Wednesday, December 30

How to Downsize Your Living Space

We have no shortage of projects going around here at any given time. From writing books to house projects, closing our primary business and dealing with medical issues, we've got a lot to do. But one of our biggest projects is to downsize our lives from our 1,400 square foot house to what will be our new home: a Tiny House on a 24' trailer.

Most of you are not planning on making such a drastic life change as we are, but the more I talk to people the more I realize that just about everyone can benefit from some sort of downsizing. Whether it is a closet that is bursting at the seams, getting ready for a move or a new addition to the family, there is almost always something taking up valuable space that shouldn't be.

What is downsizing?
The basic idea of downsizing is to reduce the amount of something that you deal with on a regular basis. This often takes the form of excess items cluttering shelves, closets and cabinets, but it can also come in the form of unhealthy relationships, a too-full schedule or anything else that seems to be draining your time, space or energy. In theory, downsizing is simple. Identify what you have too much of and get rid of it.

But how do I do it?
The nuts and bolts of downsizing can be terrifying. We, for example, are on a mission to simplify our lives to free our finances and improve our health. At present, we are living the "American Dream" in a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom home. We have owned our own business for 5 years, so in addition to all of our daily living items we also have a ton of office equipment and inventory shoved in every corner. It is a mess! But we are committed to sloughing off the excess and getting to where everything we own fits on a 24' trailer, and inside a 13' storage unit. That means that we have about 900 sqft. of stuff that has to be sold or given away.

There is a lot going into our downsizing project, but we have picked up a few great tips that have gotten us through the panic of parting with our stuff. Maybe they'll help you clean out your own broom closet.

  1. Identify Small, Easy Problem Areas
    Everybody has a junk area of their house. It's where you drop the things that don't have a designated home, temporary projects that you plan on getting to later, bills you're trying to ignore, spare charging cables, toothpicks, and random bits of broken things you can't seem to throw away. The first step in downsizing is to find those stashes in your house and get rid of the clutter. Clearing out a junk drawer or organizing a dump-all shelf may only take you 15-30 minutes but it will give you an emotional boost and encourage you to take on bigger projects. You can do this!
  2. Pick One Project
    Whenever I stop and look around the house at the piles of toys, eBay listings, laundry, furniture, art, DVD's, gaming consoles... I have a minor panic attack when I try to figure out how we are going to get rid of all of this stuff. Where is it going to go? How do I know what it's worth? Should I just toss it in the yard and set it on fire?

    In the larger picture of downsizing, you've got to put on some blinders. Ignore the bigness of your goal and simply pick one project. This week, my husband and I cleaned out our master closet. We spent a couple of hours going through each article of clothing. We had a pile for selling on eBay, a pile for donations, and a pile for giving away to friends. Any item that we decided should not return to the closet landed in one of those three piles. In the end, we emptied 2/3 of the closet and we both feel so great about what we've accomplished.
  3. One In, Two Out
    Downsizing doesn't have to be done overnight, and to do it right you should really take your time. If you are having difficulty getting started, simply make a promise to yourself that whenever you buy something new, you will get rid of two things you already own. Not only will this help to lesson the load of things you own in the long run, but you will be more careful about what you bring into the house in the first place.
  4. Choose Quality over Quantity
    When you are going through your things, you will often find that you have multiples of certain items. For me, it was kitchen utensils. I had so many different kinds of spoons, servers, strainers and other gadgets it was ridiculous. Whenever I had multiples of the same item, I decided that I would only keep ONE. I always choose the one that is in the best repair and is the most comfortable to use because chances are, that's the one I usually use anyway. As a bonus to this idea, when I had a drawer full of ladles, spoons and spatulas that were all in disrepair, I recycled them all and replaced them with a new single matched set. Not only does the new set look and feel great when I'm cooking, it takes up way less space than all the junk I had before.

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