Downsizing is a multifaceted process. You can do it in one all-inclusive sweep or in steps. I recommend the latter for a number of reasons.
Doing it all at once is a massive job. Because it’s so large it’s easy to rush, get tired, and make wasteful mistakes.
Doing it in steps gives you the time and energy to downsize in a methodical manner. This will result in fewer regrets and more money from the items you sell.
I am going to present this information on how to downsize in the order in which I recommend that you do it.
I wrote a previous article on this topic entitled, “Downsizing: The First Step to Tiny Living.” This article goes into much more detail on how to get rid of your stuff. I suppose I could call it “Downsizing Part 2.”
Downsize your mindset
The first step in downsizing is to create a new mindset about your stuff. If you are living with a significant other, that person will also need to establish a new way of thinking about their possessions and the stuff you both own together.
To establish a new mindset I suggest you create a list of all the advantages of having fewer and smaller possessions. Then create a list of all the disadvantages of keeping them.
Here’s a tip to help you get started on your lists. The top motivations for both lists are the same. They are “more or less” money, “more or less’ time, “more or less” freedom, and “more or less” environmental impact.
If you downsize in stages, you’ll benefit by revisiting these lists. The information in them will inspire you to go deeper into your stuff and downsize even further with each step.
It takes courage to downsize. Be brave. Go past the discomfort. Ignore the naysayers. And downsize all the way to your dream.
Keep in mind that possessions like a big house, an expensive car, or a lavish wardrobe don’t make the man or the woman. Men and women do that from within by developing priceless character, integrity, and self-confidence.
Sources for your stuff
Garage sale – Conducting a garage sale during each downsizing step is an excellent way to make money and get rid of the stuff you no longer want. A successful garage sale requires hard work, but it can also be a lot of fun! Especially when the money starts filling your pocket and your unwanted stuff starts rolling away in buyer vehicles.
I made several thousand dollars during each garage sale I’ve done. I wrote a very comprehensive article that reveals all my secrets to a successful garage sale entitled, “Garage Sale Tips for Making Serious Money.”
Sell online – Sell the expensive items through a free online classified service like Craig’s List. I’ve had some amazing success with Craig’s List. I got an offer on a car less than 45 minutes after posting it. I got an offer on another car about 90 seconds after posting it.
I’ve also sold appliances, electronics, and furniture on Craig’s List. These took different amounts of time to sell from hours to a week or more.
Family, friends, and neighbors – I suggest that you do not tell family and friends that they can just come and take anything they want. If you do, it’s very likely that they will take all of your most valuable items. These items could collectively represent thousands of dollars if you sold them.
A person or family in need is a different story. If you want to help, here’s how I’d suggest you do it. Rather than giving them a free hand to take anything they want, I would suggest that you find out what their specific needs are. And I’d suggest that you do this without telling them what your intentions may be and beyond the visibility of your stuff. You might do this by phone, email, or at a restaurant. Then review your inventory to determine which items might meet their needs and offer those to them. If they accept, put their stuff in a separate location away from your main inventory of sellable items. By doing it in this way, everyone ends up being happy.
Donate – I recommend donations as a last resort. Here’s why. The benefit of a donation tax write-off in terms of dollars is fractional in comparison to what you could make if you put forth the effort to sell your stuff. Remember that a donation tax write-off only reduces your taxable income. It is not added to your refund.
After you’ve sold your stuff down with garage sales and through free online classified ads, give the remaining inventory to your favorite charity. Be sure to get a donation receipt for your taxes. Every little bit helps.
Identify your valuables
Valuables are not those 80 figurines you’ve been collecting since you were a kid. And valuables are not that worn-out sports gear you used in elementary school. Unless they are antiques and might be of significant value, it’s these things you need to let go of.
Your true valuables are your records, expensive jewelry and artwork, computers, cell phones, and HDTVs. Televisions larger than 40” probably will not fit your new tiny lifestyle.
In regard to records, get into the habit of saving all important documents including online receipts as a PDF file. There is no need to print these things anymore. If you establish this habit now, in a few years your paper files will contain almost nothing except ancient documents.
Downsize your junk
Your junk piles and storage areas are the best places to start. Since it’s not being used, you should consider each item as a candidate for a garage sale, donation, or the trash!
Since you probably haven’t seen many of these things in a while or you forgot you had them, resist the tendency to get sentimental about them. If you do you’ll spend too much time reminiscing and you may lose your resolve to get rid of all that junk!
There may be a few things you want to keep but always lean toward purging rather than keeping.
Downsize your hidden junk
In order to find hidden junk, you’ll need to open “every” cabinet, closet, and drawer in your entire home.
You’ll also need to go through every square foot of your garage, attic, and basement.
Go through these areas as though you were moving, which should be your ultimate goal anyway.
Downsize your wardrobe
Clothing-wise, only your “favorite” work clothes, formal wear, casual/party outfits, and recreational gear is valuable. It’s also a good idea to keep a couple of sets of dirty work clothes. Everything else should go.
Anything piece of clothing that you haven’t worn for a year should be considered for elimination. And I don’t mean eliminate and replace, ladies! I mean eliminate, ignore the fashion beast, and embrace a freer lifestyle. The same goes for fashion-conscious slick dudes. Pick your best stuff and dump the rest.
Don’t forget to trim down your arsenal of shoes, belts, hats, and other accessories. The strategy is about the same. Choose your favorite multi-outfit work shoes, casual/party shoes, recreational shoes, and dirty work shoes. Do the same for your belts, hats, and other accessories. The key here is to select multi-outfit and multipurpose shoes, belts, and hats for keeping.
By having a couple of sets of dirty work clothes and shoes, you’ll perverse the appearance and life of your good stuff and save a lot of money too!
Downsize your appliances
If you haven’t used particular appliances for a year, they are just taking up space. Get rid of them.
If you have any appliances that are getting worn and outdated, sell them during your garage sale. Then only buy new versions of the most important ones
One appliance that you should take a hard look at is your refrigerator. It is usually the biggest appliance in your kitchen. Do you really need that 5 door monster?
Since most of your appliances are in the kitchen, this is the ideal place to talk about your cooking gear and table settings. If you’re planning to move to a small house, you’ll need to trim the countdown to 1 to 4 people. For many people, this will reduce their kitchenware inventory dramatically! Don’t get sentimental about this. You can always host parties at a restaurant, hotel, or park!
Downsize your media
Reading is a valuable pastime. But print books are quickly losing their value. Amazon announced years ago that sales of digital ebooks are now outselling printed versions by a significant margin.
Similar trends are happening with music and movies. In a few years, I predict that all books, music, and movies with be either digital downloads, streaming, cloud-based, or all three.
I point all this out to you so that you can sell as much of this stuff as you can before it’s too late. If you’re reading this article in 2016, it’s probably too late.
With the exception of a few keepsake books, I suggest you get rid of all your books, CDs, and DVDs. This act alone will downsize your stuff significantly.
Here’s another way to look at this. In many ways, the digital age makes the tiny lifestyle much more feasible and complete! Since you no longer need a hard copy to enjoy a book, music, or a movie, you don’t have to sacrifice anything to live in a small house. It is almost as though one of the biggest benefactors of the digital age and the Internet are tiny life people.
Downsize your electronics
The first item you should look at is your television. Any TV that’s more than five years old and larger than 50” should go.
Don’t allow the size of your TV to dictate where and how you live. Are you going to stretch yourself financially in order to buy or rent a home that’s big enough to accommodate your 80-inch TV? Or are you going to get rid of that monster so you can make your housing choices and not your TV?
The same goes for outdated CD and DVD players. As I mentioned earlier, everything is going digital, so try to sell this stuff while you still can.
Computers and printers that are more than five years old should be replaced. It’s okay to sell printers, but don’t sell your computer to somebody you don’t know. There’s probably sensitive information on the hard drive. Even if you deleted everything, it can still be retrieved by an expert. Give it to a family member or recycle it after you’ve removed and destroyed the hard drive.
Downsize your furniture
How many pieces of furniture in your home rarely if ever get used? This includes bookshelves, tables, and lamps. All of these items should be considered for elimination.
Seriously consider whether you need a super king size bed. Would a queen size meet your needs? And if you are single, would a double or even a twin size meet your needs? Each reduction in size increases the amount of usable space and decreases the cost of sheets and blankets.
Downsizing furniture centers on the issue of seating count. If you’re planning to move to a small house, your sofas, dining tables, and chairs will need to be reduced to a seating count of 1-4. This probably means that you’ll need to get rid of most of these things and buy new smaller versions.
After you’ve sold all your unwanted furniture and other things, you’ll most likely have plenty of money to buy what you need. This is especially true since you’ll be buying stuff this is much smaller. So you might be able to splurge a bit too!
I strongly recommend that you wait until you after you have purchased or rented your new small home before you buy new furniture. This way you’ll be able to make sure that the items you buy will fit just right. You’ll also avoid the potential for any moving damage by having them delivered directly to your new home.
Downsize your home
Once you’ve downsized your possessions, a whole new world of possibilities opens up for you. You’ll no longer be weighed down and controlled by your possessions. Instead, you’ll be free to choose where and how you live!
Most people choose a house size that will accommodate all their stuff. In most cases, this also dictates a good part of their lifestyle. After you downsize, you will be able to choose the house and lifestyle you truly want.
There are many articles on this website that may help you in deciding what size house will be best for you. Just be sure to stay true to your vision and not someone else’s.
Downsize your town
Once you’ve reduced your possessions to minimal levels, you’ll be in a good position to move to a smaller town if you want. Since you’ll have fewer things to move, the cost would be much less. In addition, you’ll have the money to do it from all the stuff you sold.
If you’re going to downsize, you might as well go all the way!
Downsize your vehicles
Many people choose a vehicle based on the possibility that they may need it to haul a group of people or things somewhere. That’s absurd! Choose a car to fit your desired lifestyle and principles and not someone else’s.
Technically, small cars are often as good as large cars. Because they are small, especially if they are micro cars, more innovation is needed to meet safety and comfort requirements. So they can be quite safe and fun to drive.
Larger expensive cars have a lot of bells and whistles to justify their high prices. Most of these features rarely get used though. There is also more to break. And if they do, because they are high-end vehicles, you’ll pay much more to get them fixed than you would if they were on a small car.
Then there are the obvious advantages like much better gas mileage and easier parking in public areas and at home. And in comparison to a luxury car, your insurance will be much lower.
In regard to selling your larger cars, don’t trade them in for a new car at a dealership. Although you might think you came out ahead in a trade for a new vehicle at a dealer, I guarantee you that they came out ahead. Way ahead in most cases.
You can make much more money if you sell the vehicles you don’t want yourself. As I mentioned earlier, I had amazing success selling two cars on Craig’s List. I’ve also had success selling other vehicles on Auto Trader.com
Once you’ve downsized to the absolute minimum, you’ll be making the most of your personal resources. A much smaller percentage of your income and time will be committed to housing and vehicle expenses and maintenance. Consequently, a much larger percentage can go toward financial freedom and the activities you love! At this point, your options expand exponentially!
Now that you know how to downsize, don’t put it off. Get started today! I think you’ll be glad you did.