To welcome the New Year, we wanted to share tips and tricks to downsize your things to de-clutter and de-stress your life in 2017.  For most people, getting rid of stuff is hard. Whether you are paring down to live tiny, or looking to de-clutter your home, here are some tips to free yourself of your possessions.

Downsize to get more out of life

The tiny house movement is linked with minimalism…the idea that living with less stuff helps us focus on what’s really important. Stuff can feel suffocating, stuff can paralyze us, and mindless consumerism has a lot of negative effects on the human psyche and our environment.

On the other hand, some stuff can give us a lot of joy. A thoughtful gift to a loved one can express our care. A new well-fitting outfit can boost our confidence. A small library of books can inspire a sense of home and shared learning. Minimalism isn’t about owning nothing, but simplifying to own only what gives us the most joy.

too much stuff can be a burden

As discussed in 5 Reasons to Leave it All Behind, last year we woke up and realized that all the stuff we had accumulated over the years owned us more then we owned it.

When we first met, both of us owned very few things…then we moved into an apartment and got some furniture and decorated. Then we moved into a townhouse, and got more stuff. Soon after, we moved into a 1,300 square foot house with a 900 square foot garage and managed to fill that up too.

It was time to live with less to get more out of life.  How did we downsize from a house to only what fits in our pickup truck?  Here are 7 tips to free up your life by downsizing your stuff.

1. Live without it…to realize you don’t need it

We moved to Alaska for the summer and then planned to move to Florida after that. We gave nearly everything in our house away except a few things that we just couldn’t part with…like a antique table, our road bikes, some paintings, and a Swash (a brilliant single garment washing machine). We packed all these beloved objects into a 5×7 storage unit for the summer. For Alaska, we packed only what we could fit into a Prius C and hit the road. While in Alaska, we decided to buy a camper and start living on the road.

After 6 months of living without it, we realized all that “precious stuff we couldn’t part with” was useless to us. We could barely remember what was even in storage.

Finally we returned to San Francisco and emptied the storage unit. We only kept what we could carry in our truck and teardrop camper. Now we carry everything we own in our little “snail” home and it feels so…free.

Do you have a garage filled with useless stuff you have no idea where it all came from? Or a storage unit that’s been sitting there for years? It’s time to downsize…keep reading to learn how.

2. Create “rules for Downsizing”

It can take ages to downsize if you have to comb through every object you own and decide whether or not it is important to keep. Here’s a secret: everything you own probably has some importance. Importance is not binary: it’s a spectrum. Decide where your threshold is on that spectrum, and then decide where those things land. For Jessi, handwritten notes fall high on the importance spectrum. To save time she didn’t need to read each note to decide whether to throw them away.

When we downsized from a 1,300 sq. ft. house to a 35 sq. ft. storage unit, we had one threshold: how sentimental or useful was it? 6 months later, when we scaled down from the storage unit to a truck, we had a much stricter downsize threshold. Would we use it everyday living in the camper? If yes, it might stay. If not, it would go. The only non-daily use products we ended up keeping were a few sentimental one-of-a-kind things like yearbooks or childhood photos.

3. If you don’t use it, lose it.

Do you currently use it? Have you used it in the last year? Last month? Last week? It doesn’t matter if you think you might want to use it one day. The question is: do you use it now? If not, it’s useless to you. Obviously some things, like seasonal gear, might need to be stored for part of the year. But to de-clutter, it can be helpful to only have out what you use on a daily or weekly basis.

If you don’t use it regularly, give it away.

Tiny closet space in T@B Camper - downsize so you can live simply with less stuff
With only 3 closets sections, we only keep things out that we use on a daily basis.

4. Give it away to people who can use it.

A lot of people struggle with getting rid of things that might be useful someday.  However, giving it away to people who can use it eases that struggle.

Give what you love to people you love

Sometimes it’s hard to get rid of objects because they hold sentimental value to you. What helped us get rid of meaningful objects was giving them to people we love. It can feel good to know we are helping people we care about, as well as know our beloved stuff will go to a good home.

Sell it on craigslistLetGo, ebay, or host a garage sale

If it’s hard to let go of things because you’ve spent money on them, selling them can help ease that burden. If you have the time, and need the cash, this is a great option. Consignment & vintage fashion is all the rage these days, so places like Buffalo Exchange and other curated thrift stores can be a great way of getting rid of nicer stuff in your closet.

Drop it off at a local charity

If you don’t have time to sell it, and none of your friends want it…donate it. Goodwill, Salvation Army and other thrift stores are solid options for dropping off usable stuff. More often than not, we donated our stuff.

5. Throw it away.

A bunch of junk is just that…junk. If the thrift shop won’t accept it, it’s probably useless. Keeping useless crap is not helpful. Just throw it away.

And try not to feel guilty about it. Throwing things away was really hard for us. Where will it go? How long will it take to decompose? All questions eco-friendly people might ask. But then we thought about the long run. If we downsize our life now, we will have years of conscious consuming which ultimately puts us in the positive…or at least this is what we tell ourselves!

Time to downsize the garage filled with junk
We stored donations for a non-profit in our garage for nearly 2 years. We had A LOT of stuff to get rid of eventually.

6. Own only what you enjoy

Minimalism isn’t about hating stuff. It’s about only owning stuff that brings you joy. One way to pare down is to get rid of the stuff you own but you don’t really like. That gift from your aunt you never liked? That frock you feel frumpy in? Time to go. For some people, challenges like Project 333 (when you only wear 33 objects for 3 months) can help focus on only wearing things that you like and combining your clothes in creative ways. If you don’t feel great in your clothes, get rid of them. It’s better to wear your favorite shirt more often than to wince every time you have to wear what you don’t like.

7. Find multi-purpose Items

A key trick to minimalism and tiny living is finding things that can be used in multiple ways. Instead of owning 3 different things for 3 different purposes, buy one thing and use it for all of those purposes.

Multipurpose clothes
Dark and neutral clothes can be very multipurpose
Dark and neutral clothes can be very multipurpose

Simple clothes like dark neutrals can be very multi-purpose. For example, those superhero pajama pants your mom gave you years ago…okay, let’s be honest, Valerie had a very hard time getting rid of those.  But instead replace them with some loose black linen pants which can also be worn out in public. Focus on clothes that can be easily dressed up or dressed down. Jessi loves soft dark v-neck t-shirts that can be dressed up with a blazer, but are soft enough to wear as pajamas.

Recently, Jessi found a pair of Prana pants. They are stretchy enough for yoga or cycling, breezy and water-resistant for hiking, and black & close fitting enough for work. Plus, when she folds them up, they take up a fifth of the space compared to jeans. Hello new pants, goodbye pair of blue jeans, work pants, and yoga pants.

Intelligently Designed Products

Well-designed products can save a lot of space and help live tiny. Top of our list of intelligently designed products are Sea to Summit Towels. They can fold out to be full-sized shammies, and can fold up to be the size of a cell phone. Brilliant! They are great for back-packers, and useful for keeping our bathroom supplies small.

Part of the attraction of minimalism is to counteract the unconscious consumerism that is rampant in our society. Ironically, throwing away a bunch of stuff and buying a few well designed replacements can really help you live minimally.

Downsize to Live Tiny in a Teardrop Camper
We downsized A LOT to live in a tiny teardrop camper

Summary

The hardest part of downsizing is letting go of our emotional ties to stuff.  Dealing with our emotions can be more challenging than the logistics of downsizing.

To downsize, we had to remember that stuff is just…stuff. As much as modern media wants to convince us otherwise, objects don’t define us. Objects are just tools. Even beautifully designed or elegant objects, at the end of the day, play a role in our lives. We don’t really own anything. We simply use it for a time, and then we move on.

Letting go of stuff can be so freeing. It can free up mental and emotional space so we can focus on what is really important to us.

As they say,  “Don’t love stuff and use people. Instead use stuff, and love people.”

*This post contains affiliate links, which means we receive a small percentage of money if you make a purchase using this link. This costs you nothing but does help support the blog!

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22 Comments

  1. Jenny Ostenson Reply

    absolutely love this blog post!!! I am a big believer in living simply and getting ride of excess clutter.

    • Jessi Reply

      Thank you! Excess clutter is the worst. And by no means do we think everyone should live tiny (unless they want to) but living without all this stuff has been truly freeing!

  2. I LOVE THIS! One of my goals for 2017 is to SIMPLIFY.. these are such great tips 🙂 And I love your cute little camper!!

  3. I’ve always been a minimalist. Even growing up I’d annoy my family by throwing out stuff constantly. haha! I love what you said about minimalism, that it’s not about owning nothing, but owning a few things that you love.

    • Jessi Reply

      That’s awesome! We’ve had to learn to own less but I think we’re changed humans! Minimalism all the way

  4. I moved into my own house last December and I’m really trying to keep things minimal. They’ll be times when I’m out shopping or looking online and I’ll want some decor or furniture because I think it would look great in my space, but then I realize I have absolutely no use for it other than it looks good.

    • It’s hard! Everything looks so tempting and beautiful sometimes but then you get it and eventually have to move it, store it, or give it away.

  5. Oh, I so wish I was brave enough to do this! But then again, i am wrangling 2 little boys stuff too, haha!

  6. I love this. My husband and I have a 1300 square foot house and we looked around a month ago and said, “WHAT IS ALL THIS STUFF?” We’ve been slowly but deliberately getting rid of A TON OF IT. Can’t wait to tackle more rooms and have less things!

    • Yah!! It’s incredible what fits in a 1,300 foot house and half of it you don’t even realize you own. Good luck in your downsizing quest!

  7. Excess clutter is so draining! I’m in the process of cleaning out my 2600+ sq ft house right now so I can move into something tiny. My brother just did something similar and has packed everything he owns into a bus so he can travel more with fewer restraints holding him back. I definitely prefer freedom from possessions over rampant consumerism. Great share!
    erin | sandsunandmessybuns.com
    PS: I scheduled your post to share on my FB page next week 🙂

    • Aw thanks for commenting and sharing your story! It’s fun connecting with people doing similar things. And HUGE thanks for sharing our article! We just launched Oct 31 so we are very appreciative 🙂

  8. loveyoumoretoo Reply

    Yall are precious!! Love this post. My husband and I just bought a camper van and will be spending most of the summer in it. We have been working on downsizing and getting rid of excess too. 🙂

    • Oh yeah!!! Good luck! Do you have any photos of the van? You’re going to have a BLAST!

  9. Good post, and so true! Having space around you (literally and figuratively speaking) rather than feeling cluttered is amazing. Though I don’t agree wrt fashion etc as I enjoy having much to choose from and didn’t like to live off a suitcase of clothes when I was travelling for 5 months. But after this experience and moving houses I now only buy things I actually really like. And I stopped buying little things here and there that will end up somewhere in a drawer 🙂

    Nadine Cathleen | Karateandcaviar.com

    • Totally! It really does feel great 🙂 We’ve never been big into clothes so we actually traveled for a month with a MINIATURE backpack. hehe. Thanks for reading!

  10. Your T@b is the cutest one I’ve seen. I love the slip covers. Very fun blog and YouTube videos.

    • Thank you! We love orange so it worked better than the original brown.

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