Common downsizing obstacles (and how to defeat them)


Halfway through the second week of our current Jump Off the Ladder challenge seems like a good place to talk about downsizing. Many of us have, at one point or another, wanted to downsize our possessions and felt that the task was daunting. Here are a three common obstacles we face, and how to talk ourselves out of them:

1. Fear

This is possibly the biggest challenge we face. Every excuse to not downsize, from “I might need this one day” to “What would so-and-so say if I don’t keep their gift?” is potentially rooted in fear. We fear that we won’t have what we need when the time comes. We fear that we will offend others. We fear that we will be making a mistake that will cost us later.

We combat this struggle by reassuring ourselves that we are not at the mercy of our possessions. When we believe that our survival and comfort are not dependent on our stuff, we are free to let go the things we “might one day need.” We are not victims with regard to our things.

2. Sentiment

Sentiment is a tough obstacle to face. Whether it’s the mild sentiment of a commemorative t-shirt or the deep attachment of a wedding dress, possessions that hold our hearts are some of the hardest to let go.

We can better deal with downsizing sentimental things when we focus on enjoying them, rather than hoarding them. If our sentimental things are so wrapped and packaged and encased that we never see and enjoy them, keeping them for the memories may not be worth it. Keep what brings you joy, but don’t white-knuckle things you never get to experience.

3. Peer pressure

Sometimes as we begin our downsizing journey we encounter discouragement and judgement from those around us. Sometimes these dramatic changes raise in others the same fears and pressures we feel ourselves. Our friends can sometimes feel judged or begin to see their lifestyle in sharp (negative) contrast to ours.

When others put pressure on us to conform, we can fight it by reminding ourselves that we don’t need to apologize for our decisions. As long as we are not actively being judgmental or unkind to those around us, their negative reactions to our choices are not our problem.

Which of these have you faced recently? Do you have any good strategies for dealing with them?


14 thoughts on “Common downsizing obstacles (and how to defeat them)

      • Do you sleep on the floor without any cushion at all? I use a black futon that puts me quite close to the floor, but have been experimenting with other types of cushion. Tell me more about your sleeping arrangement?

      • I sleep on an egg crate mattress topper, folded in half and wrapped in a comforter. It provides plenty of cushion but still folds or rolls up nicely for storing! I like the idea of futon, but this arrangement is more mobile for me. 🙂 > > >

  1. I’ve started following your blog not too long ago. I’m working towards changing a lot of things in my life to make it happier, more productive, caring, and simple. I recently experienced the fear you spoke of.
    I attempted to downsize my storage unit as I’ve moved from a full apartment, to my mom’s couch, to a small bachelor apartment in a short period of time. I have a lot of “stuff” and not a lot of room. I was able to get rid of one box of ‘stuff’ but still held on to so many things I knew I could ‘probably’ do without, but ‘might’ need in the future, especially old teaching resources. No real idea how to cope except get a friend in to be the voice of reason when my chest tightens up at the ‘what ifs’. Hoping to have better luck when I attempt to downsize my wardrobe for the summer on the weekend.

  2. Great post and some good tips I have to keep reminding myself of.

    Thought I’d let you know that you actually made it into my essay for my final subject at bible college- a research project in theology of mission and care of creation. I referenced your blog when talking about simple living and the importance of community.

    Thought you might like to know that your website was a reference and here’s a link to some info about that life-changing essay which has set me on my simple living journey:

    Love your blog and it’s one of the places I go to regularly to keep learning and it motivates me on my own journey.

    Many thanks to you.

  3. I would have to identify with peer pressure, although it is more peer pressure created by my mind than real, actual peer pressure I’ve received from others. The strategy that I use to continue my lifestyle is a reminder that I am living my own life, not somebody else’s. No one can make choices for me, and I am the only person that has to deal with the consequences. And if people truly love me, they would just wish for my happiness, whatever that looks like. I keep telling myself this, but it is a constant struggle!
    Here is a quote I find inspiring:
    ”Your time is limited. Don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living the result of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drowned your own inner voice. And, most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” (Steve Jobs)

    • Oh, great quote!
      I find myself “projecting” in the same way often. Because this lifestyle is so contrary to how the world says we should live, it’s easy to believe that our changes are wrong or should be judged. I’m glad that you’re aware enough to recognize that you don’t have to feel uncomfortable or pressured if you don’t want to be. Not many people can do that.

  4. Fear and sentiment are my biggies, but thanks to encouragement and advice from you and others, I think I’m on the right path. We got a notice in the mail last week about a street sale coming up, so hubby and I decided to use this as our inspiration to start clearing things out. We spent 4 hours Saturday morning going through our piles of fear and sentiment in the basement. We now have a dining room full of stuff that is going into the sale next week. I’m still having a few pangs, but how liberating!

  5. I love that picture! And you’re spot on with the challenges… the first two were the easiest to overcome for me, because once I started getting rid of things it took on a life of its own. I’ve yet to figure out how to control other peoples emotions though, and at first a lot of people seemed downright angry at what we were doing, which I think is a typical reaction to something out of the ‘norm’, it almost felt to them like we were saying their lifestyle is wrong. A lot of those people have watched our stress levels go down and seen how many benefits this lifestyle has though, and some of them are even coming around and letting go of some of their own things! Thanks for the post!

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