How to downsize and begin to live within your means

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Four years ago, we had the feeling we needed to be closer to family. We had tried to find a home close by that wouldn’t put us in a great amount of debt, but it wasn’t meant to be. We ended up buying an RV with the plans to travel, but…the stuff, all the stuff, where were we going to put it all?

Between our living and workspace, we had about 1800 square feet, and it was filled with lots of ‘stuff’. The problem was, not all this stuff brought us joy and if you’d looked at my craft room, it often looked like a bomb had gone off.

I loved sewing amongst other crafts but let’s be honest, I’m a mom of little people. I would get halfway through a project, and someone would need me.  All too often the project would get set aside and I would forget about it. This led to everything being a mess.

Choosing what to keep
Choosing what to keep

When we first started going through everything, my anxiety would hit an all-time high which led to a lot of stress and even tears. I would sit in the middle of a room with no clue where to start. With nine rooms to go through, this was draining for me.

When it would become overwhelming, we would either take a break or move on to the next room. We made three passes through each room and each time, it got a little easier and we were able to get rid of more stuff. By the time we made the last pass, I had a system and it helped me not have horrible anxiety attacks.

Creating a system

I will admit most of the rooms weren’t horrible, but my craft room would cause me a lot of stress. The idea of getting rid of something always brought me to the question “what if I need it and don’t have it?” My husband would remind me most items could be replaced if we needed to down the road.

By the third pass, my craft room was so much easier than the first. I started by clearing a space in the center of the floor. In this cleared space, I made five different piles: Garbage, Recycling, For Sale, Donation, and Keep.

As I worked my way around the room, I would grab handfuls of the stuff and sort them into the piles.  It almost felt seamless by this point. When the piles would get larger, I would stop and take the garbage and recycle to the cans out back, put all the items for sale in the room we had designated for the yard sale stuff, grab a box and throw all the donation items in there, and pack the keep pile into a box later to be sorted and organized into totes for our move.

Food Storage

One thing I struggled with was letting go of was our food storage. While we didn’t give it away, we did use a good chunk of it up once we got an offer. We figured there wouldn’t be a whole lot of room in the RV we were planning to purchase, and we would buy and stock as needed once we got it.

I’m not going to lie, being that our situation changed, I do regret not having it but, you live, and you learn. Food storage will always be the one thing from here on out that I would keep and find a way to store it, even if it’s only a couple of months’ worth.

Getting rid of all the extra stuff

One of the easiest ways to get rid of stuff for us was to set up a yard sale. Yes, it was a large amount of work to drag everything out, but we found it worthwhile. At first, we tried pricing things, but we later discovered it was easy to say, “make an offer, all reasonable offers will be accepted” and roll with it. Most people were willing to pay more than I would have guessed and those who made super low offers, we counter-offered and all were happy.

Selling off the extra
Selling off the extra

As we were getting to the end of things, we started throwing low-value items in free boxes and leaving them out. One night we heard a car pull up outside.  The two women walked over, looked in the boxes and you’d think they’d hit a gold mine. They quickly snatched up the boxes and the few things standing around them. They worked so hard to fit everything in their little car. I will say, they may not have truly wanted everything in those two big boxes but, it was gone, and we were happy.

Giving it away

If you love sewing as much as I do, you know that there are always small scraps of fabric leftover and I hate throwing them out if they are even possibly usable. Thankfully I found a friend who makes and donates quilts, and I was able to box all those little scraps of stuff I was never going to use up and give them to her. It felt much better than tossing them in the garbage.  

We did end up dropping off a few boxes worth of stuff down to the Salvation Army and Goodwill that we weren’t able to get rid of.

What to keep

Now you might wonder, how do you decide what to keep? The question for us was answered by what we had space for and what was actually useful. We did end up getting a storage unit down by family. We continued to clear out things we didn’t want or need. We had to wait to find a new RV since the one we’d planned to buy fell through.

Kitchen Basics

Some things we knew we would need were cookware, plates, silverware, etc. While some might find it easier to use disposable plates and cups, we didn’t want to create excess garbage.

We did sell off our older ceramic plates and replaced them with Corelle plates and bowls. These were not only much lighter than our original dishware, but they were break-resistant and that was a need as we still had little kids. As our kids have gotten older and our family is growing, we have added a few more individual pieces as well.

Clothing

Since we ended up with a little more space than we originally had planned, we had a bit more closet space, but we still chose to live minimally with our clothing. Not having a lot of extra clothes may mean doing laundry more often but it also leaves less dirty clothes piling up for long periods of time and in a small space, which makes a huge difference.

One thing that I did start getting rid of was all the baby stuff. We were done and there was no need for it, but something was just tugging on my heartstrings and to be honest, most of it wasn’t selling at the yard sales. Then a year ago we had the feeling that we had another little one that was waiting to join our family and we quickly pulled it all back. This stuff is taking up quite a bit of room in our storage room but I’m grateful to still have it at this point. If we were truly ‘done’ I think that the stuff would have quickly walked at the yard sales.

Kid’s Toys

Keeping hobby items
Keeping hobby items

If you have kids, then you’re going to have toys but keeping things to a minimum doesn’t mean you have to get rid of everything. We looked at what our kids played with and came up with a storage system that kept everything together and made it easy to rotate.

We were blessed to find an RV with a bedroom for the kids and it has a decent closet space. We picked up a bunch of the black and yellow totes at Walmart and separated out Legos, Duplo’s, wooden train tracks, and a fort kit into their own totes. A few of them have multiple totes.

They do not have all in their room at one time. We rotate out totes here and there and it keeps old things fresh without having to constantly buy new toys to keep them busy. This works especially well during the winter when the weather gets cold and wet.

Pictures and wall decor

To be honest, this is one thing we kept most of. When we discovered that we weren’t going to be traveling full time, we did hang a few favorites up on our walls using the 3M Velcro tabs. Most of our wall décor has stayed packed in storage and is awaiting the time that we buy our next home to go back on the wall.

We have also kept some hobby-type things like my sewing machine and some fabric as well as my husband’s 3D printer. It’s not all out all the time but we do take time to use these Items. Even as adults, we must have something to keep us from going stir crazy when we can’t get out as often as we’d like.

Conclusion

Living a simpler life doesn’t necessarily mean getting rid of everything but it does mean getting rid of the stuff that isn’t being used and causing clutter. It means finding ways to organize what you do have so that it’s easy to access while still being kept neat and tidy.

While we are working on buying our next piece of property and will likely have more space than we have now, we still want to work on living a minimalistic life so that we can focus on our family and less on stuff.

Like this article?

Ashley
Ashley
Wife to Alex & mother to our 3 1/2 children. I spend my days homeschooling our children and running my candle business. I enjoy getting outside and working in the garden or going hiking and taking photos.

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