7 Things You Need to Know About Downsizing and De-Cluttering

If you're the least bit interested in downsizing, minimalism and de-cluttering, you might want to listen up.

As someone who has not only gone through a major downsizing process myself (a.k.a. getting rid of 80% of my belongings and moving into a 160 sf tiny house on wheels), but also writes about it, speaks about it, teaches courses about it and helps others to physically do it... I know a thing or two about downsizing.

I've also heard a thing or two about it... over and over again.  These are the myths that people tend to dream up in their heads before they ever even begin the process.  They are the things that keep people paralyzed and prevent them from ever moving forward.  And the things that keep them from a life-changing step that could bring about freedom and joy that they never imagined possible.

But, I am here to set the record straight for you so you don't have to be intimidated.  Because honestly, there is nothing for you to be afraid of (except for maybe the photos you'll uncover of you with the 80's hair).  

So, grab your cup of coffee, get comfy under your Snuggie (Anyone else still have one of those?  No?  Just me?) and settle in.  Because I am about to share with you 7 things you need to know about downsizing and de-cluttering.

1.  You DON'T have to get rid of almost everything.

I think one of the biggest myths overall is that minimalism = depravity.  If you're envisioning a one-room house with nothing in it but a stool and a bucket, let me stop you right there.  Downsizing and minimalism are about getting down to the basics of what you actually need.  You will still have the things that are essential to YOU and YOUR lifestyle.  You just won't have all the excess around that.  Which means, it will be different for every person.  For you, it may mean downsizing to 500 square feet, while to another it may be 200 square feet.  The items that you keep within those dimensions will differ too - which is exactly why you should never get rid of something just because you feel like you "should" or because you're modeling your own process after someone else's.

When I downsized, I kept a collection of 150 shotglasses, as well as two Guitar Hero Wii controllers!  They may seem like ridiculous choices to someone else, but to me, they were important because they represented who I am and meant something significant to me.  

So, no, the answer is... you do NOT have to get rid of everything when you downsize.

2.  You DON'T have to give everything away (and therefore, lose a lot of your hard-earned moola).

Another thing I want you to know before you even begin to downsize and de-clutter is that you don't have to just give all of your stuff away to the local charity store.  While you can certainly do that and it would probably be the most time-efficient method, it definitely is not the only one.  And for many people, the idea of just basically "handing over" all of that money they spent on their possessions is too much, so they hold on to it instead.

Now, of course, I do recommend that you take a lot of your stuff to charities and local shelters, simply because it's a good thing to do!  But, there are still plenty of ways to make some of your money back.

  • You can sell clothes through a consignment store or take them to a store that buys them on the spot for cash.
  • You can sell books, CD's, DVD's, video games and board games to a used bookstore that will give you cash and/or store credit.
  • You can sell furniture items, appliances, decor and miscellaneous items on Craigslist.
  • You can sell memorabilia and collectible items on eBay.
  • And of course, you can have a yard sale and make some of your money back... even if it is $1 at a time!

3.   You CAN still express your personality, even after downsizing.

This is a funny one for me because even though a lot of people think this, the reality is actually quite the opposite!  Minimalism is not about everything being black, white or brown.  It's still about you and your unique style and personality, it's just a streamlined version.  And the cool thing is, once you get rid of all the "extra" - the random trinkets, knick and knacks and space fillers that don't really scream YOU and aren't really serving a purpose (other than to fill space), you can actually focus more on the items that do represent your style and therefore, enjoy them more.  

Let me give you an example.  When I was doing my own downsizing and de-cluttering journey, I had a lot of randomness that usually sat out on display in my living room - things like fake flower arrangements, coaster sets, little statues or random paintings on the walls.  But when I downsized, I got rid of all of those and instead, kept things like the angel statues that my mom used to collect (meaningful), the small statue that my aunt and uncle gave me that is made out of railroad ties and shows one figure comforting the other (meaningful and unique), two small drums that my mom and I had bought together to use in the infamous drum circle in Asheville, NC (meaningful) and on the walls - some of my favorite inspirational quotes and Bible verses (meaningful and motivational).  I got rid of the "extra" and kept what meant something to me.  And I must've obviously done a good job of achieving this because when friends, family and coworkers first visited my THOW, they all said the same thing when they saw the inside - "Oh, this is so Jenn!"

4.  You WON'T end up buying it all back.

Another big reason that I've seen people hesitate to downsize and minimize is because they're afraid that they're just going to end up having to buy back everything they got rid of.  It's like people who go through drastic measures to lose weight - they're afraid that at the end of it, all their hard work will have been for nothing.  But, even though I can't promise you 100% that you won't buy back some of the stuff you get rid of, I can say that it's pretty darn unlikely.  

When you actually do start downsizing and de-cluttering, it's usually because you are ready for a change.  Your perspective has changed and you are looking at things in a new way - you realize what you actually need to get by and everything else begins to feel excessive.  So, that feeling - that need to have things - will start to lessen over time and if anything, you may find yourself actually wanting to downsize more because it becomes so addictive!  You will also remember where you have been before (with the mounds and mounds of stuff) and not want to go back there!

5.  It's impossible to do it "wrong."

If you're worried that you won't do this whole downsizing and de-cluttering "right," let me be the first to assure you, you can't do it wrong.  With all of the tiny house TV shows, blogs and magazines out there, it's easy to start believing that you have to do things the same way you've seen others do it.  But that's not the truth.  Just like no two people on those shows were the same, you don't have to be like them either.

There are no hard, strict rules about how long it should take you to downsize, what you should do with the stuff you're purging or even what you keep and what you get rid of.  It is a personal process for you - so, YOU get to decide what stays and what goes.  You get to say what is necessary for your life and what is not.  And by simply doing that, you are doing it "right"!

6.  You WILL finish!

When you're at the very beginning stages of downsizing and de-cluttering (or the pre-stage), it can feel extremely overwhelming.  You may stand at the door to your garage wondering how in the world you are EVER supposed to get though everything that's in there, much less the rest of the house.  And in those moments, it may feel like the process will never end.

But I promise you, it will.  You WILL finish and the results will be so worth it!  In reality, it never takes as long as your "worst case scenario" thinks it will.  And, it actually becomes so freeing and addicting, that mid-way into it (or even earlier!), you start to really enjoy it and may even pick up the pace!  There's something very liberating about taking control back and not letting your stuff rule your life anymore.  So, when you do finally finish (and you will), you will feel like you have conquered something BIG.  Because you have!

7.  You won't regret it.

I think the biggest reason why many people are afraid to downsize and de-clutter (whether they admit it or not) is because they're afraid that they're going to regret it later.  That they'll spend all that time, get rid of all that stuff, move into a smaller space and then... hate it.  They project themselves into the future and see themselves sitting up straight in the middle of the night one night (hitting their head on the loft of their tiny house, of course) and shouting "What have I done???"

But, I want to emphasize two things here.  One, you are basing all of those worries and fears on the unknown.  You haven't actually downsized yet, so when you are having those visions and projecting yourself into the future, you are doing it from where you are now.  And that isn't accurate.  Because like I say all the time when I speak on the topic of downsizing, it is about so much more than the "stuff."  You will go through some pretty major emotional and spiritual changes during the process and your outlook will be entirely different by the time you're on the "other side."

Which leads me to the second thing - like I've already mentioned before, when you decide to start living a minimalist lifestyle or even just de-clutter a substantital amount of your stuff, it's because you are ready for a life change.  You are tired of all the stuff laying around your house.  You're tired of having to maintain, straighten and clean it all.  And you're tired of feeling pressured into always having more, buying more and getting more.

So, after you've gone through the process and actually downsized your stuff - not only are you not going to regret it, but you will probably regret not having done it sooner.  It's because at some point, you do start to feel like the "blinders" have been taken off and you've been let in on some big secret that was being hidden from you - that there really is so much more to life than stuff and life really can be so much simpler than we make it out to be.  You'll realize that all those people proclaiming "less is more!" might actually be on to something... and you might even find yourself being a cheerleader for the movement too.

Don't worry, I'll reserve your pom-pom's.

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P.S.  If you're ready to start your own downsizing journey, get my FREE De-Cluttering Jump Start Kit right here!