Several years ago I downsized my life from a 3-bedroom home to a 22-foot Airstream trailer. I quit my good paying corporate job and set out to live in my Airstream Eddie Bauer and figure out what the next chapter of my life would be. It’s a journey that had some challenges but it changed my life. In this article I will show you how to downsize your life using the knowledge I gained on my path to minimalism.
Downsizing your life, or minimalism, is all about simplifying your life and only keeping the minimum amount of stuff you need in your life. It’s also about re-prioritizing what’s important to you. For me, it brought clarity to what my purpose was in life and what was really important to me.
For some people, the process of downsizing can be difficult and emotional at times. But, I think the rewards far outweigh the process. These 6 steps to downsizing are based on my own experience and I hope they will help you on your journey to a smaller, simplified lifestyle.
1. Set a goal. Why Are You Downsizing?
First, you need to set a goal. This is probably the most important thing you can do.
As I mentioned above, downsizing is a difficult and emotional process for many people. A lot of things in your life have sentimental value. Other things are in our closet for those “just in case” moments like when we lose that weight. Or, because “you never know when you might need that”.
So, in order to get through the difficult process of downsizing, you will want to set a goal that you can reflect back on that will keep everything in perspective.
Why are you downsizing? What is your goal? Maybe you are looking to move to a smaller living space (like an Airstream) or you want to have more time to do the things you love. Maybe you want to quit your job and eliminate expenses. Or, pursue your dream of having a freedom lifestyle.
Whatever your reason is, keep that as your anchor and reflect on it when the process gets tough or emotional.
2. Be true to yourself
You may have done some reading and have a preconceived idea of what a minimalist lifestyle should look like. But, listen to your gut. This is your opportunity to create the lifestyle that you want. Everyone’s minimalist lifestyle is going to look different so stay true to yourself.
If you have an old coffee grinder that you absolutely love and use it to grind your coffee every day, even if it takes up a little space, that’s ok. Keep it.
But, if you still have your clarinet that you haven’t played since high school, that might be something you want to repurpose. Maybe sell it online or give it to a family member who plays the clarinet.
Create what you want your life to look like, not what you think it should look like.
3. Set aside your favorite things
Step number three is to set aside your favorite things. These are things that have sentimental value to you that could never be replaced.
Utilitarian things, such as mixing bowls or other kitchen gadgets, can be replaced if you realize later that you need them.
Go through your things and set aside those sentimental items. My grandmother’s “thou shalt not steal” cookie jar is one of those items that could never be replaced.
Another idea that worked for me is to make a pile of some of the most important things (or things you’re not sure you can live without) and put them in a box. Then, set that box aside somewhere and go about your life. That way, if you ever do need something, you’ll know that it’s there. And, if six months or so go by and you have not used it or thought about it, then you may want to consider repurposing it in some way.
4. Choose how you will downsize
Next, choose the method you’ll use to downsize.
Some people just go all-in and try to go through everything at one time and it can be quite chaotic. While that is definitely an option, I wouldn’t recommend it.
One method is to go room by room. Start in the kitchen and then, once that’s complete, move on to another room until you’ve gone through the whole house.
Another option is to start with smaller chunks and do one drawer at a time. Then, move to a closet, and so on. My approach was a combination of these two. I went room-by-room but only did one section of that room at a time. One day I’d tackle the junk drawer. The next day I would do the silverware drawer. It was a great way to see progress without eating the whole elephant at one time.
This is also a good place to mention that downsizing and simplifying your life is not just about your physical stuff. You should also take time to go through your digital clutter too.
Clean up your inbox. Delete old text messages. And, unsubscribe from those email lists that you never read.
5. Plan how you will repurpose your stuff
The next step is to figure out what you are going to do with the things you don’t need in your life anymore. I recommend you repurpose as much as possible and don’t just throw everything away.
I was able to sell a lot of my stuff on eBay and Craigslist. You would be amazed at what people are looking for on eBay and other sites like that. I even sold old phone chargers that seemed obsolete to me. But, someone out there was looking for it. It became a little side hustle and I was able to make some additional money this way.
Other things can be given away to family or friends. And, donate the rest to thrift stores. You can get a receipt from the thrift store and write the donation off as a charitable gift on your taxes.
Repurpose as much as possible and to it responsibly.
6. Change what comes into your life
This was probably the most positive change I noticed in my life when I downsized. You will become very aware of the things that come into your life after you’ve gone through this process and will start to change your consumption habits.
It changed my consumption habits in a good way. I only buy things I need now, instead of seeing something and buying it on impulse. When I downsized I only had room for so much stuff. One mixing bowl. One wooded spoon. One cutting board. I realized that I didn’t need a variety of the same item.
When faced with the decision to buy something I think, where will I put it? Do I already have one? What will I remove from my life in order to bring this new thing in?
When I do go shopping to replace an item, I look at quality over quantity now. If I only have one wooden spoon, for example, I want that wooden spoon to be a very special wooden spoon. And, I treasure that wooden spoon.
It’s difficult to describe how your relationship with things will change as you go through this process. You will start to value the simplicity. And, have more time to spend on things that matter to you.
Go get small
Simplifying your life by getting rid of the things you don’t need can be a life-changer. When you’re not overwhelmed by a lot of stuff, you can focus on the things that really matter.
If you follow these 6 easy steps, you will be on your way to a minimal lifestyle. Stay focused on why you are on this journey and it will help you through the times when it seems a bit overwhelming.
Then, enjoy your newly found freedom!
I would love to hear how your downsizing journey is going or if you’ve tried something different that worked for you. Let me know in the comments section below.