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 most of our stuff to get there. We knew downsizing wouldn’t be an easy task.

Not that we had as much stuff as some people. Our house was on the small side at just over 1000 sq ft, which actually made it harder to downsize. What few material things we did have, we had for a reason. Most of our stuff consisted of things we really loved, or that had sentimental value.

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

Downsizing — Where to Begin

During the first round of Project Downsize, we went through our closets looking for clothes, shoes, and accessories to donate to Goodwill. We filled a huge 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 somehow it didn’t look like we’d gotten rid of a thing. *sigh*

We went through our posessions again, making piles for sell, keep, donate, and trash. As the process went on, I noticed that my “keep” pile still had significantly more in it than any of the other piles. That’s when I realized that, while I didn’t want to admit it, getting rid of my stuff made me a little sad. It was hard.

It wasn’t the actual objects themselves that made it hard, but the memories behind those objects. Even silly things like an elephant figurine that I had picked up at a flea market because he was crooked and quirky looking. There was no strong sentimental memory attached to it — it was simply something that made me happy to look at, nothing more.

I had a long, honest talk with myself and began asking myself why each object in my “keep” pile was there. What kept me hanging on? Was keeping my things more important than building a new life of travel and wanderlust on our new sailboat?

NO!

As soon as I answered that question, I knew that I had to be serious about downsizing, and that meant being ruthless about getting rid of stuff.

My husband suggested we turned it into a game. How much money could we fetch on Craigslist for that 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? Which of us could get the most money for the antique Victrola?

We listed things one by one on Craigslist and eBay, and little by little, we started to make a dent in our stuff, while padding our wallets.

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 truly precious sentimental items). I can honestly say the only thing I regret is not doing it sooner.

Now, we are happily living on a sailboat with a tiny fraction of our belongings, and I’ve never been happier. 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, or of feeling wasteful when I buy something I know I don’t need.

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. Not to mention the money savings and even the contribution to the environment.

And because I’m saving money by only buying things I need, I can actually buy nicer things that are higher quality and make me feel good about my purchases.

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 Start Downsizing Today

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 woman, 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 BookScouter.com. 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. Then get rid of the magazines. I had a friend who did this and was finally able to rid herself of several years worth of old magazines.

Downsizing in 3 Quick Steps

The above 5 steps are a good start to downsizing your life, 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? This infographic will help you quickly determine what to do with each item you own.

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 most of our stuff to get there. We knew downsizing wouldn't be an easy task.

When you begin downsizing, just ask yourself these 3 easy questions and you’ll be on the road to minimizing and simplifying your life.

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

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