5 Tips for Downsizing and Decluttering
January 9, 2018 | Kathryn Kellogg
Last Updated on April 9, 2020
If you’re following along with the zero waste challenge via YouTube, (Which you should be 😉 you’ll know yesterday’s challenge was to declutter.
You can check that video out below, but don’t forget to catch all of the videos here.
Many of you know, six months ago…. Justin and I moved into a tiny house.
It’s not a traditional tiny home on a trailer with wheels. It’s just a really small house. It’s around 325 sq. ft. which according to the all-mighty google is a tiny home.
It’s also doesn’t have that gorgeous modern tiny home design with giant windows and a functional floor plan. It’s kind of an odd bungalow from the 1920s.
We moved in knowing that eventually, we’d move back into a larger house.
I have no desire to live in 325 sq. ft. for the rest of my life.
I have kind of a love / hate relationship with living tiny. That’s a blog post for later, but the main moral of the story is I NEVER want to live in any house over 1,600 sq. ft. EVER.
I don’t want to live “big” but I certainly don’t want to live “tiny.” Because, I know tiny living isn’t permanent, it’s kind of like I’m living in limbo with a little too much stuff.
I own a lot of things that are important to me. I don’t want to give them up because I know in several years, I’m going to want them when I live in a slightly larger space.
There’s room for everything, but I certainly feel more crowded than I would like it to. My husband who loves stuff and bric-a-brac is in heaven.
I’m also sad, there wasn’t room for most of the plant babies. But, downsizing has taught me a lot of important lessons.
focus on the benefits:
Any time I start feeling bummed, I think of all the benefits. You’ve got to stay focused on the positive, which is really a good life lesson in general. And, it’s a great Bing Crosby song.
Moving into this tiny house allowed Justin to go back to school without us incurring any debt. We’ve been down to one income for almost two years. (It’s why I still work my 9-5 job!)
Living tiny has allowed us to live alone!! For the first time in our relationship, we don’t have roommates fairly important for newlyweds.
And, OMG it’s AMAZING. (Justin and I were living together when we met. You can read more about it here and also get a glimpse of our last house. RIP amazing windows, I miss you.)
It also allows us to focus on having creative careers. Justin is working on building his own recording studio, and I would like to get back to acting full-time.
When you’re downsizing and decluttering, focus on all the freedom you’re going to have. Think of all the physical and mental space you’ll be gaining. Don’t focus on what you’re losing. Look at what you’re gaining.
Anytime tiny living stresses me out, I think of all the amazing things we can do without a major rent payment. I suddenly feel very grateful, and my small space doesn’t seem so bad.
get serious about what you need:
After going through a house fire, you quickly realize there’s a lot of stuff you simply don’t need.
I really encourage you to think long and hard about what you truly need. It’s much easier to be strict when you have to purchase something. It’s much more difficult, when you’re giving away something you’ve already bought.
Focus on the positives you’ll receive by decluttering, and be ruthless.
Ask yourself a series of questions:
- Would you buy this right now again?
- When’s the last time you used this item?
- When’s the last time you thought about this item?
- Can you use something else?
Dream about what you’ll do with the space when the item is gone, even if it’s just the peace of knowing you’ll have more space.
find other spaces:
By living in a small space, it’s become important for both Justin and me to adopt other spaces.
A small space isn’t conducive to a lot of movement. There’s just not that much room to move around. It’s forced us to find other living spaces. Mostly, we get outside and walk a lot more!
Which is great for our mental health, physical health, and our relationship. We’re out walking and talking to each other. We’ll spend a couple of hours on the weekend enjoying each others company. Oh, and Nala enjoys it too.
We’re homebodies by nature. We like to get involved in our own projects, and being forced to find new spaces forces us to connect with each other and our friends too!
use what you love:
When we lived with roommates, we had the good plates (one of my prized possessions that were off limits due to living with some clumsy people), and I had some mismatched plates picked up from the thrift store.
Moving into our tiny home, without roommates, allowed me to break out my favorite plates for every meal! Yes, there have been some cracks and chips over the past couple months. They are very delicate, but I love them so much.
Every time I pull the plates out, I’m so happy. By downsizing, there’s only room for the things you love. It infuses joy into day-to-day activities.
go for the gold:
We know when something is good. We can easily identify something that makes us happy. We have trouble when it comes to things we feel mediocre about. Especially if that mediocre thing was given to us as a gift or has some memories attached to it.
If you struggle with letting things go due to gift guilt or memories attached to the items, you should read this blog post.
When I say, “Go for the gold,” I mean go for the things you know you couldn’t live without.
If you’re going through your bookcase, ask yourself, “Which ones are my favorite?” “If I were on a deserted island, which ones would I have to have?”
You’re going to pick out the gold. You know which ones you love. You know which ones you can’t live without. You’re probably thinking of those books right now. You KNOW the books. Keep those, and box up the rest.
I doubt you’ll even think of them. Donate anything that’s not the gold.
What’s your top tip for downsizing or decluttering?
I guess I can’t see the harm in not getting rid of things that much. Sure, I love a good purge, but isn’t it kind of zero waste to do keep things? I have dresses I only wear once a year and would never save in a fire, but they prevent me from buying a new dress "should that event come up again". My parents kept toys and books from my childhood that I had honestly forgotten about but now, voila, our kid has lots of Swedish books (printed in Sweden too!) and will get toys for his birthday that are my old things. I think that’s cool.
For me it’s about redistributing resources. I also find the more I have the more I want, clutter loves clutter. It’s really about finding myself and my enough. Some people might not have these tendencies, but I do! Also, living in 325 sq. Ft. Kind of forced me to declutter. If you have the space and you enjoy the things you keep that’s great! I see no harm in keeping what you’re perfectly content with keeping, but I think a lot of people have kept too much and are uncomfortable with their mental and physical clutter.
When i moved back home it was into a 200sq ft apt,at the time i knew i would be eventually moving into the main house so for the past 17 years i have been "redistributing resources" I am in the main house now and getting fairly good at the barter/trade and selling what i don’t need to get what i do need.
I think one of the most important things one can do when decluttering is what you mentioned in your video – take time to get items to the specific places where they’ll be used! No thrift store hauls en masse if it can be helped!
Yes!! I completely agree.
Clutter stresses me out! So I can see how your tiny house can cause stress. I live in about the same square footage, so I understand. It’s like everywhere I look, there is stuff. One helpful thing for me is our really high vaulted ceilings (we live in a cabin). It makes it feel roomier than it really is. One advantage is that our tiny space is so much easier to clean and it makes us clean more often because we have to. We are content right now with it, and we will see what happens when we have kids, lol.
Yes! I do love how easy it is to clean. I wish that we had taller ceilings though and more windows! <3
At the end of my year in China, I had to select all the things I would have to give away, to lighten the backpack I was taking on a one-month an a half trip through South East Asia. I still had a couple of books, a sleeping bag, a 3kg sweater, and a few other heavy things in there.
After one week, I started letting go of all the bits in the hostels I’d stay at. It all disappeared: the hole-y shoes I previously couldn’t bring myelf to abandon, the sleeping bag, the one-on sweater…
At the end of the trip, I thought of all that stuff I had brought back with me and that I had never used again… Right around the time I found this blog.
Letting go and picturing, very clearly, the things I truly needed or treasured, was one of the most liberating realizations I ever had.
My American boyfriend and I now live in a flat that has exactly the same dimensions as yours (Parisian life oblige…). I’m used to it, but reading this I understand his frustrations better now.
It’ll get easier 😉 Bon courage!
I’m glad this gave you a little bit of insight! 🙂
Hi Kathryn. I have been running into a little internal conflict. So I am trying to be a minimalist and what I have learned so far is to not have an issue with letting go. I have purged my wardrobe, when my desk becomes a mess I do purge my paperwork, I have been letting go of all of my daughter’s clothing when she out grows them and now I am beginning to let go of her toys. But my house still looks like a mess… And I feel that when I clean I still have too much stuff hanging around… Could that be the issue or maybe I’m just not organizing things correctly? How do I disc-hyper?
You may need to reevaluate your routines and see if there’s gaps there. For example, I have to, have to, have to unload/reload/run the dishwasher every single day or else things start to pile up. Even if it’s not entirely full, I run it.
The secret to a tidy (ish) house is decluttering + routines.
It could be any number of issues. Maybe you do have too much stuff or maybe you don’t have a space that suits your needs. You’ll eventually find a happy meeting place, but it can take years.
My only thought (having lived on a boat with about 50SF of living space) is hang on to the art you love. <i>That</i> is irreplaceable.
That’s a great tip, Jay.
I’ve been decluttering as well since I am preparing on moving after graduate school and I don’t want to haul everything around. My former career required me to move around a lot, and I, unfortunately, acquired much more than I anticipated because I purchased things I had in one place that I forgot to take with me during my moves. As I go through stuff, I think it’s good to ask the questions you’ve posed as well as determine why you purchased something in the first place and kept it over the years. Most of the time, I find I acquired something thinking it would give me a certain lifestyle or persona. I’m much happier realizing I don’t need those things to be any certain kind of person, I am good enough without them!
Consuming under the guise of who you want to be vs. who you are is one I definitely struggle with. Especially being an actor! I’m so prone to being a certain characterized version of myself (which I’ve talked about in other space of the blog.) I love costumes. I love getting to embrace different aspects of my personality, I just have to learn to do it without the consumeristic aspect.
I don’t have a tip since you already gave us the full package. Honesty, I’m into clothing but I dispatch it and gave to others when I can and especially during Chrismas. This is the only way I could clean up and at the same time giving to others. Great post!