Two years ago, I downsized my belongings so I could move into a studio apartment from a two bedroom house. It sounds impossible, right? Especially when you consider that I’ve had most of these belongings since childhood. I’m not exactly a pack rat or a hoarder, but I couldn’t stand to get rid of things that were still useful, or had emotional meaning to me.
Once I started eliminating belongings, it was impossible to stop me! I cut my belongings down to a manageable amount—so much so that I was able to move all by myself, with just one pick-up truck. It was an incredible feeling, and I’ve been able to keep my life space clutter-free since then. I highly recommend this type of purge for everyone, whether you’re downsizing or spring cleaning. Donate these items to friends or charity—don’t throw them away!
Everyone has clothes they’re saving for a special occasion, or for losing ten pounds, or just in case you find the right shoes. Stop thinking like that! Most people wear the same ten to fourteen outfits over and over and over again—and that’s okay! You don’t have to wear new clothes each time someone sees you. Be honest with yourself and admit you’re never going to wear that shirt that’s a size too small, or those pants that hit above your ankle, and get them out of your closet. Once you start pulling a few items, you’ll be able to really assess what you wear and don’t wear. If you’re in doubt, try wearing these clothes! See if they’re comfortable and look good. If they do, move them to the front of your closet so they’ll stay in rotation.
This one was hard for me because I’m a huge book nerd. I love owning my favorite books, and I can never resist picking up new-to-me books when I find them for a dollar or two at a used bookstore. As a result, my five bookshelves were crammed with books I’d never read. Just like with my clothes, I found myself going back to the same books when I wanted to pick something from my shelf. I made myself start reading books I’d never read, and found that, more often than not, they weren’t good enough to keep. The library received many boxes of donations from me! Now I only buy books I know I want to own. The rest I get from the library or read on a tablet.
Getting rid of CDs and DVDs seems like a small step, because they don’t really take up a lot of space on their own, but when you have massive collections, they take up way too much room! I’m not a big movie person, so the only DVDs I own are a few favorite TV shows and movies. I could have still gotten rid of them, though, and watched things on Netflix, or rented from the library or Redbox.
As far as my CDs, I put most of them on my computer so I could listen to them on my iPod. The only CD player I have is in my car, so I don’t really have a need for physical CDs anymore—I just need the music. Again, I couldn’t get rid of my favorites, or the ones with really cool album art, but I downsized greatly in this area.
I had taken three months of guitar lessons, then never picked the instrument back up again. Why did I still have a bulky acoustic guitar in my house? I just couldn’t get rid of it, because you never know—maybe I’ll get the urge to pick it back up and miraculously remember everything I learned ages ago. Um, no way. I sold the guitar and greatly preferred the cash. If I ever want to learn again, I can rent one from a music store. Same with sports equipment – rent it when you need it! Of course, if you’re on a team or play the keyboard nightly to unwind, don’t get rid of your equipment and instruments. Check and see if renting your necessary equipment is cheaper than buying it and keeping it up to date, but trust your gut about needing your own belongings.
I love purses. I love getting a new purse and transferring all my belongings from the pockets of one to the zippered compartments of another. Then I toss the old purse in a box and keep it. Forever. Sometimes I reuse purses, but more often than not, I prefer to buy a new one. Same with backpacks and laptop bags. How many do I really need at the floor of my closet? I picked out my most used favorites and donated the others to charity.
Look around your kitchen. What gadgets do you have? A mixer, a toaster, a microwave, a popcorn maker, a coffeemaker, etc etc. I used to have all of those, too, until I lived in a place where my kitchen was the size of a walk-in closet. Then I realized that leftovers taste better warmed up on the stove than zapped in the microwave, and the broil setting on the oven toasts bread nicely. That coffeemaker is still vital, but cutting down on other appliances that just had one use opened up the counter space for my coffeemaker, as well as plenty of room for prep work when cooking.
I was hanging on to a lot of keepsakes from elementary school, past trips, and long ago relationships that didn’t have any emotional significance for me anymore. If you look at something and can’t remember where you got it or why you kept it, you can probably get rid of it! And sometimes getting rid of reminders from a past relationship will make you feel lighter, even if it was just a small envelope of pictures.
You don’t need cute little porcelain figures all over your shelves! I know people have collections—I collect vintage cameras, and it seems like every guy I’ve ever known collects unopened superhero toys. You don’t have to get rid of something that has value to you, but don’t collect just to collect, and don’t decorate with clutter. Use your collections as decoration by putting them in the empty spaces of your bookshelves, or above your cabinets in that space that is never used.
I used to have a couch, three arm chairs, a love seat, and a bench seat. I never had enough company over to use all of those seats, and I had my favorite chair and rarely tried a new location on my own. I got rid of a lot of that seating, and it made the room seem three times as large. Not to mention it’s way easier to move two armchairs than it is to haul around a couch! If your furniture is just for decoration or making a room look full, seriously consider getting rid of it and keeping only what you use.
When I lived in a 400 square foot apartment, I bought things as I needed them. I’ve stuck with this habit ever since. I used to buy paper towels and tissue in bulk, which meant I needed room to store what hadn’t yet been used. It is sometimes cheaper to buy in bulk, but if you buy only what you need, when you need it, then you’ll just be spending the money necessary to get what you need.
Featured photo credit: Lara604 via flickr.com
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