Let’s go back in time to early 2015. We were living in a 2700 sqft home, just 2 adults, 2 cats and a dog. Yes, that’s right all that space for just the 5 of us. We used about 40% of the house on a daily basis, yet every room was well stocked with stuff. Stuff in very closet, drawer and cabinet. I don’t want to paint you an inaccurate picture. I was not a pack rat, but when you have space you tend to accumulate stuff to fill it. People bring you stuff, you buy stuff to fill “empty” spots. And then 5 years later you turn around and your belongings own you and you can’t even remember half of that you have, you might be lucky to use 50% of it within a year. Spring of 2015 I took a job paying very little are a step into my new career field. The housing market was booming, especially in the small town where we lived. So we decide it was a good time to sell our home. We sold and moved into an RV (see my post here about RV Living).
I began seriously downsizing about 1 month before we put our house on the market. This meant going through EVERY cabinet, drawer and closet. Opening very box and storage container and pulling out every item to decide if it was worthy. Considering we were moving into a tin can we have NO ROOM TO SPARE! That is not and exaggerating. Luckily I had family with extra garage space so we could store large items to expensive or useful to get rid of now. Mostly tools, camping equipment and our SUP boards of corse!
I went through our entire house multiple times over the corse of about 2-3 months. It was not easy, in fact it was very painful at times, but I’ll save that for another post. In the end I was able to make our 2700 sqft worth of stuff fit into one 25’ RV and 1/2 of a one car garage. We had one small yard sale, sold most large items on Craigslist, and donated over a dozen car load of stuff to Goodwill. Yes thats right, I went back and counted my receipts and I dropped stuff off over a dozen times during the 3 months before we closed on our house.
Fast forward to today, almost exactly 2 years since we moved out of our home and into the “tin car” as we called it. Today we are renting a small house at a discounted rate though work since we had to relocate. We only have the bare essentials here with us since we know we will be moving out in a few months. It is so liberating to live with less. I know, I know this is the mantra of everyone selling a book on how to simplify your life. But I can tell you, I’m not selling a book, or an online course. I have nothing to gain from telling you a lie and I’m saying it really is freeing!
Disclaimer: I’m the type of person who hates clutter. I leaf through a magazine and see images of perfectly decorated rooms, with walls full of art and nicknacks and think “ WOW, that looks great!” but in reality I feel anxious and stressed when my space is cluttered with stuff. I prefer clear surfaces, simple walls and everything in their place. Therefore a simplified life with less stuff only makes sense for me.
Being able to say NO:
Another benefit of living with less is using it as an excuse. People try to give us stuff, now we have an easy excuse to say no. “Sorry, we don’t have any space.” Ooooh, it feels so good to say no. We have had family that gave us stuff all the time. It seems like a kind act, giving something to someone. But when all the stuff becomes a burden it becomes cruel. I know, I know, this sounds so incredibly harsh, maybe I’ll write another post some day about giving with purpose. My point is if you are living with purpose, especially if you have downsized your living arrangement, it is a great excuse to say “thanks, but no thanks.” It is truly agonizing to have to get rid of something someone special gave you even through you really have no use or want for the item. The item really owns you then.
Update 8/28/17: I have written a post on Gift Giving with Purpose and Meaning!
Where did I put that?:
OK back to feeling FREE! One of my favorite things about having less is knowing where everything is and knowing what I have on hand (pretty much) all the time. If I want to get crafty and sew something I pretty much know what notions I have on hand. No digging through several drawers and boxes to see if I have any zippers or the correct color thread. All the sewing supplies are in one simple box, I open it and I can see everything in one glance. Same thing in the kitchen, I have a few favorite pans and I know exactly where they are, what they are good for, and they are always easy to get to. No digging in the back of cabinets, no avalanches of lids, no cleaning pans that have dust all over them because they never get used.
Learning More About Yourself:
Learning what I can and cannot live without has been an eye opening experience. You will learn so much about your true priorities while you purge. If is by far the hardest part of simplifying, and therefore is the most rewarding. Like most things in life change only happens outside of your comfort zone, so get uncomfortable. Once your stuff is gone you can then focus on what is important to you and learn about yourself. If you have more free time because downsizing has left you with less “chores” you will learn what you truly love to do. You can then refocus on what brings you happiness and therefore you can spread your happiness to friends and family. You can be more giving with your time, volunteering, visiting family and helping friends. Whatever makes you happy!
You Spend Less:
Maybe, at least I do. I have found having less is almost an addiction. I still take about 1 bag a month to Goodwill, I’m constantly purging. I also bring less home, every time I want to buy something non-essential I make myself live with out it for a few more days/weeks. If I still find I really want it or it would be very useful then I will do more research and decide to purchase it. I always make myself answer these Pre-Purchase Questions.
The Pre-purchase Questions:
- Where will I put it?
- Do we already own something that can do the job? Can I repurpose something?
- How much use will we get out of it? How often will it be used?
- Will this item cause us to purchase more stuff in the future or increase space to put stuff?
- If I don’t buy this what could I spend the money on?
- Do we still actually need this item?
After I have asked myself all these questions I often answer number 6 with a “no”. For example, I was thinking of purchasing a small cabinet for our bathroom. After answering the questions I realized we really only needed it for storing toilet paper and some non-essential toiletries. I made space in the hall closet of toiletries we don’t use everyday and the stock pile of TP. I keep a couple rolls under the bathroom sink and solved the whole dilemma for free. I saved money and stopped from buying a piece of furniture. Just one more thing to care for, clean and move in few months.
Who doesn’t love more money?! I know I do, most people would take more if they could get it. First, when you purge you have the opportunity to make some money selling extra items you aren’t using. We funded a 2 week road trip solely by selling old toys we were storing from our childhoods. Next, if you make a big jump and move into a smaller house a reduction in the rent/mortgage per month puts money back in your pocket. Also a smaller place usually means less for utilities, more money back! Lastly when you have room for less you spend less. It is simple, straight forward but not necessarily an easy way to put your spending back on track. Since we downsized were have been able to quit our high paying jobs we didn’t enjoy and take lower paying, seasonal jobs that make us happy, go on several small vacations and a couple large ones, start a real retirement fund for me, pay off all of my student debt, buy a new car in cash, buy new appliances and high end furniture. All of that because we made some large sacrifices and took a few leaps of faith that we could handle it.
Now we are happier, healthier and really wealthier all because we downsized and simplified our life.
Please leave a comment about your experience if you downsized, or obstacles blocking you from trying to downsize.