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We live in a world that tells us we need to consume. Get a bigger house and fill it up with stuff. Get a better job with more money so you can afford more stuff. STUFF! Here, we’ll discuss the steps we took to downsize all of our belongings by HALF and how you too can live a full life with less!
Note: I originally wrote this post when we were in the throes of building our off-grid cordwood house. And believe it or not, we are still in the process of downsizing now that we’ve moved into it! You can learn more here.
Over the weekend, my husband and I had a lovely time visiting with family and friends for my Goddaughter’s baptism. It was great to see so many people that we only get to see a few times a year.
Lots of people were asking us about our house plans, the building process, and so on, and this one question has been reverberating in my mind ever since:
“So, are you going to have a separate garage for all your stuff? I mean, you’re going to have to have a place for all of your stuff!!”
This particular person has been pretty supportive of us (even while probably thinking we’re absolutely crazy), but it still illustrates to me the pervasive mindset that most people still have: that you need a bigger house to hold all of your stuff!
Why? Why do you need more stuff? And why does everyone else seem to think that WE need more stuff too? It reminded me a lot of George Carlin’s “A Place for My Stuff” routine.
Well, we have a kid now, so we MUST have stuff for him! Of course! And every time we have a need, we simply must run out to the store or get on Amazon to get something that will satisfy us, right?
And we’ve been married for almost 10 years, so our old stuff is starting to look dated and I need everything to be Pinterest perfect, so we absolutely HAVE to get some better stuff!!
No No No No No.
We downsized by a LOT in order to transition to my mom’s condo while we build our cordwood house. We had been living in a rather modest 3 br/ 2 ba mid-century ranch with a full basement.
The whole thing was full of stuff. Before we listed the house, we refinished the wood floors and had to move everything from the main floor into our two-car garage and kitchen for safekeeping. It looked something like this:
It was a nightmare to move it in and out, but in the process, I learned something important:
We didn’t miss any of it!
So as we led up to listing the house, we purged. And we purged. And we purged some more. Having already dumped over $24,000 in debt, continuing to purge the things that were holding us back was pretty easy!
6 Easy Ways We Downsized:
- We made dozens of donations to Goodwill and St. Vincent de Paul.
- We sold things on Craigslist.
- We gave things away to friends and neighbors.
- We sold a ton of books, games, and DVDs at Half Price Books.
- We got rid of as much as we could and packed away the rest.
- Yard sale!
We brought about half of it with us. Our bedroom furniture, our everyday items, and most of our instruments are all at my mom’s with us.
The rest of it is in storage in our friends’ basement and it takes up maybe 1/3 of the space they have down there. It’s mostly furniture we’ll need after we build and boxes of non-useful items like framed pictures and photo albums.
Aside from the few kitchen implements I went back for, I didn’t miss any of the things we had in storage. It’s just STUFF!!!
No one ever found enlightenment in a basement full of crap. No one ever laid on their deathbed and regretted not having enough stuff.
We’re building a small house by most standards, but even if you don’t endeavor to live in a smaller dwelling or go to the lengths of a tiny house, there’s still a lot that you can do to simplify your “stuff situation”.
HOW TO GET RID OF “STUFF” (and keep it away)
1. Assess your stuff.
This is anything from clothing to furniture to knick-knacks and so on. Ask yourself:
Is it useful?
Is it meaningful?
If your answer to either question is “no”, get rid of it. If you’re unsure, try giving yourself a trial separation.
Pack it up in a box and store it away where you can’t get to it for a while. Maybe this is a week or a month. If at the end of your trial you find that you don’t miss it, get rid of it!!
2. Get rid of your stuff!
Yard sale it! Consign it! Donate it! Recycle it! Sell it for scrap! Do something, just get it out of your house and out of your life!
3. Don’t buy more stuff!
This is the most important one. If you find that you want to go buy something, ask yourself:
- Is there something I already own that could be used for this purpose instead?
- Can I up-cycle or recycle something I already own into a new, unique item?
- Do I actually NEED this thing, or do I just THINK I need it? (Hint: it’s probably the second one!)
- Could I borrow or rent it instead? (think: library, tool rental, borrowing from people you know, etc.)
“But Emily! What we really need to get is a -” NO.
“But if we could get something that could – ” NOPE.
“I read that this one thing was really great for – ” STOP IT.
You have to change your mindset from being one of HAVING into being one of MAKING AND DOING.
For those of you thinking you might want to dabble in living “tiny” or “small”, I highly suggest a trial run. We lived here for a month when our floors were refinished and it gave us a solid idea of what we could and couldn’t handle.
After having lived with my mom for 2.5 years while we built our cordwood home, our trial run was pretty much spot on.
If you don’t have family with a place where you could do a trial run, save up some money to spend a week or a month renting a “tiny house” or a small cottage.
And even if you don’t want to downsize your home, there’s never harm in downsizing the amount of stuff you have!
Thinking of building small or tiny? Download our free guide to get started:
If you want to know more about our off-grid cordwood homestead project, click here. Like this content? Be sure to share it! Join us on Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram for more homesteading goodies that don’t necessarily make it to the blog. Thanks!
Patsy Fisk says
Hi Emily. I enjoyed reading this! Your blog is great! I got rid of a lot of “stuff” when I moved from my house to my condo. Didn’t miss it, that was 12 years ago. This is my forever home now, so when I “leave” Ben and Dan get to deal with all my “stuff”!
Great blog! I, too, am a new member of HBN and found your blog there. I will be using your Amazon link when I purchase too — love to help out fellow homesteaders. Anni
Thanks so much! I truly appreciate it!!
David Tevis says
Emily, Absolutely brilliant! Outside storage stuff, yard stuff, extra room stuff, attic stuff, basement stuff, garage stuff, barn stuff, and my personal favorite: the unrelenting “flat-surface” stuff. Thank you for your blog!