How to Begin Downsizing When You Want to Live Minimally

By Cora Gold, Editor-in-Chief of Revivalist

Have you ever noticed how what you own can encumber you? All those toys and gadgets require money to upkeep and repair, causing you to work longer and harder, losing precious years of your life you can never get back.

You aren’t alone in wanting to unburden yourself from the world’s demands by downsizing your lifestyle. Living minimally really means living maximally — your time becomes your own instead of taking orders nearly every waking hour in a scramble to keep up with what you’ve accumulated.

However, the task can seem daunting at first. What’s the best approach to making your life smaller? Here’s how to begin downsizing when you want to live minimally.

Part of a series on Minimalism:

5 Minimal Steps to Begin Downsizing

1. Start With the Basics

It sounds simple to separate your belongings into needs and wants. It’s much more challenging in reality because you form an attachment to the things you own — and there’s always that nagging question of, “Could I need this someday?” The problem compounds if you’ve struggled with economic insecurity and have legitimate fears that you may not be able to replace the item in the future.

Try this experiment — for the next week, take notes on everything you touch. You now have a handy dandy list of those things you need daily.

You can also use this time to begin evaluating what you might be able to sell for cash to help finance your move if you plan on relocating to a smaller home or RV or van living. For example, check the bottoms of any antiques you may have inherited for a signature or other manufacturer’s mark to see if it’s worth the trip to have them appraised.

2. Move on to Your Furnishings

What takes up the most room in your home? It’s probably your furniture. Fortunately, most people don’t form overly strong sentimental attachments to their couches and end tables, making this step the logical second choice in downsizing your life to live minimally.

If you plan to relocate, get the dimensions of each room in your new home. That way, you can measure and see what you can realistically fit in the space without making it overly cluttered. Are you staying where you are? Measure your rooms. You can use free home design software to help you plan a new layout after you commence the purge.

Planning your layout has another advantage — it helps you maximize what you already own. For example, say you want to change your decor while living more minimally. Could your current end tables fit into your new scheme if you refinish them or give them a coat of chalk paint to match your style?

What should you do with the furniture you no longer need? Many organizations like Habitat for Humanity ReStore will take your unwanted goods and give them new life. Some offer free pickup at your home, so it’s every bit as convenient for you and far kinder to the planet and people in need.

How to Begin Downsizing When You Want to Live Minimally: A white ute bearing a painted sign that says "Alternative Thrift Shop"
Photo by chrissie kremer on Unsplash

3. A Good Old-Fashioned Closet Cleaning

It’s time to tackle the closet — here’s your chance to rid yourself of old ghosts. Your best bet is to empty that puppy and start the sorting process. Make several piles:

  • To keep: These will be the items you wear all the time or need for specific purposes.
  • To donate: Goodwill is one option and many areas have local thrift stores that support worthy causes and need their shelves stocked.
  • To repurpose: Clothes with holes or ground-in stains might not make it to charity. However, they can transform into cleaning rags and packing materials. Or, add a bit of stuffing to make some new toys for your pets.

Here’s a nifty hint that will help you keep your closet clean and stick to your new minimalist lifestyle. When you restock your space, turn the hangers to face the opposite direction of what you usually do. When you wear an item, reverse the direction. When closet-cleaning time rolls around again at the end of the year, it’s simple to see what you haven’t worn.

4. The Little Things

Now it’s time for your art and decor — the most sentimental objects of all. You bought each knick-knack because it sparked joy at one time, but there’s no point in keeping items you don’t use around to gather dust.

Keep your overall design in mind when deciding what to keep and what to donate or give away to family and friends. For example, many small objects in a tiny space make the area look cluttered and more cramped than it already is. Is it time to part with that figurine collection, especially if doing so might fetch you a nice price at auction or your local antique shop?

What about items even closer to the heart, like family photographs and vacation memories? Instead of scores of tiny frames, can you organize them into a large collage to create a stunning focal point instead of a collection of competing images? What about creating an artful shadowbox of those old seashells and beachcombed coins to display on your coffee table instead of scattering them everywhere?

Empty beach under a blue sky

5. Stick With the Program

Once you downsize your home for your new minimalist lifestyle, the challenge becomes keeping it tidy. It’s insidious how clutter can creep up on you, especially if you moved into a smaller space and don’t have the closets and cabinets you once did.

One solution is to practice one-in, one-out living. Before you bring home anything new, select something you no longer use or want and donate it or give it away to a loved one. Your goal isn’t to create new landfill fodder, and this technique causes you to pause and reflect on how urgent it is to snag that adorable knick-knack.

Get mindful with your purchases. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Will I use this gadget more than once?
  • Am I using “retail therapy” to compensate for an unmet need — like feeling overwhelmed — when taking a break would work more effectively?
  • What else could I use this money for? Is that new gadget worth it if maintaining it will cause me to work extra hours each week? There’s a lot of truth to the saying, “time is money.”

Start Downsizing to Live Minimally

You aren’t alone if you feel overwhelmed and over-encumbered by the stuff you own. What seemed like a good idea then can quickly become burdensome if maintaining what you own — including dusting and cleaning — takes more hours of your life than you care to spend.

Use this list to begin downsizing to live more minimally. You’ll free yourself from stress and learn there’s more to life than buying stuff.

Cora Gold

About the Author

Cora Gold has a passion for writing about life, happiness and sustainability. As Editor-in-Chief of women’s lifestyle magazine Revivalist, she loves to share her insights and find inspiration from others. Follow Cora on FacebookPinterest and Twitter.