting rid of clutter and empty bedroom fittings. 

However, you can opt to downsize for any reason. Wondering when to downsize? This can include: 

  • Change in family dynamics
  • Financial challenges or other external factors
  • Health problems
  • A move to a higher cost-of-living area
  • Fear of ending up on a TV show about hoarding

Pros of Downsizing

When it comes to downsizing, the benefits are strong motivators for those considering it. The unexpected benefits of downsizing and moving to a home with less square footage can mean: 

  • Lower utility bills to heat and cool the home
  • Less space and belongings to keep clean
  • Potential cash from selling a larger home and moving to a smaller one
  • Less debt with a smaller mortgage
  • A new start in a fresh environment

Cons of Downsizing

You’ll rarely find a list of pros without related cons. To that end, arguments against downsizing could include: 

  • Not enough room to host large gatherings with family members or overnight visitors
  • Adult children no longer have a safety-net place to live
  • A hit to pride based on homeownership or visible prosperity
  • Less space in general

What Is Rightsizing?

Rightsizing often—but not always—includes a move to a smaller home. What differentiates it from downsizing, however, is that the primary goal is to understand how you occupy each room and design your space to deliberately fit your needs. 

Many Americans default to upsizing their lives—shopping at the highest end of their mortgage qualification, buying in bulk, etc. But it’s often the case that we serve our belongings and home more than they serve us and out-buy for our needs. In the average home, only about one-third of the space is used 90% of the time.

If you wish you could wave a wand and make a third of your belongings disappear, then you’re a good candidate for decluttering, reassessing your idea of a dream home, and rightsizing your space. 

Pros of Rightsizing

Rightsizing process starts by taking a thoughtful approach to how changes to your home environment would benefit your health, joyfulness, family members, and community. The thing about rightsizing is that it comes with numerous pros like downsizing, including: 

  • Detailed alignment of space that fits your values and goals
  • Disowning and un-occupying space you don’t use
  • Minimizing belongings that take up physical and emotional space
  • Adjusting your energy footprint to exactly what you need 
  • Increasing the potential of joyful, stress-lowering activities at home

Cons of Rightsizing

Risks related to rightsizing through a move often come down to whether it’s the right way to meet your goals. Ask yourself: 

  • Are you giving up a family home with emotional import?
  • Have you considered the added stress of moving?
  • Are you looking for environmental changes to take the place of emotional work? 
  • Would retrofitting and adapting your current home instead of moving:
    • Save you money that could be better applied elsewhere?
    • Create more lasting change? 

Comparing Downsizing and Rightsizing

Exploring the pros and cons of downsizing and rightsizing can give you a better understanding of what each process looks like. In the end, Both downsizing and rightsizing living options will help you declutter your belongings and potentially save you money. 

Downsizing is a useful process for: 

  • Families with current or anticipated health or mobility challenges
  • Seniors planning for retirement years
  • Empty nesters
  • Families who want to reduce debt or fund travel, business opportunities, etc.

Rightsizing is a helpful road for: 

  • Minimalists
  • Environment-focused families
  • Home-based business owners
  • Passionate hobbyists
  • Families with emotional or psychological health needs or goals

How a Sale-Leaseback Can Help

Downsizing or rightsizing to a new home can take time, particularly if you’re sorting through years of belongings. As an alternative, you can also consider a residential sale-leaseback.

A residential sale-leaseback program allows you to close on the sale of your home and stay on as a renter for as long as you choose. It’s a streamlined process that doesn’t require the staging, marketing, and other work of a traditional sale.

While you look for your next dream home, you’ll: 

  • Pay an agreed-upon lease that’s locked in for years with limits on future increases
  • No longer pay property tax or homeowner’s insurance
  • Have a landlord who handles and pays for covered repairs and maintenance

Key Takeaways

So, there isn’t necessarily a wrong or right way, both can be great options. Downsizing involves moving to a smaller home and keeping only valued belongings and furniture that fit the space. While it’s commonly associated with seniors and empty nesters, anyone can downsize to save money, move to a more expensive location, or choose a home that requires less maintenance. 

Rightsizing is the process of creating a living environment that best meets your needs and allows you to pursue the activities, lifestyle, and state of health unique to your values and goals. It’s often aligned with minimalism and encourages getting rid of things you don’t need—including wasted space. 

A residential sale-leaseback is one bridge to pursuing either a downsizing or rightsizing, allowing you to let go of the reins on your current home and stay in it as long as you choose while sorting, organizing, and configuring your belongings into a new space.


  1. “The Comprehensive Guide To Rightsizing In Retirement.” Willow Valley Communities. https://www.willowvalleycommunities.org/resources/retirement/the-comprehensive-guide-to-rightsizing-in-retirement/