Downsizing from 1000 square feet with a garage and basement to a less than 600 square foot studio apartment was challenging. It is in my nature to enjoy overcoming such challenges, so I felt very accomplished at the end of it, but the entire process absolutely sucked. I spent nearly six weeks of nights and weekends cleaning out drawers, closets, cabinets, boxes… And over that time brought at least six car loads of stuff to Goodwill, plus sold dozens of random knick-knacks and furniture. I know that everyone can relate to the feeling that it is so easy to accumulate stuff and it seems as though no one knows how it happens. It just happens.
At the end of the day, I have no regrets downsizing. I’m guarantee that no one comes out of the downsizing process feeling like they miss the things that they gave up. Personally, I feel a stronger bond with the things that I did keep and feel and that each one has a value and place in my home. There is nothing extra, because each piece was carefully chosen. Everyone should go through this process at least once in their life. It helps to do it during a transitional period as it can be incredibly therapeutic.
If you are thinking about downsizing, here are a few things that I learned:
1. If you have not used it in a year, you don’t need it.
There are so many things in our lives that we keep around because we think we will use them or will need them in the future. For me, I had a shit ton of art materials left over from college and there was a part of me that didn’t want to give them up because I felt like I was giving up the idea that I was an artist. I had to come to terms with the fact that even though I am still creative and express art in a different way, I am no longer and painter like I used to be. I needed to let go of that piece of my life and move on to what I am good at now. I hadn’t touched my oil paints, brushes or watercolors in years, so it meant that it was time to give them to someone who would use them.
2. I only use a fraction of the space in my house.
Part of the reason that I decided to downsize in the first place was because over time it became very clear that I was only using a fraction of my home on a daily basis. I would come home from work, cook a meal, and spend the rest of my evening in my bedroom with my pets. I hardly even used my livingroom. I started to wonder why I even had a dining room. Or a basement. Or a garage. Or an upstairs. Then I started reading blogs about small living spaces and how it forces you to use community spaces more. As a huge advocate of sharing resources, I was sold. Small living, it is.
3. Community parks are better than having your own yard.
It is bizarre to me that it is a part of the American dream to have your own yard, garden and lawn, which to me just means more work on the weekends. Instead, I seek out community space gems that provide the peaceful seclusion of a yard, but also allow for meeting your neighbors and building a stronger community. My new apartment has a fenced-in park across the street where I take my dog to play fetch. Don’t even get me started on the benefits of knowing your neighbors – that’s another blog post in itself. There is also a small pagoda in the park where I could host parties if I wanted to. Less work, less time, less money, more connection to your neighbors. It seems like a no-brainer to me.
4. Small living space means less cleaning.
Before I moved to the smaller apartment, it was SO challenging to keep my space clean. Granted, I probably have higher “clean” standards than the average person, but I couldn’t figure out how to be a single working person and also live in a clean place. It came to the point where I felt like I had no choice but to hire a cleaning person. I figured that the cost of what I was paying that person was worth the 2 hours that I would spend cleaning it myself. Those are billable hours, right? In my new apartment I can clean it top to bottom in less than 30 minutes. That saves me $150 a month. Pretty awesome.
5. Figure out your deal breaker.
Just like relationships, there is one thing in a living space that you must have to be happy and have a high quality of life. Mine is to have a deck. Instead of having a full yard that I need to take care of and spend my weekends maintaining, I made it a priority to have a deck. I absolutely LOVE being outside and feeling the outdoor air and sunshine, so this was an important part of my search. The benefit of a deck is that it doesn’t need maintenance like a yard does, but you can add things like planters and flower boxes if you want to – the nice part is that you can create as little or as much of a green space on your deck as you want to. During the warm months, I spend at least 80% of my time home on the deck (at least in the warm months). Figure out what really makes you happy and focus on that. If you have too many things, nothing will really bring you that intense joy that you crave. Having less makes you more grateful for what you have.
I would love to hear your thoughts, tips, and advice for downsizing. What are your stories?