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
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.