Helpful Tips For Downsizing: PART 1

collect memories

PART 1: Start Early

You may be thinking “I already live in a tiny house,” or “I’m not moving anywhere,” or “I don’t need to
downsize.”

Even if you’re not preparing to downsize, the ideas in this 3-part series can help anyone that may need a little inspiration to examine the clutter in their lives. These ideas can be applied to your own home, your work space, or even someone else’s home.

Preparing to downsize allows for greater flexibility in the future. Maybe you’ll receive an offer for an amazing job opportunity which might require you to relocate your home. Maybe you’ll decide you want to start traveling. Maybe you’ll encounter an unfortunate circumstance that requires you to move out of your current living space in a hurry. If you’ve taken a recent inventory of ALL of your belongings, then packing suddenly seems far less daunting. You’ll have already done the hardest part. There’s no decisions left about what to take and what to leave. You already know you want to keep everything.

START EARLY

Now that you know my story, I’d like to share a few things that helped me prepare to move out of a 2- bedroom house in California, and onto a 42′ boat in Florida in just two short months.

If you are planning on relocating to a tiny house or just a smaller living space, my first bit of advice is to start early. Start before you actually NEED to downsize.

Peter and I began downsizing before we even made a decision to buy a boat. We had talked about moving to Central America and traveling abroad. With no real plans set in stone, we began selling our largest belongings on Craigslist. Furniture, motorcycles, snowboards, exercise equipment and tools all sold like hotcakes making us a decent chunk of cash to save for our adventure. We got rid of everything we knew we wouldn’t need. Then, an unexpected series of events required us to move out of our home. We found a short term lease within walking distance of my work and got rid of as much junk as we could before moving.

When we moved into that small two-bedroom house, we didn’t spend much time making it feel cozy. We kept it simple and functional while focusing on continuing to downsize. The second bedroom became a ‘stockroom’ for the items we were selling on Craigslist. After making a decision to buy a boat, we found one almost immediately and the clock began ticking to kick things into high gear.

What a relief it was to already have most of the work done! We spent the next two months downsizing with a focused approach, thankful that we had gotten a jump on it months earlier.

REDISCOVER:

When actually ready to start the process, the first step I like to recommend is to rediscover the things you already own. It’s reassuring to know you don’t have to do anything more than take an inventory. Don’t worry about deciding what to keep and what to get rid of. That will come later.

  • Start small – It’s important to start small and avoid getting overwhelmed. Whether you live in 5,000 sf or 400 sf, sorting through your belongings can be scary. Tackle one thing at a time: a drawer, a closet, a bookshelf, a box in the garage.

water

  • Give yourself plenty of time – Commit to an hour in the evening or a rainy Sunday morning. Keep a leisurely pace to prevent feelings of anxiety, which could lead to getting fed up and abandoning the project all together. Give yourself at least 3 months before a planned relocation if you can. Tackling one area at a time may take awhile, but it may be just what you need to get the job done.
  • Have patience – Opening old boxes and uncovering a lifetime of memories can invoke emotions you might not be prepared to feel. Some people build up clutter and stuff closets to the ceiling simply because of fear or anxiety of bringing up old memories. Remember to have patience with yourself and only do as much as you feel comfortable with.
  • Ask for help – Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Invite a friend over for moral support or have a family member share the discoveries with you. Another option is to hire a professional to come in and guide you through the process. There are actually Professional Organizers that do this kind of thing for a living! I’m not the only one that has a weird passion for cleaning out junk 🙂
  • Sort it out – I’m a visual person and I think in terms of categories. Dig out all of the magazines in your house and put them all in one pile. Use different rooms or corners of your house to pile up similar items like winter clothes, Tupperware, holiday decorations, photos, magazines, 25 highlighters, 61 blue ballpoint pens or your collection of 12 coffee mugs. This can often put things in perspective when you see them all in one place.

dogs and downsizing

  • Reminisce – Get excited about that old hat you found that had been stuffed in the back of your closet for 10 years. Flip through High School yearbooks and reach out to someone you’ve been meaning to get in contact with. Share old memories with your loved ones.
  • Who’s IS that? – Maybe you’ll discover things that aren’t even yours like a long lost book you borrowed from a friend, or a pair of shoes that someone left at your house, or even a pair of earrings from an ex-girlfriend!
  • EWW! – If you live in a damp climate you may find that mold or rust has rendered some of your belongings useless. Old boxes can sometimes uncover a dead mouse, rotten food or other creepy-crawly things that need to be thoroughly cleaned out.
  • Interests – You might discover that your interests have changed. A toy collection or vintage fishing reel collection may not seem so cool anymore. You might discover a favorite item from your childhood that you had forgotten about, or you might rediscover a hobby you used to have many moons ago. I’ve recently decided to begin ‘collecting memories, not things.’ This idea really struck me as I stumbled upon the quote (borrowed from SeaUs Sailing) while reflecting back on our last year of amazing adventures. We live in a tiny house barely big enough to carry the basic essentials, yet we’ve begun a collection of precious memories big enough to fill the ocean. What a concept!
  • Assessment – Start thinking about what each of these discoveries mean to you. How long have you had it? Where did it come from? How much did it cost? Do you still use it?
  • Smile – Most importantly, have fun! These are your belongings. Be proud of the things you have acquired or laugh at yourself for holding onto silly items. This can be a really fun exercise if you let it. Mentally preparing yourself for downsizing can also oddly enough set things in motion for good things to come. Eliminating stressful clutter in your life creates opportunities for experiences that bring you joy!

Click HERE to learn how to make a decision about what to keep and what to get rid of in PART 2 of this Helpful Tips for Downsizing series.

By Jody Pountain for the [Tiny House Blog]

Join Our eMail List and download the Tiny House Directory

Simply enter your name and email below to learn more about tiny houses and stay up to date with the movement.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Becca - October 24, 2014 Reply

Very helpful… will be applying some of these tips to my stuff this weekend!

Hayley G - October 24, 2014 Reply

My husband and I already live in a small apartment, and have plans to build a house only about 200 sq ft bigger. One of my biggest concerns is having to take ALL of our stuff to that house, so I really want to downsize significantly! Thanks for this helpful list.

    Jody Pountain - October 24, 2014 Reply

    Hayley,
    Now is the perfect time to start. Set a goal of getting to a point where there’s nothing you care to part with. Then you’ll know that every thing you own is worth the trouble of moving it to the new house! The next post will have some ideas on how to decide 🙂

Rebecca - October 24, 2014 Reply

Great writing – great advice with all the realistic items and how to solve them, Thank you!

alice h - October 24, 2014 Reply

Nice clear advice on how to get going. I think keeping “stuff” under control is an ongoing process whatever you call it. I often run across advice that seems to give you two options – minimalist or hoarder – and gives you next to no time to decide. Doom is imminent if you don’t get on it and get it done NOW!! This post gives a much more realistic and enjoyable approach.

    Jody Pountain - October 24, 2014 Reply

    Alice, I’m happy it made sense 🙂 You’re absolutely right – it is an ongoing process for sure, and one that gets easier the more it’s done.

    I’ve seen articles like the ones you mentioned as well. I had trouble finding a clear step-by-step process on how to go about it all, so I wrote my own. Please share it with anyone else that may find these tips useful!

Sue - October 24, 2014 Reply

I love reading this type of stuff as I am having to now go through all my “collections” of “stuff” and simply decide what is doable any more. I am talking mostly crafting things. Polymear clay, paper, beads, silver beads, semi-precious beads, books on beading and other crafts. Totes of yarn (which I currently do and will forever, knit), get yarn down to a reasonable size!! Clothes, I love blankets too. So you see my dilemma. I am going to have to purge as we will be moving and I too want to start collecting memories, not “stuff”. I do want to have some pictures tho’ of those memories. 🙂 You soon realize that you can LIVE without all this “stuff”!
thank you so much for sharing this and I will definitely be following along 🙂
Victoria, BC

    Jody Pountain - October 24, 2014 Reply

    Hi Sue,
    Ahhhh crafting supplies are tough. I can relate though. It’s easy to organize it all and put it away, only for it to never see the light of day for years at a time. Get to know your supplies and make a habit of getting them all out and looking at them once a month. You’ll eventually decide that you want to start a new project to use that item, or you’ll decide that you probably won’t ever use it. When I only look at my supplies once a year I tell myself that someday I’ll want to use it. Only when I look at it all the time do I realize I really don’t know why I’m still holding on to it.

    Try coming up with projects to ‘use up’ your supplies, then give away the product and don’t replenish your supply until you feel you’ve cleared out enough space 🙂

    I’ve also found that taking pictures of all the greeting cards I’ve made helped me to let go of the really unique ones and actually use them for what they were intended for. Otherwise I could hold onto every single one I’ve made, thinking I need the original one to be able to recreate it. External harddrives are great for storing photos of crafts!

    Good luck, and hopefully the next post will be just as helpful.

Julie - October 25, 2014 Reply

The timing for this article is perfect! I just started trying to sort my storage area downstairs and got overwhelmed after 4 hours of work. Thanks for the helpful advice! It will make it so much easier when I try tackling it again this weekend. 🙂

    Jody Pountain - October 26, 2014 Reply

    Julie, that’s great! I’m glad you found it in time 🙂 The next two parts will help a lot too, so be sure to look for the next post in a few days. Good luck!

Martha - October 25, 2014 Reply

Thanks so much for your article. It was so inspiring and helpful at the same time. I’m looking forward to the next installment. Blessings on your day.

Jenn B - October 25, 2014 Reply

Great read! We actually moved aboard our sailboat 4 months ago! And even though we’ve already done the major downsize {2,200 sq ft to 30′} I still find these tips helpful in continuing to downsize….it’s so easy to accumulate things and lose precious space when living on a boat.

I have to tell you, your blog has been such an inspiration to my husband & myself! I cannot wait until we are in prettier waters as we’ll! ……keep up the great posts! 🙂

    Jody Pountain - October 26, 2014 Reply

    Congrats on becoming a liveaboard, Jenn! It’s even more important to stay organized on a boat because we have so many odd sized and random placed storage spaces. Your right, every inch is precious 🙂

    I’m glad you find our blog inspirational as well. Besides cataloging my memories electronically, I truly hope to inspire others to follow their dreams and do what makes them happy. It really is possible. And now you’ve done it too!

    Sooo happy for you and your husband 🙂 You’ll get to prettier waters soon. Keep in touch and let us know if you will be near us!

Bethany @ Journey to Ithaca - October 26, 2014 Reply

It is so nice to find some concrete tips on downsizing/decluttering. It always amazes me how the clutter *always* seems to come back.

BTW, here’s a post I wrote awhile back, with some more tips for decluttering. http://ourjourneytoithaca.com/2014/07/30/minimalism-a-beginners-guide-revised-version/

Kristi - October 27, 2014 Reply

Very inspiring! I’ve been working really hard over the past year to get rid of “stuff” It’s interesting to see the things that we love to collect. For example I learned that I’m a linen hoarder. I love bedding! I’m now down to 1 set of treasured linen sheets.

I’m wondering what others out there have done with all of their old photos, scrapbooks, etc. I have hundred of cherished photos. It’s an area I have not tackled yet and can’t seem to find the motivation to do so. Add to that list hundreds of printed recipes.

Great post!

    Jody Pountain - October 29, 2014 Reply

    Hi Kristi,
    That’s great! You know what you love! There are actually a lot of people that struggle to identify what they love.

    You’ve also nailed two of the most common clutter problems 🙂 Hopefully you’ll find the next post helpful then!

JulieBavi - November 15, 2014 Reply

As a member of NAPO, I want to say “Thanks” for recommending a NAPO professional organizer to help downsize and organize.

Helpful Tips For Downsizing: PART 2 - January 5, 2015 Reply

[…] PART 1 you learned to START EARLY before you actually need to downsize. If possible, don’t wait […]

Valentina - June 16, 2015 Reply

Very helpful article, thanks! We’re downgrading, but it looks like it’s for good – I’ve got rid of so much stuff and I must say it feels so good!

Leave a Reply: