You know you want to downsize. Heck - you NEED to downsize if you’re thinking about living in a tiny or small home!
And beyond that, no matter how many square feet you're gonna live in (because let's be honest that's not what matters), downsizing feels good. It saves you money. It gives you more time for your hobbies, family, friends, travel. More dollars in your pocket. Less stress. All that good stuff.
You know that downsizing will allow you to save more money, live the life you want to live, and have the time and financial freedom.
Maybe you’ve tried to “get organized” and “de-clutter” before. It probably felt pretty good…at first. But a few days later, your home looks the same as it did before. And the progress you’re making is slow-going. You’re stuck. You’re not sure why - because you’ve read the books and the blogs but nothing really works.
Well, today I've got seven steps to help you let go.
And if you want to take it further and do a step by step process and method (based on years of experience and working with hundreds of people to go through this transition), you can join the Tiny Transition and Downsizing E-Course. Class starts on May 3rd. You can register right here!
Let's get right into it!
Step 1. Why are you simplifying?
The first thing you need to do is ask yourself WHY you’re simplifying your life and your stuff, and establish some real goals (physical, emotional) about what you hope to achieve. Do you want to travel more? Have a better marriage or family relationships? Find financial freedom and eliminate debt?
Whatever it may be for you (and it will be UNIQUE!) you need to know what it is before you start.
And then you need to write it down! This helps you make it REAL.
Step 2. Assess your stuff
Once you’ve decided to simplify, you need to ask yourself a few simple questions:
“Does this bring me joy?”
“What do I want to keep?”
“Would I buy this again?"
"Would I wear it on a first date?”
One way to downsize is to ask yourself the question: “What should I keep?”.
It’s a more “additive” approach which is a little more fun than a “subtractive” approach (which is asking the question “what should I get rid of").
Imagine that you have a completely blank slate. You’re building a new life from the ground up and you only need to bring the things with you that you truly love. Isn’t that exciting?!
Step 3. Tackle the kitchen like a pro.
Okay - the kitchen can be a TOUGH place to downsize for a lot of people. It’s full of things you thought you would use, things you bought and never touched, and tons of expensive but single-purpose gadgets.
I believe that occasional-use Kitchen Toys are your enemy when you’re trying to downsize and simplify your kitchen.
Those things that take up a lot of space but only get used once a year? I say ditch it.
Living in a tiny space is all about NOT planning for the “what ifs” and “every possible scenario”. You don’t need anything in your kitchen that serves only one purpose, unless you’re a total foodie and baking is your life (in which case do whatever you want!).
And if you’re trying to go off-grid with your tiny house, you’ll thank me for lessening your electric load!
The Kitchen Toys:
What you don’t need (unless you can convince me otherwise):
- Ice cream maker
- electric pop corn popper
- Fancy food processors that take a long time to come apart and are hard to clean
- Fancy China
- Real Silverware in a velvet-lined case (from your wedding)
- Specialized Glassware: An assortment of wine glasses, Martini glasses, and beer mugs in every shape and 8 of each? You need as many vessels as there are people in your household, and no more!
- Cheap Mixers – just use a spoon and a bowl, no need for an electrical appliance here.
- Toaster – grilled toast tastes better!
- Bundt cake form
- any type of special cake form
- fancy baking supplies for frosting and cupcake making
- “holiday” anything – if it has a “theme” like thanksgiving or Christmas, get rid of it. Just get one nice set of dishes that can be used for every single day.
- a block of 12 knives. You only need one or two really nice knives, and a sharpener.
- Anything “As Seen On TV” that was meant to make your life better but got pushed to the back of the drawer.
- Cookbooks. Any recipe can be found online, there is no need to keep a bunch of cookbooks (unless it was your great great grandmothers or something very special!).
If you haven’t used it in the last 2 months, you really don’t need it. You need the right tools, not more of the useless gadgets you see at the kitchen stores!
My Tiny Kitchen Essentials Inventory:
This is the stuff I use on a regular basis, things that you should definitely include in your kitchen!
- One medium sized cast iron pan (I love cast iron!)
- One small saucepan
- 2 plate-bowls from Ikea – these are the only vessels I will ever need. It’s like a plate and a bowl combined. Genius.
- 2 sets of silverware
- one French Press
- 2 coffee mugs
- 1 tea strainer for loose leaf
- 1 Tea pot
- 1 set of various plastic containers for leftovers – no plastic wrap.
- Citrus juicer (hand powered, of course)
- 1 cutting board
- 1 Pyrex or other baking pan (not 5 or 10 or one in every single size, just one).
- 1 colander
- 1 nice knife
- 1 spatula
- 1 multi-purpose measuring cup, not a “set” of nesting ones.
- 1 can opener
- 1 whisk
- 1 mixing bowl
The One-Bowl Method:
My partner Matt and I found one single plate-bowl (it’s a wide, medium shallow bowl from Ikea) that we love enough to use exclusively every day. You can eat almost anything out of it, except maybe a steak (for cutting reasons). Breakfast, lunch, or dinner – we really only need one multi-purpose vessel!
Simplifying the Fridge:
In your small home you will most likely have a small fridge. The good news is that it’s hard to stash lots of unused and unhealthy stuff in a tiny fridge. Fermented foods are a great way to have healthy, probiotic foods that don’t require refrigeration. Your fridge should only be home to the essentials. Here is a list of items that don’t need refrigeration so that you can declutter that icebox!
- Ghee (clarified butter – so good!)
- Most fresh fruits and vegetables – It drives me nuts when my mom puts tomatoes in the fridge! That’s not good! It makes the vegetable actually go bad faster.
- Bread – Maybe it’s just my mom, but she puts bread in the fridge too! Makes it go bad faster.
- Peanut Butter
- Baked Goods
And that’s it! Those are my most essential strategies for simplifying and downsizing your kitchen. Most people have out of control kitchen situations, and feel pretty bad for giving away expensive kitchen gadgets. I give you permission to ditch the crap you don’t use and make room for a simpler, de-cluttered life!
Step 4. Eliminate "Decision Fatigue"
Decision fatigue is when you become overwhelmed with making hundreds of tiny decisions about meaningless stuff that you become too exhausted to make bigger, important decisions. This is the reason that many successful people wear the same thing every day - they have more important decisions to make than to figure out what to wear every day.
Having too much stuff leads to decision fatigue. And when you’re trying to downsize and simplify, deciding if every single item you own should stay or go can be exhausting.
Here’s what to do about it:
1. Have a simple outfit that you wear everyday. Eliminate the decisions around getting dressed, matching, all that stuff. I wear black jeans and a grey shirt. Easy.
2. Make a big batch of food in the crock pot at the beginning of the week, then eat the same thing for lunch every day. I HATE deciding what to cook. I have more important things to do. I make a big batch of something on Sunday and eat it the rest of the week.
Now you don’t have to worry about this daily details, so you can focus on better things.
Step 5. Simplifying is social.
Trying to downsize on your own, without support or help, makes an already difficult thing so much more difficult.
Shopping is a social activity. Consumption is social. So why can’t we downsize in a social setting?
You need a community, a few friends, a support system. Without it, you’ll get so frustrated and bogged down.
Most people quit at some place during their journey because without a support system, you have no one to cheer you on when you’re in the thick of it. Your house looks worse than it did before and you need to ask a friend over to help you. To tell you what clothes to get rid of.
I like the idea of starting a “consumers anonymous” monthly group that gets together and talks about simply living. Work through your struggles. Encourage each other!
You can also join Tiny Transition and Downsizing where we have an incredible supportive group of people to cheer you on, lift you up, and answer all of your questions. Not sure what to keep? Post a picture and the group will tell you. Struggling to get rid of something you know you don’t want? Come into the forum and get the perspective of all of your peers. It's my favorite part :)
Step 6. Face the fear head on.
In the past few years I’ve done a lot of experimentation with living with very few physical things. My journey into a small space looked a lot like this:
1. 1200 square feet of space stuffed to the brim with clutter.
2. 112 square feet - my vintage trailer home has perfect storage and plenty of space for two, but I got rid of 90% of my stuff to fit into it.
3. 35 square feet - my partner and I lived in our Honda Element (converted into a micro-camper) for 6 months in the past year while we traveled. All of our stuff fit under the sleeping platform, in bags, or over our heads strapped up to the ceiling.
4. One medium sized bag - Since October I’ve been living out of just one bag, a duffel bag, while we live in a client’s home that we are renovating and restoring this winter.
So that’s 1200 square feet -> 112 square feet -> 35 square feet -> appx. 6 cubic feet of space for my stuff.
Needless to say, I’ve had quite a bit of experience with downsizing. My stuff no longer owns me, instead I have control over what physical items affect my day to day life.