Downsizing Tips from Tiny Home Dwellers

It is easy to get instruction from an advice column or our helpful family member who is offering unsolicited opinions on things they haven’t been through in 30 years. However, when it comes to specific tips, it is best to consult the experts.

Whether you are downsizing from a house to an apartment, the national American average home size of 2600 square feet to a one floor retirement condo, or even from your traditional house to a tiny home, these tips for simplifying your ‘stuff’ will help you prep for the purge.

The New In, Old Out Rule

Spence Burger, husband of The Mama On The Rocks, and tiny house dweller for over a year, says their family of four goes by a rule that if they buy a new item—clothing, book, shoes, or toy for their kids—an old item must be given away. This prevents their downsized life from getting overcrowded and is what helped them get rid of 80% of their belongings before going from 2200 to 300 square feet.

Fifty Items Per Family Member, Per Season

The Burger family also remains living tiny with a family by limiting their clothing items (under things excluded) to fifty items per family member, per season. This allows the parents to store things in their off-season tote that they might find on sale or in the next size up for their kids without overloading their drawers or storage spaces.

Don’t forget the S.O.A.P.

Carmen Shenk, known as “The Tiny House Foodie”, lives in a Skoolie conversion with her husband—their second tiny home. She recommends never forgetting the S.O.A.P.
Start small – but start
Only one right-sizing project at a time
Appreciate the process and stay in the moment
Practice gratitude

The Sticky Note Reminder

“The first tip that was very useful for me was from a book called Little House on a Small Planet,” says Laura LaVoie, who lives in a 120-square-foot tiny house. “It suggested to put post-it notes on the door to every room in your house. For a month or two, write down the reason for entering every time you go into a room. By the end of that time, look to see how you’re using your spaces. I found there were rooms in our large house I almost never used. That’ll give you an idea of how you really use spaces.”

Use Bins for Measurement

Downsizing from their farmhouse with a playroom and individual rooms for each kid, the Burger family also mentioned that they downsized their kids’ toys by using square felt bins from their local department store. “This gave our kids a visual and a better understanding that they had two bins each and if their stuff wouldn’t fit it couldn’t stay,” Spence said.

Deciding to Let Go

LaVoie later added, “Recognize that sometimes the reason you hold on to stuff isn’t because of the stuff itself [but] what the stuff represents. For example, books can make you feel smart if you have a lot of them on display, but books don’t make you smarter just by having them. I started realizing that it was more productive to give away books I enjoyed to people who could also benefit from them. The same is true for things I felt sentimental about. The thing itself only represented a feeling. Instead, I would give things to other people to enjoy.”

Tiny house living might not be for everyone but simple living and downsizing the overwhelm that comes from having too much ‘stuff’ can make room for joy in our lives, no matter the size of your home.

Brynn Burger lives tiny, loves big, and laughs always. Writing with honest hilarity and violent vulnerability about parenting, adulting, downsizing, living tiny, and raising an extreme child is her attempt to escape the painful isolation that comes from a life of hiding to instead connect with people who are raw and real. Check her out at www.themamaontherocks.com.

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