A Step By Step Guide To Downsizing Your Life
24 years ago, I started my married life with a few boxes and a frameless queen bed. Life was simple back then but all I could think about was the “stuff” we needed. I had a tall list. We needed to find a job, a home, furniture and the list goes on. I was honestly surprised how long it took to fully achieve that goal. Yet one day, I woke up with 13,000 square feet of buildings and all I could think about was throwing EVERYTHING away. Can you relate?
When we decided to downsize, I started looking for a step by step system to help me achieve my goal. My google search found a few suggestions but no actionable lists to ease my weary soul. In this post, I will share with you a simple step by step checklist I developed to keep me on track with my massive downsize. We went from 13,000 square feet to 385 (yep, we are talking tiny home) rolling condo. (or RV)
Feel free to adapt this list for your own situation. Hope it helps you achieve your dream of less stuff and more freedom.
Step #1: Ask yourself which items makes you feel most at home?
When we consider our dwelling place certain items contribute to the feeling of home. These can be tangible or un-tangible items. Do you love the scent in a room or the sunshine through the window? Does your Grandmother’s table or your college lamp make you feel cozy? Whatever makes your casa your castle, it is important to identify their presence BEFORE you begin your downsizing process.
Here is an example. For me, I discovered early on that fine china, some family heirlooms and certain favorite colors contribute to the feeling of home. I immediately began to identify which items I should keep in my tiny house to provide me with the comfort I associate with relaxation and joy.
After identifying what made me enjoy my space, I decided to determine which specific pieces were small and adaptable to my new lifestyle. I quickly realized that I could not keep the entire set of antique china in my rolling tiny house. I could however store what was important to keep in the family and bring with me key pieces to enjoy each day. I chose 4 teacups and saucers and three teapots. 1 teapot for daily and two for special occasion. This might seem crazy to you, but to me, fine china makes me feel special and thus contributes to my overall feeling of bliss.
Step #2: Set A Timeline And Work Backwards
If you are an optimist (like me) you might think that downsizing from a large property to a tiny house won’t be too hard. WRONG! You truly have NO IDEA how much “stuff” you have until you start to sort it. My suggestion is this, the bigger your space, the more time you must allow to sort, toss and evaluate. With that said, don’t forget that a pressing deadline will keep you moving and ward off that awful feeling of “overwhelm” that may creep in.
- Look at a calendar and choose your absolute must be finished or else date. For us, it is October 9th 2014.
- Make a list of every job you can think of that needs to be completed. Garage sales, donation runs, turning off electricity, selling, renting, storing, you name it.
- Now divide the list into most important and least important.
- Take this list and divide it again into takes the most time and takes the least time.
- Using these lists begin to count backward on your calendar. Set a goal date for each activity that will add up to accomplishing the goal of being completely downsized by October 9th.
- Once you have a tentative schedule move each item back a bit to give you leeway in case something goes wrong or takes longer then expected.
Step #3 Find a Team
Teamwork can make downsizing a whole lot easier. Gather friends, family or strangers and ask them if they will each commit to helping you with a task on your list. These tasks now have dates so it is easy to tell them you need their help on such and such a date. The earlier you can ask for help the better. You will be surprised at how many people are willing to help you but who might not have volunteered since they didn’t know what you needed.
In return, consider giving your helpers a special gift. Ask them what from your collection they would like to keep for their own. This is a great way to “share the wealth” and pay your team at the same time.
Step #4 Buy, Donate, Sell
BUY? Yep. Believe it or not, you will have to buy a few things as you downsize. Many of your previous kitchen or bedroom items may not work in your new space. This is good! Giving away your stuff can be depressing. Instead, think of it as exchanging your items for an entirely new look.
In my current home I have an enormous kitchen with 2 refrigerators and I am moving into an RV tiny home with a kitchen counter 5 feet long and that including the sink and stove! Obviously, my beloved Kitchen Aid professional mixer is NOT going to fit. (and believe me I tried). What to do? I suggest making a mental exchange. I will sell my stand mixer and pick a special hand mixer in an attractive color. This process empowers me to look forward to my new “tiny kitchen” instead of dreading it.
If you are on a particularly tight budget use FREECYCLE to post things you need to get rid of exchanging for things you may now need. It doesn’t matter if the item is new or new to you, just that it fits in your space and makes you feel at home.
Here are a few ways to SELL your household items:
- For Sale (insert your town or county) on Facebook
- Garage Sale
- Personal Sale Through Flyers Around Town
Here are a few ways to DONATE your household items:
- Thrift Stores
- Consignment Shops ( you may get something for your items here)
- Charity Events
- Causes In Need (such as domestic violence shelters)
- Organizations running garage sales as fundraisers (Firefighters, Schools, Churches)
When you are planning your donation strategy be sure to call around and find out which organizations offer pick up services. This can be a God send when you are tired. Call ahead and find out what your options are, then map out a strategy and put the times on your calendar.
Last but not least create a “free pile” and offer it to anyone who wants or needs it. This can be done on Freecycle, Craigslist or by posting on Facebook. There are numerous items that people are willing to pick up for free giving you a chance to worry about the next thing on your list.
Step #5 Sort and Pile
One of the easiest methods for downsizing is to sort and pile. Place boxes or bins marked $1, $5, SELL,FREE, DONATE, KEEP. If you have specific items that will be sold for more on Craigslist, etc. put those in one area of the house. If you have multiple rooms start with one room and work your way through it first. This will help keep you from feeling overwhelmed.
Starting at one corner of your room sort your items and place them in the appropriate boxes. Toss everything that you can. If you haven’t used it, put it in a bin for someone else to enjoy. Remember, in most cases you can always get another one later if you really need it. Carry a trash bag with you as you move throughout your house and USE IT.
When you finish with one room, move to the next keeping in mind it may take more than one time through the room to downsize to the point of living in an RV or tiny house. Plan to sort each room a minimum of three times. The first time through you will feel attached to a lot of things but buy the third time through those same items lose their appeal.
Step #6 Strategize Your Space
In an RV or tiny house square footage must be utilized. 400 or less square feet mean that each and every item must offer multiple uses or it isn’t worth keeping. Here are a few examples:
Collapsible Kitchen Bin - can be used for dishes, laundry, soaking your feet, gardening, cover for foot at a picnic, etc.
Decorative Bed Pillows - Can be used as guest pillows, couch pillows, baby bed or decor.
Play a game with yourself or your children. How many crazy creative ways can you use each item?
The biggest challenge for me is my office space. I am use to having a large office space all to myself. In my new home, my office will consist of the co-pilot seat and dash area of Beulah Grace. In order to make this work I have to think out every square inch for efficiency. Somehow, I will need to get my 27 inch iMac along with my printer and my recording equipment in that tiny area plus purchase a good set of noise canceling headset to keep me focused. (stay tuned to see how I accomplish this wonder.)
Downsizing takes time. If you are a motivated tosser this will be a relatively painless process. If you are a hoarder, find an accountability partner to keep you on track and to pry the items “you can’t live without” out of your hands. (don’t worry…as a hoarder you are sure to find new stuff for your next place.)
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