Living Simply – How to Downsize

Okay, I’ve done a little philosophizing and more than a lot of picture taking, but now I’m going to get back to how-tos for a minute.

The first step of Living Simply for many people is addressing the amount of stuff they own. Possessions are one of the biggest pitfalls, and one of the easiest categories to excuse. And since I’ve been working through this process anyway, I thought it might be helpful to talk about surviving the purge. Here are a few easy tricks to get you on the path to a smaller inventory!

Only purchase multifunctional items.

multifunction tool

There is no problem that this awesome tool cannot solve. Need a haircut? This can handle it. Evil puppet chasing you? No problem!

Look for items that work on more than one level. This could be a picture frame with an attached clock, a pair of boots that look good with both summer and winter outfits, or a pack of mason jars to use as drinking glasses (when you aren’t storing things in them, of course). Combining items in this way is a simple step toward owning less.

Only purchase things that you truly love.


I like to imagine this coat is bigger on the inside.

It’s an unfortunate fact that most of the clutter I’ve tossed in the last year has been comprised of items I purchased because they struck my fancy at the time, but not because I loved them. When I began to clean out my closet, I found bags upon bags of clothes that were adorable, flattering, and almost never worn. I came to the realization that I wore and re-wore and washed and wore again only a handful of articles of clothing. When I ditched the rest and just stuck with those few favorites, I hardly noticed.

Learn to give away your stuff.


It’s okay – they’re all the same book. I have two more copies on my shelf.

Some of us get a very real high from shopping. Wandering through stores and picking out new things to take home can be so therapeutic. But do you know what else I’ve found is a real rush? Giving stuff away. Seriously. One day, a friend of mine told me she liked the sweater hanging in my closet. Without really thinking about it, I took the sweater down and gave it to her. Honestly, I have never once regretted that. I loved that sweater, but I loved the look on her face even more. A couple of weeks later, my husband and I were thrilled to donate almost our entire book library (gasp!) to a newlywed couple. It’s so much easier to downsize when I know that my belongings are going to people who will love and use them.

Make and stick to a budget.

Finger Pressing Button on Calculator

Seriously, how many of us actually use the % button on a regular basis?

Okay, I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but chances are if you doubt this step’s effectiveness, you probably haven’t tried it properly. Something about having to see the impact of shopping on my bank account week after week made a big difference on my spending habits. Start by writing down the dollar amount you spend after every shopping trip. Keep a running total and see how you feel after a month or two. The total amount, as opposed to several small totals, may not feel so great.

Take baby steps.


Just be sure to do it with style! Like the press is watching. All the time.

Determining to downsize your entire house is an admirable goal, but few can attempt such a drastic change and keep their sanity intact. Start with a single room or area of your living space, like the bedroom. Too big? Narrow it down to a particular category, such as clothing. Still too daunting? Narrow it down further and only work on your collection of shoes. If that’s still too difficult (for me, shoes were a very advanced-level minimalist sort of thing), switch to something to which you have less emotional attachment, like socks. The high of downsizing even just your sock drawer can give you the momentum to tackle the bigger things.

Set goals.


Okay, seriously. Red marker from a pencil? Now they aren’t even trying.

Mark your calendar with dates for your downsizing. Determine how long you think it will reasonably take to tackle each room of your home, and set up a plan. Keep in mind that just throwing things away can easily lead to backsliding. Give yourself  enough time to go through the entire process, from assessing what you actually need, to selecting only what you love most, to weeding out the sentimental items. And don’t forget to celebrate when you hit your goals! (Just don’t celebrate at the mall…)



Is it a paradox to write about downsizing and covet these shoes at the same time?

One of the biggest mistakes new downsizing champions make is backsliding. Doesn’t it sometimes feel like only a week goes by before the house starts to look like spring cleaning never happened? This is the same idea. To combat further accumulation, I implemented the hard-and-fast rule of “one in, one out.” This means that if I buy something new, something old from that same category has to go. In this way, I always stay at the same number of shoes, the same number of pots in the kitchen, the same number of hair bows. How’s that for manageable?

Oh, and if you didn’t get to track my process through my closet, check out my Minimalist Wardrobe Challenge series, and hit the follow button for more updates and I continue the journey toward a simple life!


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