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psychology of downsizing

When we first decided to sell the house and move onto a sailboat, the allure of warm breezes and palm trees was quickly overshadowed by the reality that we had to get rid of all of our stuff to get there.

Not that we had as much stuff as some people. Our house was on the small side at just around 1000 sq ft, which made downsizing almost harder. What little stuff we did have, we had for a reason, and most of our stuff, we either really loved, or it had sentimental value.

But it was necessary, since our already-small square footage would be reduced by about 80 percent.

How we got started downsizing

The first round of cleanup consisted of going through our closets and finding stuff to donate to Goodwill. We filled a trash bag and dropped it off at the curbside donation center and felt really good about it… until we got back home to our closets and it didn’t look like we had rid ourselves of a thing. *sigh*

We knew we had to be serious about downsizing, so we turned it into a game. How much money could we fetch on Craigslist for the extra wifi router that was sitting unused in a box? Should we sell the furniture piece by piece or as one big “take all or none” lot? Who could get the most money for the antique Victrola?

And guess what? After awhile, we no longer felt the sting of getting rid of things we once considered precious. Doing away with our stuff became a high all it’s own. It was cleansing and cathartic. It was fun.

In the end, we sold or donated almost everything we owned (except some original art, books, and a few precious sentimental items), and I can honestly say the only thing I regret is not doing it sooner. Living in such a small space, my life is no longer dictated by what I own. I no longer feel the pressure of walking through a mall and not wanting to leave empty-handed.

There’s a saying that goes, “The less you own, the less that owns you.” I can vouch for that. I feel less stressed, more in control, and cleaning is a whole lot faster, which allows me more time to do the things I enjoy.

I’m not saying that you should sell everything and move onto a boat, but I’m pretty sure that you could find some way to declutter and simplify your life.  Below are a few ideas to get you started.

5 easy ways to downsize

  1. Start with your closet. Donate or sell anything you haven’t worn in 6 months. Why not try the Hanger Method, one of Oprah’s favorite tricks? Using this method, you hang all the clothes in your closet the wrong way. As you wear the items, you hang them back up the right way. After 6 months or so, you can quickly see exactly which clothes you don’t wear just by scanning the direction of your hangers.
  2. How about your kitchen? Recycle all of those plastic storage containers that are missing lids, and all of the lids that are missing containers. (I even have this problem on the boat – where do all those lids go?!)
  3. The bathroom. If you’re a girl, I know you can do some major cleaning here. I’m guessing you have at least 3 bottles of shampoo, one of which is probably very near empty but still sits in your shower, right? Toss it in the recycle bin.  And makeup? Do you  have compacts filled with crumbled and broken powder or eyeshadow? THROW THEM OUT! If you haven’t used it in the past 3 months, it’s safe to say you probably won’t be using it, so clear out the mess and make room for the products that you do use and love.
  4. Sell your old books online at a site like You can also look for a local used bookstore that buys old books or will accept trades. This is a great way to get rid of old books and trade for gently used books that you want to read.
  5. Go buy a sketchbook at an art supply shop. Go through your magazines and tear out any recipes, outfit or decorating ideas, etc. and tape them in the pages of your sketchbook. I had a friend who did this and was finally able to rid herself of several years worth of old magazines.

A super-simple way to determine what to get rid of

The above 5 steps are a good start, but what about the rest of your stuff? Where do you begin? How do you know what to keep and what to get rid of?

You can check out this handy dandy infographic I made below.  Just ask yourself these 3 easy questions and you’ll be on the road to minimizing and simplifying your life.

Downsizing - how to declutter

Click on image to enlarge


What are some downsizing ideas you’d add to the list? Leave a comment below!