PART 3: Take Action
In PART 1 you learned to START EARLY before you actually need to downsize. If possible, don’t wait until you’re forced to make decisions about keeping or getting rid of your things. You also learned some helpful tips to keep in mind while you REDISCOVER your belongings.
In PART 2 you learned some questions to ask yourself when making a decision on what to keep and what to get rid of.
Remember that you have choices.
While choices can be overwhelming for some, it’s reassuring to others. This isn’t the part where I tell you ‘okay, now chuck it all!’ or, ‘you have to donate everything because it’s the right thing to do.’
An action that is right for one person may not be the best choice for someone else. Do what you feel comfortable with and what you’ll feel happiest with at the end of the day. If selling something on Craigslist is more important to you in order to get back part of your hard earned money, then by all means spend the time and effort to get the price you want. If you aren’t strapped for cash or if you’re short on time, consider donating so that your things could end up bringing joy to someone less fortunate.
If you’ve decided to GET RID OF IT, consider the following options:
- Trash or Recycle: Some things simply come to the end of their usable life and it’s time to say goodbye. When possible, seek out local recycling or compost options before chucking in the trash.
- Upcycle or Repurpose: Many of the items you might want to throw away could probably be repurposed into something useful or more appropriate for your living space, saving you money in the long run. If you think an item can be upcycled, put it on a new priority to-do list to change its current form and repurpose it into something else. This doesn’t have to be done on the spot but make a point to take action as soon as you have time instead of letting it sit around unused for any longer than it already has. Turn those old t-shirts into rags or move those old photo albums and stacks of papers into the cloud!
- Donate: Find a local shelter, church, or non-profit agency that is accepting donations. Often times these organizations are even willing to come pick up the goods from your home or office. Another way to donate is by giving your unwanted items directly to local families that are less fortunate and may be interested in taking the items off your hands. This could quite possibly bring more joy to them than you will ever know. Take a photo of the item you want to donate and post it on Facebook or email it to some friends asking if they know anyone who may be interested. Another great idea suggested by one of our Tiny House Blog readers is that animal shelters will sometimes accept old blankets that may not be suitable for donation anywhere else. Most donations to non-profit organizations can also qualify for tax deductions so be sure to ask for a receipt.
- Sell: A good rule of thumb for selling items is to hold a garage sale for items under $20 and list them on Craigslist or eBay for items over $20. I’ve been extremely successful with selling items on Craigslist. It’s amazing how there is always SOMEONE out there actively searching for the exact thing you are trying to get rid of, and they’ll pay for it! Let the wonderful powers of the internet help you through this process. Remember to always use extreme caution when selling goods over the internet.
If you’re not sure what to do with a particular item, it’s okay to DECIDE LATER and store these items somewhere for the time being. Maybe you’re not willing to get rid of something yet, but you don’t necessarily want it out in your everyday living space. Consider the following:
- For the items you don’t want to store away, keep them in a pile in plain sight, promising yourself to reanalyze them within a few days or a period of time reasonable to you.
- Pack the items you want to store in an airtight container to keep out mold and bugs.
- Try to use space-saving containers and organize them as tightly-fitting as possible.
- Make a mental note of why you are keeping these things or write it down on a note and keep it with the items.
- Put a piece of masking tape or duct tape on the outside of the container or the back/underside of the item, writing in permanent marker what’s inside or who you’re saving it for.
- Let a friend or family member borrow it on a long-term basis. Chances are you’ll realize that it’s not as important to you five years down the road. The good news? Someone else is getting joy out of something that you once did.
- Remember to rediscover the items you put away in storage every few months to see if you’re ready to make a new decision.
Last but certainly not least, you will end up with a pile of items you have DECIDED TO KEEP. I’m a firm believer in the old saying, “A place for everything and everything in its place.” If you’re in a tiny house, a house on wheels, or even a tiny floating home, you know the importance of making sure that everything is put away and kept tidy. Here are a few ideas for organizing all the things that matter in your home:
- Placement: Put each of these items in a place where you’ll see them every day, where you will use it frequently or where you will know how to find it when you need it in a jiffy.
- Reorganize often: The traditional spring cleaning once a year is just not enough for most things. Reorganizing often keeps your living space fresh and it keeps you honest with your motives for buying new things or storing old things. It also keeps the important items accessible. Try to downsize or reorganize EVERYTHING in your house once a month or every few months. You’ll be amazed at how differently you will begin to feel about the things you discover!
- Consumables: Try using up your cooking, cleaning, beauty and craft supplies without replenishing until you feel you have cleared out enough space. If it’s still important enough to replenish, go ahead and buy a new supply.
STILL HAVING TROUBLE?
Here are a few examples…
- Recipes: I love flipping through my recipe box filled with all my favorite hand written recipe cards lovingly covered in flour, spice stains and sugar. For new recipes I haven’t tried yet, it’s easier for me to collect them electronically in a series of pdfs and links. Even though I live on a boat, I decided to allocate a little bit of shelf space for some of my favorite cookbooks. Regardless of where I keep them, I do my best to organize my recipes by category to make it easy to find them when I’m looking for something specific.
- Tools: These are some of the most essential items in my home. Living on a boat requires constant maintenance and repair. Knowing where to find the right tool at the right time is literally a “sink or swim” matter. We have a workbench and toolbox within easy reach containing all of the most commonly used items. It’s also essential to carry spares of just about every working part on the boat, including duplicate sets of sockets, screwdrivers and the like. It’s not practical to keep them ALL within reach so the uncommon tools and spare parts are stored carefully in compartments that are less accessible. Ziploc bags are the most practical way to organize, label and protect parts and tools stored in a boat. They don’t take up any more space than the tool itself and they help protect our belongings from the corrosive marine environment. A very helpful tip we’ve discovered is to utilize the back side of doors. Our boat came equipped with a removable vice on the inside of the engine room door which has come in very handy a number of times. When not in use, it’s out of the way and not taking up valuable space.
- Fishing Gear: There’s not too many places to store 30 fishing poles on a boat. One very helpful solution was to clip them to the ceiling of our engine room. This way they are always accessible and they stay out of the way. Installing hooks on the back side of doors or inside closet doors is also a great space saving technique.
- Clothes and Shoes: It’s different for every home I live in but on the boat my clothing storage is limited. There are a total of three tiny hanging lockers big enough to fit maybe 7 items each. To maximize space, I fold the items I don’t wear as often and store them below and behind my hanging clothes. Shoes are stored in a homemade organizer with pockets that hangs on the back of my bathroom door. My everyday items are folded neatly into the tiny shelf next to my bed. On that shelf, I like to use a wire basket for easy access to hold my swimsuits (which happen to be the clothing item I access most on the boat).
- Pictures: Before moving onto the boat, I decided to store all of my photo albums with printed photographs in them. Some of them are older than I am, and I never got around to scanning them into electronic format. They are safely stored away in plastic crates back in California for when I am ready to revisit them. When that day comes, I would like to dedicate several weekends to spreading out all of the albums and putting the photos in a chronological order to the best of my ability. There are most likely duplicates and some bad photos that can be trashed, and the rest will be fun to look through. Then, I will use a photo scanning app on my smart phone to electronically copy each photo. After they are all transferred over, I can back them up to Cloud Storage or an external hard drive for future use or sharing with friends and family. This is one of the most daunting organizational projects to tackle but I know that if I can get myself excited about what I might find, it will make the process a lot easier.
- Important Documents: Documents are easy to store in the Cloud also. I already have my important documents backed up and stored electronically. Although internet in the islands is not always reliable, I’m never too far away from the internet if I need to access something important. For the sake of convenience, most of my documents are available at all times on a flash drive or external hard drive which takes up very little space.
- Crafts: I like to store crafts inside plastic bins or crates to preserve them. On the boat it’s not as easy to do because my storage spaces are so small. Even though I’m short on space, I still keep my craft supplies organized and neatly tucked away for a rainy day.
- Books: The previous owner of our boat built in some amazing bookshelves. The trend nowadays is to read all books on a kindle or tablet yet I can’t bring myself to get rid of some of my favorite hardcopy books. I’ve brought my favorites with me on the boat and I’ve stored a few bins full of classic books that I’d like to someday pass on to my own children. I’ve already decided those books are worth the storage space, so I’m happy to lug them around wherever they need to be moved to.
- Holiday Decorations: There are so many special and sentimental holiday decorations that I’ve collected over the years. Some of them are favorite decorations I remember from when I was a kid. Some of them were given to me by friends and family. Every season, I do sort through my decorations and decide if something really does mean anything to me anymore. Every year I discover a few things that I don’t care to hold onto anymore and it no longer remains in my home. This is another category of belongings where although I can’t bring them all on the boat, I am not willing to get rid of them so they will be stored until I decide otherwise.
- Furniture: If you have decided to keep furniture items that may not fit in your house, consider loaning them out to a friend or family member for safe keeping. Furniture can be expensive to replace but make sure you really love the pieces you have. If not, get rid of them and wait until the right piece comes along. If you pass by a dresser in your room every day but no longer appreciate it, get it out of there and put something in its place that you love looking at every day. Your home should be a happy and safe place where you love every item you’ve brought into your home.
- Kitchen Utensils: It may sound silly, but when working with tight spaces it’s incredibly helpful to have even the insignificant items organized. I’ve got three small drawers for kitchen items. The top one is used for the most accessed tools like a spoon, tongs and spatula. The second drawer contains all sharp things like knives, cheese slicer and a potato peeler. The last drawer contains baking items that get used every few weeks instead of every day. If I can train my brain to think in terms of categories, it makes locating the item I want much easier.
- Kitchen Towels: Instead of taking up valuable counter space, I attached a piece of ribbon to a binder clip and hang my towels in front of my oven. This makes it super easy to pull a towel quickly from the clip and it keeps them out of the way.
My tiny floating home of roughly 360 square feet is just big enough for me, my boyfriend and our two dogs. We are intimately familiar with every item we have on board which either serves a functional purpose or holds sentimental value. Either way, we are happy to have each and every one of our belongings on board and continue to value the space required to carry that item with us inside our traveling home.
It’s also by necessity that we regularly clean out every locker and storage space we have. We are constantly checking for leaks and bugs, not to mention every time we need one item, the entire contents of that space has to be removed to get it out. It may seem like a lot of work but it’s what we signed up for living in a space this small. It has definitely proven to be less stressful knowing every single item we have on board, rather than having a house full of items we might not even know we had.
Downsizing and organizing can be both intimidating and exhilarating processes. Hopefully this series has brought you a little hope and a little inspiration to clean out the clutter and focus more on the parts of your life that really matter.
Please leave a comment and share your favorite ways to get rid of the clutter! If you are feeling stuck, you’re welcome to contact me and I’ll do my best to help you ‘sort it out.’ If you enjoyed these tips for downsizing, please share them! You may help bring a smile to someone else’s face 🙂