Having moved from our 1600 square foot house to a 38-foot 5th wheel rv, I've been asked several times for some on tips for downsizing. You can read hundreds of good organizing/downsizing books, articles, and blog posts with tips for downsizing but very few people share the nitty-gritty, down and dirty truth about downsizing:
It will go on forever if you let it.
You can't keep it all contained.
You will get emotional.
Not Everyone in the family will share your enthusiasm.
You can't do it all alone.
It will get disorganized.
Now that the chips are on the table, let's see if we can unpack this thing called “downsizing” and make it more manageable for you and your family.
6 Truths & Tips for Downsizing
Set A Goal Or It Will Go On Forever
If you're moving this won't be hard. You have to have a date to finish before pictures and showings. But if you're just downsizing the process can go on for an eternity if you don't make a plan and set a date. What is your goal with downsizing? Are you transitioning to a new space, reorganizing the space you have?
Our downsize had two phase: Show-Ready House and Camper Life. The first phase was about making the space less personal (aka sparsely populated with stuff). Our realtor suggested we remove as much personal stuff as possible from the living spaces and we took her advice. The house sold in five days at full asking price so I say the work was worth it.
Phase two involved the actual downsizing and minimalizing. This took time more time and more intentionality because we actually had to part ways with stuff.
The bottom line is, you must set a goal or else you'll put off the hard stuff and never do it. You must face the stuff int the attic, the wedding gifts you never used, and the “we might need that later” pile in the garage.
Room by Room Is A Joke, You Can't Keep It All Contained
Room by room sounds great and it is a good strategy for tackling a monumental job little by little. But the reality is, doing strictly room by room doesn't always work, nor is it practical. Sometimes you need to do a room in layers. For example, if you're downsizing you might start with clothing. Later, you may go back to the bedroom and do books, then jewelry. Sometimes it's easier to do items rather than rooms. I purged clothing for all three of us at least five times! I'd purge, wait a week, then purge again.
The emotional aspect also doesn't always allow for a full room by room purge. I needed a few days to think and pray through some items before I sold or donated things.
You Will Get Emotional – Deal With Those Roots
No matter your reason for downsizing, there will be an emotional attachment to some of your things. Even healthy emotional attachments need to be sorted out and dealt with. If you're having a hard time getting rid of things, you may have some soul ties to those items. If you find something extremely difficult to part with, put it aside, pray about it and see how you feel in a few days.
Sometimes we ladies just need to cry. Part of the separation process is processing your emotions and if that means you need to cry, by all means, cry. I did, and it was a relief at times.
No, Not Everyone Will Be Onboard
The first time we tried to work together in his room we both ended up in tear and he told me he would never give up his stuff ever because I was mean and he loved his stuffies more than me. Teaching kids to let go of stuff is important. Our son went from total resistance to willingly putting things in his own “Donate” box. It was a wonderful lesson in giving, blessing others, and focusing on what is important.
You have to give children, and your spouse, time to adjust to the idea of downsizing. You also have to realize that your idea of downsizing isn't their idea of downsizing. Joshua Becker, a popular minimalist blogger, says that his wife and daughter are not as minimal as he is. He daughter likes her things and loves to collect things as well.
Even if you're not going to extreme minimalism, this is an important lesson: everyone processes differently. Don't hinder progress by demanding they do it your way.
You Will Need Help, And That's Okay
Sometimes a fresh perspective is necessary. I had some things I just didn't know what to do with. So I showed my husband, my mom, or a friend and they helped me decide which pile (keep, sell, trash, donate) it went in.
You may need physical help to move things. Don't be superwoman – get some help, it's okay and besides, you never know what an encouragement and example you are to someone else when you allow them to see the inner workings of the declutter, downsize and minimalize process.
It Will Get Disorganized, And That's Okay
I hate messy, unorganized spaces. But when you're mid-way through a major downsize or move, it's likely you'll end up going to bed with a house that looks like a tornado hit it. Guess what, that's okay! You have to let go of the mess and what other people might think if they stop by.
There's nothing more humbling than your pastor and his wife stopping by the day before you're ready to list the house! I had stuff everywhere – it was total chaos but by 10 am the next morning the house was pristine and sparsely decorated, just as the realtor requested.
Sometimes you have to make a mess to make progress. As Elsa would say, “Let it go, let it go!” A temporary mess on your way to a decluttered, slimmed down, minimalized space is well worth it.
No matter your reason for downsizing or minimalizing one thing is for sure. You will feel a weight off your shoulders when you have less stuff to manage. Your budget will be impacted in positive ways and so will your family. If you'd like additional resources for downsizing, minimalizing, and decluttering I recommend this but don't wait – it won't last long!