5 Mistakes People Make When Downsizing

As tiny house TV shows (and tiny living in general) grow in popularity across the country, more and more people are starting to downsize their "stuff."

Whether it's with the end goal of moving into a tiny house on wheels, or simply to declutter their current home, people are starting to become disillusioned with the "American Dream" of constantly accumulating more possessions and are embracing a simpler, lighter lifestyle instead.

They're tired of their overstuffed closets, overflowing cabinets and junk-filled garages.  They're over having a house full of stuff they don't even use.  And they want to have a life that consists of MORE.

... Not more stuff.

More time.

More space.

More money.

And more meaning.

As someone who downsized myself, I highly recommend it.  I was tired of filling up a 17' U-Haul truck by myself every time I moved (heck, I was tired of moving altogether).  I was tired of having extra closets, extra cabinets and even entire extra bedrooms full of stuff I didn't use!

I wanted to be able to move around more easily and to only own what I actually need and use.  And for me, that meant living tiny.

But whether you plan to move into a tiny house or not, there are some common mistakes people make when downsizing that you should be aware of before you start your downsizing journey.

1.  They Think They Have to Get Rid of EVERYTHING.

Ok, obviously the point of downsizing is to get rid of a substantial amount of stuff.  Otherwise, it defeats the point.  BUT that doesn't mean you have to go off the deep end either.  Downsizing is about paring down to the minimum of what you need to live realistically.  YOU.  Not someone else.  If that means, a comfy living room couch is one of your "must haves," then by all means, keep the comfy couch!  (You can even work this into a tiny house, I've seen it done!)  Just because someone else gets rid of something in their downsizing process or someone told you you should get rid of something, doesn't mean you have to.

When I first started my downsizing process, I thought I would get rid of all of my "extra" entertainment items... like my old VCR and VHS tapes and a record player with records that I never play.  BUT when I really sat down to take an honest account of things, I realized that I wanted to keep the record player because the records were my dad's and playing them reminded me of him.  Even though I felt like I was somehow "cheating" by keeping them, I'm glad I did.  Because now that there are less things competing for my attention, I do play the records now and I think of my dad every time.

2.  They're Not Honest With Themselves.

Now, even though I just said I kept a record player that I never played, I knew that by keeping it, I better start playing it, or it had to go.  Because a massive part of downsizing is BEING HONEST with yourself.  That means no "I might use that one day..." or "I'm going to start doing that..." or "I plan to do that..."  

You need to be frank and honest with yourself and ask "Have I used this in the last six months?"  No?  Get rid of it.  This is especially important when it comes to clothes.  For some reason, we will hold on to clothes that we don't wear for way longer than we should.  We think a special occasion might come up, we might lose that extra weight or maybe bell bottoms will come back in style one day.

Whatever the excuse you've been giving yourself is though, it's time to stop.  BE HONEST with yourself and don't be afraid of the cold, hard truths.  If you're like me and you haven't touched the craft cart full of supplies and turned them into wondrous works of art by now, you're not going to.  Get rid of it.

3.  They Don't Give Themselves Permission.

Similar to being honest, people are often afraid to give themselves permission when downsizing their junk.  Most often, this is because of emotional issues.  For example, after my father passed away, my mother was left with a LOT of stuff to sift through.  My dad had been an antique collector/seller, so he had literally rooms full of records, record players, lamps, books, knick knacks, collectibles, and on and on it went.  My mother felt a certain responsibility to make sure she got the proper value for them and/or that they went to good homes.  

This is a very sweet outlook and is actually a correct one to have... to a certain extent.  Yes, you'd like to get properly compensated for collectible items and in our case, we did want to make sure a lot of the stuff went to someone who would genuinely appreciate it, like my dad had.  But you can't let that type of thing go on forever, because it will become a burden and a stressor to you.  One that you will eventually grow to resent.

When my mother first passed away, I kept as much stuff of hers as I possibly could.  She was my best friend after all.  But after some time had passed, I gave myself permission to get rid of the clothes that were hers that I knew I wouldn't wear, the books that I didn't really want to read or the Christmas ornaments that I didn't really like.  And that was okay, because 1) It didn't mean I was getting rid of her and 2) It made me appreciate the things that I did keep even more.

4.  They Give it All Away.

When you really get going on your downsizing, it does become sort of addicting.  I get that.  You actually get an adrenaline rush from the "clearing out" and the more you purge, the more you want to purge!  It's an awesome feeling.  BUT that doesn't mean that you have to just drop everything off at the Goodwill down the street to get it out of sight as quickly as possible.

Now, while you DO want to clear out pretty quickly overall (the longer you leave it sit around, the more likely you are to talk yourself back into keeping it), you can at least take the time to deal with it properly.

Before you just give everything away for free, try selling some of the big items on Craigslist or the collectible items on eBay.  Take advantage of free bulletin boards at work, school or your church.  When I was downsizing, I tried to recoup as much of my money as I could, so I could then turn around and use it toward my tiny house.

And for the items that you are donating, do a little research on the options in your area.  Although Goodwill is a great organization, some of the smaller groups probably get less attention and therefore, less donations.  Look into homeless shelters, abused women's shelters, children's groups or military organizations.

When I downsized, I made it a point to take my business clothes to a group called "Dress for Success" that helps women coming out of difficult situations get back on their feet, and the rest of my clothes, shoes and bags to a center that works with victims of domestic violence.

5.  They Panic.

Whether someone has been thinking about downsizing for a long time or they just recently decided to make a change, I've seen people in both situations get started and... freeze.  

"There's SO much to do!"
"How will I EVER get through all of this??"
"What if I get rid of something and then realize later that I need it???"

First of all, breathe.

Then, remember that when it's all said and done, it's just stuff.  What if you had a fire tomorrow and all of that stuff was going up in flames faster than you could control?  Would you worry about any of it?  Or would you just be concerned with getting yourself and your family to safety?

After I downsized, I only had 3 major pieces of "furniture" left:  my mattress, a tall purple mirror that I LOVED and my mom's sewing table that used to sit in our kitchen when I was a child.  I used it up on my rooftop deck on the tiny house, along with two small patio chairs I had purchased to match it.

When I had to return the tiny house (if you don't know that story, read my post "Buyer Beware" here) and the builder came to pick it up, I had to leave the mirror, table and chairs on the property where I was staying until I could come back 2 days later with a bigger vehicle.  Even though they were obscured from view from the road, by the time I came back to get them, they were gone.  Someone had stolen them.

Now, I'm not going to lie, I was pretty upset that someone took my mother's sewing table.  I had gone through a lot of trouble to get it and find a place where I could make it work in the tiny house.  It had sentimental memories attached to it.  Not to mention, the stuff was mine and someone just decided to help themselves to it.

But in the end, it was just stuff.

I had to learn the hard way to not be too attached, even to the stuff that I had decided to keep.

Don't stress yourself out worrying if you'll change your mind.  Just make honest decisions as you go and keep looking FORWARD.  Take your time, don't rush. 

And remember... it's all just stuff anyway.  

REady to start your own downsizing journey but don't know where to start?

Check out my new e-course, DeClutter, DeTox, DeStressthat will help you clean up your home, your body and your life!