How to Downsize and Simplify Your Life; Downsizing Your Possessions

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Are you curious about downsizing your life and living a more simple lifestyle? If so, you’re in the right place! This post is going to walk you through exactly how to downsize and simplify your life, specifically focusing on downsizing your possessions.

Before I get into the information, I want to give some quick backstory, so that if you’re new to The Tannehill Homestead, you can see that I know what I’m talking about.

Quick Backstory //

My name is Erin Tannehill. I’m married to a man just as ambitious as myself, and together we have two fur babies and a small flock of chickens.

In 2015, we moved out of our 1,450+ square foot home into a 600 square foot studio style shop apartment. We decluttered about 80% of the things we owned, because we wanted to fit comfortably in our new space.

Our reason for downsizing is because we want to live a simpler lifestyle that includes homesteading and minimalist living. While we do have plans to build our dream home [less than 1,700 square feet], this downsize has been a pivotable part of our lives.

Without it, we wouldn’t get to experience the joys of living purposefully and for ourselves versus everyone else. We wouldn’t have learned that value isn’t created through possession, but how we experience life.

While living smaller can challenge you, it is one that I would choose over and over again!

Now that you know a little about my story, let’s dive into how to downsize and simplify your life so that you can experience the joys of simple living as I have done since 2015.

This post is all about how to downsize and simplify your life. If you're curious about downsizing your life to a simpler one, this post is for you!

Downsize Your Life //

Before we can get into how to downsize and simplify your life, it is important to know why it is important and the benefits of it.

It is also important that you know why you want to downsize, because without a strong ‘WHY‘, you’ll give up before you discover how amazing living simpler really is.

The benefits of downsizing //

When you downsize your life, you’re not just downsizing the things you own. You’re also shifting your perspective on what you value in life.

You will make decisions about things, and determine if they are worthy of having in a smaller space. Through this process, you’ll see that you’re not just gaining space, but also adjusting to a new mindset.

Being curious and exploring the intention behind downsizing opens the door up to evaluating how much different your life can look and how you can get there.

Through downsizing, you evolve as a person and so does your idea of value. Things you find value in now may mean nothing to you if it comes down to not having any space for it.

The beauty is when it clicks that life is much better without excess in your life. This is when you crave more space and less stuff because you know it is holding you back from really enjoying your life.

There is a shift from focusing on what you have to what you can create. Suddenly, you see the beauty in creating memories versus accumulating more stuff.

Of course, you don’t necessarily have to downsize for this to happen, but from my experience it helps!

Find out what’s important in your life //

A big part of learning how to downsize and simplify your life starts with finding out what’s important in your life.

You can identify what is important in your life from two different positions:

  1. Before changes occur
  2. After changes occur

The changes I’m referring to are your values and beliefs. Downsizing your life and possessions will create changes in your life. There is no doubt about that.

When you identify what is important to you before changes occur, you are consciously choosing to change your life. This could look like any of the following:

  • Your time with family is important and downsizing brings you closer together.
  • You have a home that is too big and you want to live more cozy.
  • You’ve got big dreams and your current situation doesn’t align with them.

There are hundreds of reasons to find importance in downsizing, and none of them are right or wrong. The only thing that matters is when you give importance to it and choose to create the change versus waiting to see what happens.

When you take notice of changes happening then establish their importance, you are allowing change to occur naturally. This is a great space to be in, too!

If you realize that having a particular item used to mean so much, but one day you decide to part with it to create more space in your life, a change has occurred. Somewhere you’ve decided that item doesn’t have as much value as it once did.

When you take notice of this shift, ask yourself what changed and why that is important.

Both of these situations will occur, so don’t try to limit yourself to consciously changing versus changing naturally.

The important thing is to not let them go unnoticed.

Establishing ‘WHY’ downsizing is important to you //

Downsizing can be difficult depending on your situation.

Maybe you’re downsizing by more than half like I did and don’t really understand how much decluttering is needed to fit comfortably in your new space.

Or maybe you are ready for this transition and can easily toss the things you don’t need to fit comfortably in your new space.

Either way, you need a strong WHY to make this through this transition like the champion you are! Odds are you’re going to have a few bad days mixed in with all of the excitement and your WHY is going to be what helps you cross over the finish line.

Honestly, I wasn’t super excited about downsizing, but my WHY was so strong that I worked through the things holding me back. Now, I’m so glad we made it through the transition and love this experience!

So how do you establish a strong WHY?

I believe you need many reasons why downsizing your life is important to you.

Answering why this is important to you may result in the following answer:

I want to downsize my life because I want to live my life as my ancestors did.

While that is a good reason to downsize your life, you need to take it deeper.

Ask yourself why this is important to you SEVEN TIMES to get to the root of WHY you want to downsize and you’ll provide yourself with an abundance of reasons to keep going when it feels impossible.

Here’s why I suggest asking WHY seven times:
  • The first few answers you give are going to be surface-level answers. They are good reasons to get started but aren’t what keeps you going when things get difficult.
  • The next couple of answers will dive deeper into your earlier responses. They will connect with you better, but I still believe in a deeper WHY.
  • The last couple of answers will get to the heart of why you really want to do this. You’ll feel it throughout your entire body and want to take action right away.
So let’s continue with the example provided. Then I want you to work through this exercise yourself.
  • Why is downsizing important to you? I want to live my life as my ancestors did.
  • Why do you want to live life as your ancestors did? Because I want to connect better with my family and be in control of the food we eat.
  • Why do you think downsizing will connect you with your family better and allow you to be in control of your food? Because a smaller space encourages people to gather better than a big home and I’ll have the ability to grow my own food.
  • Why is it important for you to connect with your family and grow your own food? Because I want to create memories of us playing games and communicating well. I’d like to grow my own food so that I know what my family and I are consuming into our bodies.
  • Why is it important for you to create memories and communicate well with your family? Why is it important for you to know what your bodies are consuming? Because I didn’t do that with my parents as much as I wished and I want things to be different for my children. Because I want to give my family the most nutritious diet possible, free of harmful chemicals, GMOs, and processed foods that hurt our bodies.

Do you see how this example provided two really powerful WHYs? When you think of all you have to gain from downsizing and really understand why you want it, you’ll keep working until you achieve your goal.

This will also help you when other opportunities present themselves that could deter you.

One other thing I want you to take away from this is that your WHY may have nothing to do with living smaller or having less stuff. It could be for hundreds of other reasons, and that is perfectly fine!

This post is all about how to downsize and simplify your life. If you're curious about downsizing your life to a simpler one, this post is for you!

Reasons to Downsize //

Now that we’ve discussed the benefits of downsizing, figuring the importance of it, and how to establish a WHY that is true to your situation, let’s talk about some reasons to downsize.

1 // To reduce expenses

Living in a smaller home can result in many expenses reducing. Here are a few you may experience depending on your situation:

  • Lower utility bills
  • Lower mortgage payment or no mortgage payment
  • Reduced or eliminated HOA fees
  • Reduced real estate taxes

When we downsized, we saw a reduction in our mortgage payment and real estate taxes. Our utility bills increased as we were on well water before moving and now are on city water. Overall, our expenses decreased, so I’m happy with that!

2 // Less to maintain

With a smaller home, there is less to maintain, which is great! It reduced the time I spend cleaning and tidying my home.

When it comes to repairs, there is less to worry about fixing, because you aren’t in the same size space you used to be. There could be less doors, windows, plumbing and light fixtures, etc.

3 // More flexibility

The freedom that comes with downsizing isn’t one I anticipated, but the truth is that with less time cleaning and tidying, I have more time to do things I love!

What hobbies do you enjoy?

Once you transition and feel at home in your new space, you’ll have time for these things, again! You can get outside more and enjoy living your life more than you did before downsizing.

4 // Achieve goals quicker

With reduced expenses and more time to do the things you want to do, you’ll actually be able to achieve your goals quicker than before downsizing.

If your goal is to grow a magnificent garden that feeds your family for the year, you’ll have time to put into that and make it happen. Pretty cool right?

5 // To live more and be happier

I love this TEDx Talk by Rita Wilkins which explains why she downsized! It shows you that everyone has a different reason for downsizing and what joy it can bring you.

It isn’t just about your ideal life, but also the feelings associated with what downsizing can offer. Downsizing to be happier and more fulfilled through experiencing life with just what you need versus a lot of excess things is really the only reason anyone needs to downsize.

It is up to you what you make this experience mean.

This post is all about how to downsize and simplify your life. If you're curious about downsizing your life to a simpler one, this post is for you!

How to Downsize and Simplify Your Life //

Now that we’ve gone through everything to help you see the benefits of downsizing and establishing your WHY, let’s get to the action steps!

I’m all about providing action steps to help you achieve your goals, but know that the most important thing is getting your mindset in the right space before taking action.

1 // Start with identifying what is important to you

I’m not talking about your material possessions. In fact, I want you to detach from them.

The first thing you need to do is establish your WHY for downsizing. This is vital to the entire process, which is why I keep bringing it up to you.

Next, identify your values. What brings you joy? What fulfills you? Are there things you refuse to participate in doing?

Lastly, establish your goals for downsizing. This is helpful for when you’re really working through the process of how to downsize and simplify your life. When will you know you’ve achieved your goals?

2 // Identify what is not important to you

Whether you identify certain hobbies or beliefs that are not important to you, let go of them.

It is easiest to start by letting go of the things you don’t believe are important and can help you gain serious momentum for decluttering everything else in your life.

3 // Reduce your consumption

You already have more than you need, so you need to curve your appetite for bringing more into your home. There are two things I recommend you do before downsizing, so that it makes the process easier.

Reduce shopping //

Consumption of items is what clutters your home and makes it difficult to downsize. To help you reset your mindset around shopping, try a No Spend Challenge.

This challenge will help you identify what you spend money on that isn’t essential and where your problems areas are. It also retrains your mind to not want to go shopping when you are bored or trying to pass the time.

Find other activities to do instead. You can go for more walks, read, journal, sit in silence, call up a friend just to chat, etc.

Reduce time on social media //

Social media helps us crave consumption through brands marketing their products and influencers sharing products they love.

While there is nothing wrong with that, you don’t want to trigger yourself into buying things you don’t need.

Unfollowing or muting brands and influencers that promote products is extremely helpful when trying to change your mindset from one of consumption to one of mindfulness.

Related Post: 8 Reasons You Need a Social Media Detox & How to Successfully Unplug

Stop trying to keep up with the Joneses //

First of all, you’ll never be able to keep up with the Joneses. There are just too many new things coming out so often and most Joneses are BROKE!

That’s right! Most of them are swimming in credit card debt trying to keep up with other Joneses. Unless you want to be swimming in credit card debt, I highly encourage you to find contentment with the things you already have.

4 // Declutter your possessions

When it comes to decluttering your possessions, get creative with how and what you declutter. Let go of the obvious things you don’t want first, then work through this list.

Furniture //

Start by analyzing your new space and what you need for it. Make a list of the furniture you need, then look through your home and declutter anything and everything that isn’t on that list.

This is the fastest way to crowd a smaller space, so be intentional with the pieces you keep.

Duplicates //

A small space has no room for duplicates, unless you find them absolutely valuable and use them frequently.

If it is a backup that you’re unsure of when you’ll get to it, declutter it. If you have a duplicate just in case you need it one day, declutter it.

Be ruthless with duplicates, because they can also crowd a space quickly.

Just in case items //

You’re not going to have room for just in case items after downsizing, so don’t allow these things to continue taking up space. Declutter them and enjoy your new found space!

Collections //

Do you collect things just for the fun of it, but maybe aren’t in love with your collection? If so, you need to declutter it.

I used to collect wolf figurines, but found that I didn’t really enjoy having them. When we downsized, I realized I didn’t need this collection and let it go to someone who would enjoy it more than I did.

There maybe some collections you aren’t willing to part with, but just consider the amount of space you have before telling yourself you won’t part with them.

Things that you don’t find beautiful or useful //

There is zero space and tolerance for items we don’t love or find useful. Let these things go so that you can create the space you need in your smaller space.

Things you won’t have space for and aren’t a priority //

This is usually the last to be realized when decluttering, because it is difficult to tell how much space you have without moving into your smaller home.

Ask yourself where it lands on your priority list, and if it isn’t very high, ask yourself if you could go ahead and part with it now.

It is best to declutter BEFORE moving into your smaller home versus AFTER moving. Trust me, I know from experience.

5 // Simplify your wardrobe

The next step for how to downsize and simplify your life is all about your wardrobe!

Downsizing is the perfect excuse to let go of anything that you don’t enjoy wearing or doesn’t fit you well. I went from a comfortable closet size down to a three-foot rod, so I had to simplify a lot.

I can say that a simpler wardrobe is 100% worth it!

Declutter what doesn’t fit you or your lifestyle //

This may seem obvious, but really evaluate what your lifestyle is going to look like after downsizing and declutter your wardrobe accordingly.

Try a capsule wardrobe //

There are many capsule wardrobes you can try. Find one that works for you to test the waters of having a simpler wardrobe and see how minimal you can be with your wardrobe.

Check out these two posts to dive deeper into simpler wardrobes:

6 // Set up systems that work for you

Setting up systems to work for you make living simpler much easier. It is one of the most helpful things when learning how to downsize and simplify your life, because it takes simple living to the next level.

Digital Systems vs Paper Systems //

Paper clutters a small space, so the less you have the better. Opt for digital systems where you can and make the most of them.

I moved away from paper planners to a digital planner, and my world has changed. I can pull up my calendar on any device I sync to, so lugging around a heavy planner is a thing of the past.

Digitizing and reducing incoming mail is extremely helpful to slow down or eliminate new paper clutter coming into your home altogether, which is very helpful!

Related Post: How to Organize Paperwork in the Home the Easy Way

Cleaning Routine //

While downsizing reduces cleaning time, having a cleaning routine cuts this time down even more! How could you not get excited about that?

Could you imagine having a cleaning routine that takes less than 30 minutes every day to keep your home clean and tidy? If so, check out my workbook, A Simple Cleaning Routine, to help you get started!

Self-Care Routine //

Any transition in life is going to take a toll on your body and mental health. Keep it strong with a good self-care routine.

After all, you’re most likely downsizing because you believe it will provide you with better life experiences, which means you care about taking care of yourself.

Check out the Mental Cleanse Challenge I created to help you figure out what you enjoy most and want to include in your self-care routine.

Decluttering Routine //

The decluttering process isn’t a one and done process. It is something you’ll have to revisit from time to time.

Establishing a routine to declutter will help you keep your home clutter free, so make sure it is frequent enough to stay decluttered but not so often that you drive yourself crazy by decluttering all of the time.

If you constantly evaluate why you have something, decluttering will be simple and quick, so I highly encourage you to continue questioning if you need something or not.

However, I encourage you to do a full blown declutter 2-4 times a year. I like to do it when the seasons change, and for me that is 4 times a year. You may only have two seasons, so you can do it then.

I recommend no less than 2 times per year so that things are manageable and not so time consuming to declutter.

Meal Planning //

Get used to this now, because in a smaller space, it is a necessity.

However, I find that meal planning is freeing, because you don’t worry with what you have to cook every day. You take 20-30 minutes once a week to plan it and remove that thought until the next time you need to plan your meals.

It also cuts down on your time considering what to cook through to the execution of cooking, which provides you more time to do what you enjoy.

Schedule time for things that are important to you //

Learning how to downsize and simplify your life is a simple process, but it also takes a lot of practice.

Ensure you have time to do things you enjoy by scheduling it. Once you get used to your new rhythm, it will feel like second nature to make time for these things.

This post is all about how to downsize and simplify your life. If you're curious about downsizing your life to a simpler one, this post is for you!

7 // Practice living with less

This is one of my favorite things to do since I’ve learned how to downsize and simplify my life, because I want to see if I can reduce what I own even more. It’s become a game for me that I really enjoy.

Doing this before you move into a smaller space will help you get an idea of what it will be like once you do downsize. You can get a feel for it and adjust to it easier with practicing living smaller before you actually do.

There are two ways I do this, but they could be deemed the same exercise. Let me explain them to you so that you can see the difference.

Packing party //

A packing party was coined by The Minimalists, because Ryan wanted a quick approach to decluttering.

He packed up all of his things and put them into a room. He gave himself a time frame to see what he did and didn’t use. What he didn’t use was sold, donated, or tossed.

This is a great approach for downsizing, but more specifically an area that you are scared to declutter.

How minimal can you go? //

I practice this question in different areas of my home. How minimal can I go with my countertops, wardrobe, book collection, etc.

I don’t get rid of the things I remove, but rather see how life is without them. Similar to the packing party.

Sometimes, I find that I can declutter these things and other times I’m thankful to have what I did before challenging myself.

It’s fun to get creative with decluttering and downsizing, because without testing yourself, how will you know what you’re capable of?

It’s also a great way to see how much you really don’t need to be happy and how material possessions are coordinated to that happiness when you have just what you need.

The more clutter you have, the less happy you can feel, because the clutter pulls that energy from you by consuming your time to clean, tidy, and reorganize it all.

8 // Reduce your paperwork

I’ve already touched on this, but I want to briefly mention it again.

The less paperwork you have, the more room you create. It is easy to let paperwork to clutter your home, but you’re going to change that as you continue to learn how to downsize and simplify your life.

The biggest thing you can do for yourself is to eliminate paperwork from coming into your home. This includes mail, kids’ schoolwork that isn’t needed, random flyers, etc.

From there, consider a digital filing system for your paperwork.

I share how to do both in a dedicated post about how to organize paperwork in your home.

9 // Visualize and journal about a downsized lifestyle

Think about how life will be once you’ve downsized. You want to be as prepared as possible and this is a powerful tool to help you.

Think and journal about the following questions:

  • What is it like?
  • What do I enjoy most?
  • Is there anything I don’t like about living simpler? How can I change that?
  • What is different about being downsized versus right now?
  • How can I simplify my life more?
  • What does downsizing my life mean?

Have fun with what downsizing your possessions and lifestyle will look like and let it help you explore new ideas that you can try before actually downsizing to see how minimal you can live without changing where you live just yet.

10 // Simplify your digital space

Don’t just practice simplifying your mind and physical space. Having a digital space that is minimal is just as important.

You’ll notice that decluttering and simplifying one area of your life will help you simplify other areas, so be sure you get your digital space on the list.

Declutter your computer files //

Make it easy to find what you need on your computer, and clean it up so that it will perform better for you.

If you have photos of an event, be sure you only keep the ones you love and discard the rest. Photos take up a lot of space on your computer, and are the simplest to declutter to help your computer perform better.

Declutter your phone //

Decluttering everything you don’t need on your phone will transform how you use your phone!

Delete apps you don’t use, photos you don’t need, text messages that are complete, your call history, and clear out any browsing history from your internet browser.

If you want to take things down to the bare bones, delete all social media apps, photo editing apps that you use for social media, games, and any other app that distracts you from living your best life.

Related Post: Smartphone Detox: It’s Time to Simplify Your Life

Declutter social media //

This is something else I’ve touched on, but let me dive deeper into it here.

It is easy to consume so much on social media. There’s good, bad, and awful content popping up everywhere.

Unfollow or unfriend anyone that falls into one of these categories:

  • You don’t know who they are
  • They are always negative and bring you down
  • Someone who isn’t helping you live your best life
  • People you don’t care to keep up with anymore

Seriously just let go of these people, brands, or whoever they are. It is okay to unfollow and unfriend people for your well being. Following or friending them isn’t for them anyways. It is for you!

Don’t allow strangers to negatively influence you, because you deserve so much more than that!

Related Post: My Minimalist Social Media Approach; How to Use Social Media Purposefully

11 // Simplify your finances

This is an important piece in learning how to downsize and simplify your life. Finances are a big motivator to downsize your life, because there are so many ways you can save money!

Audit your expenses //

Start by looking at what you’re spending money on each month and your income. What can you eliminate, reduce, or improve upon to make this work better for you?

If you’re learning how to downsize and simplify your life because your finances aren’t looking great, compare what your finances will look like now versus once you downsize.

You want to look for the cost savings and possibly ways you could increase your income.

Find ways to save on necessary expenses //

There are just some things in life that you’re going to have to spend money on, so look for ways to save money on these things.

This could mean making sure your home is energy efficient or choosing to make coffee at home versus Starbucks. [Yes, I believe coffee and tea are life!]

Check out my posts about saving money:

12 // Invest in quality versus quantity

The truth is that you can stretch your dollar farther when you invest in quality pieces versus quantity. Yes, it is more of an upfront investment, but it provides long-term savings.

One thing you need to know is that brand and price do not mean quality. Do your homework and choose things that will last a long time.

Also, living in a smaller space means that you’ll clutter your home if you focus on quantity or you’ll have to declutter things that are of good quality, and that doesn’t make much sense.

What are good quality clothes?

Erin from My Green Closet explains it best.

What to look for in high-quality furniture?

This video by Cityline interviews an expert in the field, and I find it very helpful when shopping for new furniture.

Don’t waste your time or money on purchasing non-quality pieces. Invest in things that will last, because that is how you get the best return on investment.

Invest in multi-functional pieces //

When living in a small space, you want creative pieces that can serve more than one purpose.

For example, a collapsible computer desk can serve as a TV tray for meals if you don’t have the space for a table, a couch that converts into a bed, or appliances that serve many purposes.

This helps you invest in less stuff and more in things that will help you save space in your home.

Final Thoughts

Life is meant to be enjoyed through experiences versus material possessions. Now that you know how to downsize and simplify your life, you can actually achieve it with greater ease than I did.

What I love most about living in a smaller space is the fact that I get outside more. I want to breathe in fresh air and explore a new way of living.

Yes, we had our struggles and this post teaching you how to downsize and simplify your life is what I wish I would have had before we downsized.

However, I love to learn through mistakes as well. That’s what makes this journey to living simpler so fun! We all have different stories and experiences to share and remember.

One thing I want to leave you with is to be honest and open with yourself.

Look at the things you have and be honest about how they serve you. If they don’t serve you well, let it go serve someone else.

Stay open to new ideas and give wild ideas a try! You never know what can come of it.

Going through the process of how to downsize and simplify your life will change you forever, and I promise it will be for the better!

Have fun with it and enjoy the ride!

This post is all about how to downsize and simplify your life. If you're curious about downsizing your life to a simpler one, this post is for you!

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11 thoughts on “How to Downsize and Simplify Your Life; Downsizing Your Possessions”

  1. Lana Hawkins

    Great article, Erin! šŸ™‚ I think one of the most important tips for decluttering is taking one step at the time

    1. I’m so happy to hear that, Marette! I’ve definitely got some amazing content prepared for simplifying your life even more in 2020, so stay tuned! šŸ™‚

  2. Erin, what I’ve observed for many years about people when building a home is that even those who want to keep it small and simple get more and more “carried away” as they go along! They see some great feature that really only works on a large home, so … They decide that each child should have his/her own bedroom, so … They think of that one big celebration dinner a year means they need a gigantic dining room, so …. I’m just sayin’ — Be careful!

    1. Right there with you, Jean! We both want a comfortable size home, but on the smaller side. My biggest concern was having space to grow into, so we when we have children we will not have to move. But that does not mean building a huge house by any means. The plans we have picked out are for a one-story house that is smaller than 2,000 square feet. It will be cozy, but provide enough room for a few children and home office for my husband’s business.

  3. I love reading you!
    Me and my boyfriend (future husband in a couple of months) are begging to build our own home and i’m always telling him that i don’t want anything big. I just want the necessary for my flowers, my tomatoes, my trees and my family. A big house will bring us just problems, more money and more work. I want a small house, just big enough for my family.

    1. Thank you!! šŸ™‚ I agree with you when it comes to building a home that is not big. We just want one that will fit our family comfortably. We are planning on building a home right under 1,900 square feet. With just the two of us, it will be a bit big, but we plan on having a few children to fill it up a bit.

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