You dream about your future all the time, wondering what it will be like when you complete your downsizing efforts and get into your new place.
You’ll live in a house with less maintenance, move across the country, or finally get rid of that expensive storage unit. You’ll travel more, have some extra cash, and meet new people.
You’ll finally have some breathing room.
It’s gonna be great!
There’s a problem, though—and a pretty big one: the future you want doesn’t have room for everything you presently own.
This one roadblock—your stuff—is holding you in place, making you tread water when you want to swim. And your legs are getting tired.
How much longer can you wait?
You have to get rid of a significant amount of your stuff to make your new future a reality, and you don’t know where to start.
If that’s where you’re at, then you couldn’t have stumbled onto a more perfect page in all of the internet. We have the answers you crave right here in this Ultimate Guide to Downsizing.
Today you’ll discover exactly how to downsize your home and life to achieve the future you’ve been dreaming about.
5 Assumptions We’re Making About You
- You have a big plan for your future that requires way less stuff than you own right now
- Your plan is in limbo until you get rid of a lot of stuff and you are scared you’ll miss the boat if you don’t act soon
- You have no idea what to keep and what to toss for your new future—what if you make a mistake?
- You don’t have the time or patience for any of the woo-woo “touch it and see if it brings you joy” business
- You need a logical, foolproof system that works
If you just nodded your head so hard that your glasses fell off your nose, we’re so glad you found us! It’s kinda weird having this special life experience and knowledge about downsizing that we can’t use on ourselves anymore. We’re thrilled to to pass it on to someone who is in the same spot we were a few years ago, because everything that’s happened for us since downsizing has been nothing short of amazing.
We want you to experience a lot of “amazing” in your life, too.
Let’s talk some more about the life you want and what’s standing in the way of you getting it.
Do you see yourself in any of these situations?
- The thought of moving to a new city is exciting—until you realize just how much stuff you have to pack and what it costs to move it all. Your job offer or new adventure will pass you by if you don’t solve your “too much stuff” problem asap.
- You want to make some serious profit by selling your home so you can have the freedom of a smaller place. You know your home looks crowded to a potential buyer, and that translates into lower offers for you.
- Your children are grown and branching out, and now you want to do the same. But how can you with all the same chores and maintenance in the family home? Until you downsize, your dreams of freedom and exploration are on hold.
- You’re retiring (congratulations!) and want to travel and explore. You certainly don’t want to spend your retirement cleaning and mowing a space you don’t even fully use. You’re afraid if you don’t make a move now, you never will.
- You’re all about the Tiny House or RV Life now, and you don’t want or need the headache of a big home. You know exactly what kind of small space you want, however you can’t decide what goes in it. And until you do, you can’t leave your big home.
- You want to eliminate the high cost of self-storage, but you have no idea what to do with all your stuff. Meanwhile, you keeping throwing your money away every single month—money you could use for something better.
- You’re getting married or moving in together—congratulations! Now how in the heck do you fit two household’s worth of stuff into just one house? If you don’t solve this problem, you can’t start your beautiful life together.
We’ve Been in Your Shoes
We were just like you, looking at House Full of Stuff versus a Big Opportunity.
One the one hand we had a house in the ‘burbs of Boston, two hectic jobs and long commutes that were sucking us dry, and a level of energy that was on life support as we tried to juggle it all.
On the other hand, we had the opportunity of new jobs in Seattle with shorter commutes and schedules, a smaller townhouse in the city, and more options for entertainment. There was a little bit more money on the table, milder weather, and more double-income-no-kids people like us to hang out with.
We wanted that life in Seattle so bad we could almost taste it. We thought about it all the time—just like you’re doing with your Big Opportunity now.
However, we were almost paralyzed at the thought of how to make it happen. The task just felt too difficult, out of reach.
We almost gave up on the opportunity because we simply didn’t know how to transition from the life we had to the one we wanted.
Thankfully, we didn’t give up. Call it stubbornness, call it desperation, call it whatever you like. We put the plan in motion and didn’t stop until we landed in Seattle—which eventually led to a one-way trip to South America and 4 years of travel, and finally to where we live now in Spain (and a whole lot in between).
However, this adventurous life would not have happened if we’d never downsized in Boston to seize the opportunity of a better life for ourselves.
Downsizing worked for us in achieving the lifestyle of our dreams back in 2006, and it has worked for the 100,000 people we’ve helped through our books, courses, and podcast at An Uncluttered Life since then.
Downsizing will work for you, too.
Now let’s go through the 5 Basic Components of this life-changing project.
First Determine Your Downsizing “Why”
Having a solid and compelling “why” is the key component in a downsize, because without it you have no idea what to keep, what to get rid of, or what your life will look like afterward.
The good news? You’ve already started downsizing because you know your WHY!
You’re here because you already have that opportunity in mind—retirement, moving, getting rid of your storage unit, getting married, going traveling in your RV, or indulging in the freedom that has been lacking in your life up until now.
Simply knowing your WHY is the fuel you need for the downsizing process.
Your WHY is your magic 8-ball for every single decision in front of you, which means you’ve already got your answers.
(Feels good, doesn’t it?)
Our WHY was perfectly boiled down into this sentence: “We want to live in a vibrant neighborhood where we can walk to at least 9 different ethnic restaurants.”
This sentence spoke to our need for stimulation, culture, variety, and an energy we didn’t feel in the suburbs. It indicated the kind of life we wanted to lead in the future—walkable, close to other people, and with more experience and less stuff.
How can you capture the benefit of your WHY into a similar statement?
The format goes like this:
I want to __________ so that I can _____________.
- I want to fit all my stuff into one moving truck at under 4000 pounds so that I can afford to move for my dream job.
- I want to eliminate my storage building fee so that I can save $150/month and go on a nice vacation every year.
- I want to downsize my 4-bedroom family home so that I can retire to a 1-bedroom condo in sunny Florida. Freedom!
- I want to sell my home so I can build a 400 square foot Tiny House.
- I want to make *this much* space in my home for my sweetheart’s stuff so that we can live together.
Matching your action to the benefit you’ll receive from that action is the prime way to motivate yourself in any project.
Envision a Day in the Life After Downsizing
You have a downsizing goal, and you know what kind of lifestyle benefit you’ll get from it. To make it real (and help you make real-life decisions about your stuff), envision exactly what your future life will look like on a day-to-day basis. Having this vision firmly in mind will remove all doubt about what you need to bring with you as well as what you can leave behind.
In our move to Seattle, we imagined walking to brunch on Saturday mornings, a snow-free winter, weekly farmer’s market in our neighborhood instead of big-box shopping, and landscaped garden in a townhouse or condo community that required zero upkeep on our part. We envisioned more convenience right outside our door and less maintenance inside of it.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to paint a vivid image to help with your decisions on what to keep:
- What does an average day look like from start to finish?
- What kind of transportation do I need?
- How much space will I have to live in?
- Who will live with me and what do they require?
- What is the weather like?
- Will I be cooking more or less?
- Will I have a garage or workshop?
- How will I entertain myself?
- What kind of work do I need to do from home?
- How much home/yard maintenance will I have?
- Will I be traveling more frequently?
- What kind of clothes do I want for this lifestyle?
- What will my new kitchen look like?
- How much storage will I have?
The goal of this exercise is to imagine your new living space and daily routine so you can then make informed decisions on what you have that fits in your new life. Don’t try to create a new life with all your old stuff, because that’s just your old life in a new location.
Determine What Fits in Your New Future
You know your big WHY, and you have a clear vision on what your new future looks like. To stay focused on your ultimate downsizing goal—to get rid of what you don’t need anymore in order to live a better future—there is a key question to ask yourself as you look at every item you currently own:
Does this item fit in my future?”
The answer is either a clear and resounding YES…
…or it is a definite NO.
You’ve noticed all the emphasis on walkability, community, and convenience in our vision of a new life in Seattle. When we asked ourselves whether 2 cars fit into that future or not, the answer was a definite NO. Why maintain 2 cars when our goal was to live in a walkable neighborhood and eliminate our long commutes? As part of our downsize, we sold Betsy’s car before we moved. That decision made it far easier and more affordable to find a place to live (we only needed a 1-car garage) and saved us $1000 in moving expenses.
In a downsize, you don’t have time to dither on the question of what fits. You have a goal in front of you, a clear vision of what your future looks like, and a simple question to determine if what you have now belongs in that future.
The question is even more important when it comes to large, heavy, duplicate, or bulky items. Remember: size matters in downsizing, so evaluate the big stuff first.
- Garage tools
- Exercise equipment
- Lawnmower/yard supplies
- Duplicates (24 place settings, 10 sets of sheets, 8 coats, 5 televisions, 3 couches, 8 pillows, 5 skillets)
It is far more productive to carry a shoebox full of loose photos or mementos to declutter later than to bring a shelf full of heavy books or an extra couch you don’t need. You’ll pay to move them, and then you’ll just have to get rid of them when you arrive because they don’t fit your new life.
Keep coming back to your “day in the life” vision as you evaluate your possessions and you’ll quickly and decisively know what fits and what doesn’t.
Evaluate Cost to Move vs. Replacement Cost
Moving is expensive, time-consuming, and stressful, whether you’re moving across town or around the world. One way to make your downsizing easier is to consider buying new or used items when you arrive.
There is a concept in psychology called the “sunk-cost bias” and it means that you tend to overvalue what you own. You’ve already put the money into it, so you’ll value it beyond the true worth. This bias can blind you to the savings and ease of replacing some of your bulkier items when you arrive at your new destination.
When we lived in Boston, we had 4 televisions. We sold those televisions before we left for Seattle and then bought a sleek new flat screen when we arrived. Yes, we spent more money than what we made selling the 4 old televisions. However, we knew we’d upgrade eventually anyway, and our much smaller townhouse functioned better with a flat screen television than the bulky old ones we had. We saved the cost and headache of transporting 4 heavy televisions across the country.
Easily replaceable items (which are upgraded on a regular basis anyway)
- Tools (especially second-hand in garage sales or Craigslist)
- Decor items, like bedding, curtains and throw pillows
- Books (especially in a second-hand store if replacing a few old favorites)
- Furniture (if you have a 15-year-old mattress, you probably need a new one anyway)
Don’t lock yourself into keeping something you want that is easier (and better for you in the long run) to replace upon arrival.
Finally, Decide What to Keep
Now that you have the right mindset—imagining how you want your future to work vs. what your current life looks like—it’s time to determine your final list of what to bring with you.
Like millions of other people, we had a treadmill. And like most of those millions of other people, we didn’t use it. While downsizing for our move to Seattle, we didn’t want to admit that we were out of shape. Hanging on to that treadmill made us feel like we were fitter than we were. By envisioning a day in our future life—one in a city, with a smaller house and without an extra car for transport—we knew we didn’t need a treadmill for exercise anymore (especially one we wouldn’t use!).
Keep in mind your “day in the life” vision and what you’ll need to make it reality.
As you evaluate each item you want to keep, ask yourself:
- Where will this item “live” in my future space?
- How will I use it?
- How often will I use it?
- If I’m not using it now, why do I think I’ll use it in the future? (Avoid “good intentions” items like the home gym you never use. You won’t magically start using it later.)
- Is this item important enough to pass my WHY from Step 1?
Downsizing done right is a positive exercise. Focus only on what you want to take with you to achieve your new future, not on what you failed to do in the past.
5 Essential Components in Downsizing Your Home
Breaking down a huge project into 5 manageable components puts your head in the right place. Then the actions follow in logical sequence until you are standing at the door of your Big Opportunity, ready to open the door.
- Determine your downsizing WHY—and be specific. Know the benefit you’ll get from the action of downsizing your home.
- Envision a “day in the life” to set the right standard. Once you know what your future looks like, you can better predict what you’ll need to make it a reality.
- Determine what fits in your future. Of the items you own, what is useful or enjoyable in your new future?
- Evaluate cost to move versus replacement cost. Just because an item can work in your future doesn’t mean it is cost-effective to keep it. Sometimes a newer or more compact version is a better way to downsize.
- Decide what to keep. This is your final hurdle, a series of questions to specifically fit that item into your future and know how useful it will be…or not.
Take It One Step Further
Whether you’re moving to a smaller place or just want to enjoy more of the space you’re in now, find out how to align your lifestyle goals with your possessions using these 10 proven steps. This guide will help you reduce the stress and feelings of overwhelm that come from trying to clear out your stuff to reach your big downsizing goal.
Download this free list now as a companion to this Ultimate Guide to Downsizing Your Home, and you’ll be fully prepared to “right-size” your possessions for a bright new future.
Just click the button below to get it sent to your email ASAP. Plus, we have a special bonus for you to help you make some big progress towards your smaller space.
Downsizing is the key to getting the life you want, and once you get started, you’ll wonder why you waited so long.
You’ve already made the decision to go—that’s the hard part! All that’s left now is following the logical path of what fits in your new life and then stepping into your bright new future—with a lot less baggage.