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LOOKING AT OPTIONS WITH AN OPEN MIND:  Techniques to Break Down Old Barriers 

We all have some decision-making patterns that create barriers to looking openly at the various life options available to us.  The more open-minded you can be, the more certain you'll be that you've ultimately made the best choice ... for you.   


Without going into all sorts of psychological explanations, the idea is to use some simple techniques to let us brainstorm without (for a moment) letting anyone else's rules limit our thought processes.  


As you know, this site is about looking at different forms of housing in order to consider a housing change, and thereby jumpstarting our retirement savings.  In CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS, you looked at the numbers behind such a decision, and here we just want you to be open to different options.  Here we go: 


First decide whether you're brainstorming about a pre-retirement home (where you'd live until retirement and maybe beyond), or a retirement home (where you'd move upon retirement).  You can certainly go through the process twice, for each one separately, if you think your retirement home will be different from your pre-retirement home. 


If you're part of a couple, try to do all of these exercises as a couple.  In PHASE ONE, you may find yourself ‘negotiating’ some of your answers.  In PHASE TWO, you'll be feeding off one another’s free-form ideas.




1. Take out a piece of paper. Draw a line down the middle. On the left column, write the title MUST HAVE. On the right, write the title WOULD LIKE TO HAVE.

2. Then, without giving any thought to where this home might be, what kind of home it is or its price, in the MUST HAVE column list all of the things that you absolutely must have wherever you live. Look around your home today and think of the things you could not live without. (Random examples: 3 bedrooms/2 bathrooms, garden, 1-car garage, under 30 minutes from airport, cat-friendly, etc.)

3. Next, in the WOULD LIKE TO HAVE column, go through a similar process and list all the things that would be nice to have, whether you have them where you live now or not, but that you could live without. (Random examples: walking distance from stores, fenced-in-yard, near grandchildren, outdoor spa, boat dock, etc.)

While this exercise seems simple, it will help you clarify your priorities, or what's truly important to you, what you're willing to forgo and what you aren’t.  Also, all too often our houses ‘grow’ over the years, from starter homes to those that are too large for us after our kids move out.  This helps us figure out what is now excess in our lives.


Set this information aside for now and go on to PHASE TWO.




1. Spend some time reading through the different options of housing introduced under the LIVING OPTIONS section of the website, getting a little familiar with each one, whether it interests you or not.

2. Take a large piece of paper, preferably about 18 x 24 inches, such as a piece of poster board or even wrapping paper with a white backside. Visually divide the paper into six blocks. Draw a 3-inch circle in each ‘block,’ or six circles in all.

3. In four of the circles, write the names of a housing option in each one. That is: co-housing, repurposed container, mobile home, living abroad. If you can think of any other options that you’ve heard of, or know because someone you know has moved to, add those to the remaining circles. (Example: houseboat)

4. Then, quickly and randomly, write near each circle everything you can think of regarding that type of housing, as many related concepts or terms as you can associate with the topic, letting a comment about one option trigger a comparative comment about another as well. Good, bad, questions, anything. Just keep writing, jotting down anything that comes to mind when you think of that kind of housing, whether it’s just an impression or something you know. Try to keep moving and associating. Don't worry about the (lack of) sense of what you write. It doesn’t matter. You can cross things out later if you feel you want to. The important thing is to keep writing, bouncing around the paper as one thought draws out another. Spend 20-30 minutes writing whatever comes to mind.

5. When you're ‘tapped out’, put the paper away at least overnight, and come back to it again.

6. Spend another 10-15 minutes rereading your comments and adding others that have come to mind in the interim. Some of the comments you made you’ll want to change or cross out.

7. Once you are done, take two different colored pens, and circle the positive comments in one color and negative in the other. If it makes sense, leave the neutral ones uncircled.

As in the case of PHASE ONE, set this information aside, to be used later once you have identified and evaluated the costs and financial impacts of different housing options.


You now have, in writing, what your priorities are and how you feel about different possibilities.  Once you start working on calculations, or the pragmatic side, you'll come back and see how you feel deep down, on the emotional side.  For your ultimate decision to be a perfect one, it will have to consider both.



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