It amazes me how much stuff you accumulate throughout your life. Especially when you share that life with your spouse and three children. You mindlessly pile stuff up, it sits and takes up space and goes without notice. Then, you realize that you really don’t need all this stuff or space, and it’s time to downsize.
My husband and I have been married for over 14 years. We have three children aged 9-2 and we have accumulated more stuff than I’d like to admit. Some of it we’ve deemed necessary such as pots, pans, and dishes. While most of it is simply to take up space in a house that is entirely too large.
In fact, most American’s are in the same boat. According to the U.S. Census bureau the average home size has increased from a mere 1,000 square feet in 1950 to over 2,500 square feet in 2018. That’s a lot of space, yet the average family size has slightly decreased in that same time period.
Why do we need so much space? What do we do with it all? We fill it with stuff. Just stuff. We have extra space to put furniture so it doesn’t look so barren. More rooms to hang televisions in, more closets to pack with things we forget we have. More space for more stuff. And it’s not necessary, not at all.
If you’re finding yourself wanting less you’re not alone. We have a crazy (to some) idea and plan to move from our very accommodating 2,100 foot home into less than 350 square feet. With all three of our kids and our dog. While I’m not sharing all of the details right now, just know that it’s something I’m really excited about and looking forward to. It will take time, but I’m sure we can all do this… together.
9 Tips to Downsize Your Home
1. Make a Plan
Nothing in life works out well if you don’t have a plan. I get nothing, and I mean nothing, accomplished if I don’t have it written down somewhere. But, even just making a plan in your head can work… if you’re that type of person. I personally prefer writing it down.
- Give yourself a time frame. Are you doing this because you’re moving? How long do you have? Because you just can’t stand the stuff anymore? How long do you want to give yourself?
- The longer you can give yourself, the less stressful the process will be. We have about a year to accomplish this, which gives me time to work through each area, then go back through.
- Decide how you will choose what to keep and what to toss. Some things may be a no-brainer. If you’re moving from a house with two living areas to a home with one… you’re probably going to be ditching a living room suit. Others won’t be as easy to decide.
- Decide what you will do with the items you’re downsizing. Are you giving some to family or friends? Donating it? Going to tackle a garage sale? How are you going to accomplish these tasks and get the items where they go? What will you do with the leftover garage sale items?
- Decide if you’ll have storage. A lot of people have storage units in the U.S. You need to decide if this is something you care to do. I’ve been there, done that and we will be getting rid of or giving to family everything that won’t fit. It’s not worth it to spend all of that money on storage every month for us. I can honestly say, we missed nothing with it being in storage and could’ve just left it and been none the wiser.
- Go room to room, space to space. Knock it down to a small 4’X4′ area at a time if you need. But, do what you can in a time limit you give yourself before moving on.
2. Don’t Go Overboard Downsizing and Decluttering
It’s so easy to get into a groove and just keep tossing, tossing, tossing. “Oh, I’ll never use that again.” Only to realize a few days later that you threw out your only useable blender and you make smoothies three times a week. You need to take your time with this stuff. If you are moving into a smaller space, make sure you have a list of essentials. There are things we can’t really live without. Like… a few pair of socks and underwear for instance.
Remember, you can always pass back through an area after you’ve completed it. There isn’t any set rule that says you have to get rid of all the stuff you don’t need in a room in one sitting. Be kind to yourself, but also be decisive and realize what you definitely don’t need.
3. What things can you not part with?
We all have them. Mementos that we just can’t bare to part with. And that’s okay. Think of what things you would want to try to save from a fire. Think of why you would want to save them. And… lastly, try to think of ways to save them without having to keep the physical item. I know it’s difficult, and not everything you have is something you’ll be able to part with the physical object, and that’s okay. But, if you can… do.
4. Digitize anything you can
That goes along with the mementos you can’t part with. Are they old photographs from your childhood? Can you digitize them so that they’re still there to go through, but don’t take up physical space. That way, if there’s a flood or fire, they won’t be gone forever. And, you won’t have them filling up a lot of space you can’t really make for them.
Same with movies, music, books… all of it. If you can, digitize it. There are tons of things like bills, receipts, and other paperwork that you definitely can digitize.
A little note: my thoughts on digitizing old photos…. Do it, even if you keep the original, physical copies. Why? You never know what could happen and they could be destroyed forever. While I understand that holding the physical photograph or memento in your hand makes it more meaningful, if they were destroyed, you’d not have them at all. So, even if you plan on keeping them, find a way to digitally archive them… just incase.
5. Stick to the one year rule
Pull an item out of your closet and realize it hasn’t been touched in at least a year and a half? Honey, it’s time for it to go. Anything you haven’t used in a year is likely to never be used again. Very, very likely.
This includes old outfits, old craft equipment, baby gear, kitchen utensils and appliances. All of it. I know how it is. We hold on to stuff that we think we may need someday. But the truth of it is, if someday was coming, it would’ve came before a year was up.
Of course, there can be exceptions to this. But they’re rare. If the item isn’t likely to be needed and you’re hanging on to some day, let it go. You’ll feel so much better when you do and realize that stuff isn’t taking up valuable space you can use for something you actually need.
6. Ditch the maybe pile
I usually recommend a maybe pile that you go back through and find the keep stuff. But… we’re downsizing to the point where maybe won’t fit. So, I say forgo it unless you really do have the space. If you do have the space, I highly recommend you box it up, tape it, and put it on a shelf out of sight out of mind. Set a reminder on your phone for 6 months. After 6 months, if you haven’t gotten in that box for anything… straight to the Salvation Army (or wherever you choose to donate) it goes. No opening it up after that point.
But, if you’re like me and there won’t be room for maybe in your new space. I sincerely encourage you to just ditch the entire pile. If it’s something you really couldn’t decide on, it’s probably not something you truly need, or want, to keep in your life.
7. Give special items a new home with someone you know and care for
We don’t have to give everything away to strangers. Nor do we have to hold on to every single item we feel holds some sentimental value.
If you have things that you don’t really want to hold on to, but you don’t want to give away to a stranger think about who you could give it to that you know.
I have given old stuffed animals away to children (other than my own) that I know and I knew would love and enjoy the item. You can make it meaningful and know that an item is being loved and enjoyed if you just think outside the box.
8. Follow the one in one out rule
Once you’ve downsized and moved into a smaller space, you need to seriously consider your future purchases before you make them. And… think about what you can let go of before you bring that new item in.
If you don’t follow this rule, or something very similar to it and you don’t really think before you buy or accumulate stuff you will soon find yourself with far too many things in far too small of a space. Which, is no fun. And no one wants to have to do this more often than necessary.
So stop and think about if it’s something you absolutely need. If it is, think about something that can go to a new home so that the item can have a space of its own.
9. Consider moving it and then deciding
If you’re moving into a smaller space, it can be difficult to know what will and will not fit into your smaller space. Don’t go overboard and get rid of things you use and love simply because you think you won’t have space for it.
We’re lucky enough that our new space is accessible, so we can take what we think will be essential and see how we can organize it and make it work. Maybe you’re that lucky too.
Even if you aren’t lucky enough to have that space readily available, it will be accessible when you move. So, consider taking those things with you and then finish downsizing. Don’t get rid of all of your everything thinking there won’t be room. Because… there may be a way to make it work and then you’ll just find yourself spending more money to repurchase it.
So, if you can, move the small stuff with you at first (if necessary) and then you can decide how many plates and such will fit into your new cupboards in your new space.