How do you know where you might live most happily? The choices are numerous enough to make your head spin. If you’re part of a couple, the decision can easily be twice as complicated! Your ideal home and lifestyle may or may not be the same as your partner’s. Therefore, it’s important to keep talking about your vision for the future.

Throughout our lives, family and living situations change, and many of life’s events push and pull us to reconsider where we live. For many people, the place we call home is based on a series of decisions, choices and negotiations.

Children living at home or attending college, marriage, divorce or re-marriage, the arrival of grandchildren, a work transition, retirement, or widowhood are examples of events that lead many people to re-think their housing situation.

The first step to enhancing the match between your housing and your lifestyle is to assess your current home for its fit. To assess your home, think about how you live in the space now and how you expect to do so in the future. What aspects of your lifestyle are important to you as you think about your home? Although far from a complete list, some things to consider are:

  • Recreation and hobbies: Do you have sporting equipment to store? Do you need a room for computer equipment, crafts or hobbies such as scrapbooking?
  • Outdoors: Do you enjoy gardening and need plentiful outdoor space? Or would you rather not maintain a lawn or garden yourself?
  • Home office: Do you telecommute or have a home office? Will you need space for an office?
  • Entertaining: Do large groups of family members gather at your home for meals or holidays? How much space do you need for entertaining, and how formal is the entertaining that you do?
  • Health: Do you have any health conditions that could affect what kind of living space would be most convenient for you?
  • Features: What features would make your home more flexible and functional? These features often are associated with universal design, an approach to making architecture and living environments more comfortable, accessible and easy to use for people of any age, size or ability.

Home styles and designs have changed over time to reflect changes in our society and in our lifestyles. The size, style and appearance of our homes generally reflect our own tastes, preferences and budget. As members of the household change and their needs change, we often develop quick-fix solutions to meet those requirements, such as: carving out space in a kitchen to accommodate a training crate for a new pet; installing handrails in a staircase to make it safer for a toddler; or converting a first-floor family room into a bedroom during a visit from an older relative who cannot use stairs.

For the most part, many of these quick-fix solutions work. Some even work so well that we keep the solution in place even after the reason for the change no longer exists. Some of these solutions may not work very well, but we make do by adjusting how we live to fit the constraints of our home.

With each transition point in your life, however, comes an opportunity to reconsider what you really need. Take some time to reflect on your current lifestyle, and if or how you expect that to change in the years ahead. Thinking carefully about how you want to live will lead you to select or renovate a home that will truly serve your needs – down the road, as well as today.