The average home size in 1950 was less than 1,000 square feet. Fast forward to 2017, the average home size has increased to nearly 2,600 square feet, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
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When we did live in a “normal” home, it was fairly close to that average home size. The house we owned in the St. Louis, Missouri area was around 2,500 square feet if you included our finished basement, and it was just for myself, my husband, and our two dogs.
While more and more people seem to be purchasing larger homes, that wasn’t the case for us. We sold our home a few years ago and made the somewhat unconventional choice of living on first an RV and now a sailboat.
We made this decision for many reasons, the main reason was that we were already traveling nearly full-time, which made owning a house even more stressful since we were gone so frequently. So, we figured why not just take it a step further and actually travel full-time? The hard thing, learning how to downsize our home!
But, we did it! If you are trying to learn how to downsize your home like we did, there are many great benefits, even though it can be difficult at first. We went through all of our possessions, stored certain belongings that we couldn't part with (we have some stuff stored at my husband's parents' home), filled mostly with hundreds of photo albums that my dad left me after he passed away, family paintings, childhood mementos, etc.), and moved into the RV – and then our boat!!
Figuring out how to downsize our home wasn’t the easiest task on earth, and really we dreaded all of the work that had to be done. However, we hoped it would be a stride towards our goal of living the life we wanted.
And, it was! We are so glad that we decided to downsize our home. We haven't regretted the decision one bit, and now we are happier than ever.
There are many other reasons for learning how to downsize your home:
- To save money. A larger home is going to come with higher utility bills, higher insurance, more costly maintenance and repair work being required, a higher purchasing price, and other added financial strain.
- To have less clutter. The bigger your home, the more likely you'll have empty rooms that you feel the need to fill with unnecessary clutter, not to mention the furnishing and finishing of unused space. Now that we live in an RV, we are much more mindful of what we buy. We think carefully about every purchase in terms of weight, size, where we can store it, its utility (“Do we really need this?”) etc.
- To spend less time on maintenance and repairs. If all other factors between two homes are the same (age, location, etc.), a bigger home with more appliances and furnishings is more likely to take up more of your time due to the natural wear and tear that inevitably comes along.
- To spend less time cleaning. A larger home is going to take a lot more time to clean than a smaller one!
Whatever your reasons may be for thinking about how to downsize your home, here are my tips.
Here’s how to downsize your home:
Make a plan for downsizing your home.
Downsizing your home can seem like an easy task to some, but in reality it is not. There are many factors to consider before getting started:
- The size and layout and of your new home.
- The time you have available to downsize your home can have a considerable impact on your sorting process, not to mention the stress involved. Don’t forget that moving is considered one of the most stressful life events – adding a time crunch to that could add even more stress.
- Which of your belongings you will want to keep and which ones you want to part with, and how you plan on getting rid of those things – Sell? Donate? Simply give them away?
What do you think you just cannot get rid of?
I think the hardest thing when figuring out how to downsize your house is deciding which things you will get rid of. To make this easier, start setting aside or listing things that you believe you just cannot part with. Your list may start out long, but it will help you decide what items you don't need and which you should get rid of.
What can you easily get rid of?
If you have the time, then you may want to start getting rid of things that you know you don't need as soon as you can. By doing this, you can clear a lot of clutter which should also help you realize some of the things you thought you needed aren’t actually necessities.
Usually getting rid of the first few items is the hardest. Once the ball is rolling, it gets much easier to downsize your home!
Think about why you want to keep certain items.
Many people have a hard time parting with things for reasons such as:
- Memories. There are some sentimental items that may cause you to have strong feelings when it comes to letting go of them. Items connected to good times with family and friends have an emotional value which is hard to quantify.
- The cost of the item. Is how expensive an item was really a measure of whether you need it or not? It may sting to feel like you unnecessarily parted with a huge chunk of cash, but the savings you make from downsizing your home should more than make up for this. Plus, you never know, if the item is in good condition, you may even be able to sell it for a price close to what you originally paid.
- How long you’ve owned something. When downsizing, you may find things you’ve had forever but forgot about. The length of time you’ve owned something shouldn’t determine whether or not you keep it. Ask yourself honestly – when was the last time that I actually used this?
If you just don't have the room in your new home, you should really dig deep and figure out why you believe you need to keep so many items. Talk about your reasoning with your family or out loud to fully grasp it. Doing so may help you realize how ridiculous your logic may be.
Sometimes, you may laugh at your reasoning, and this may help you get rid of an item more easily.
Find ways to store documents digitally.
For me, I just couldn't bring myself to store my dad's photo albums digitally, even though numerous people have told me to scan them and throw them away. The memory is in the actual photo albums as well as the photos, as my dad loved photography and we would often put the photo albums together as a fun project.
However, there are many other non sentimental things that you can store digitally. This includes tax information, receipts, paper documents, and so on.
The average person stores thousands of papers!
Paper is a big reason for clutter, and so many people keep items that they don't need. Go through your documents and start either digitally storing them or recycling them.
We kept just one binder of papers and scanned the rest. It was very easy to do, and getting rid of all of that paper was incredibly satisfying!
Give yourself time.
Learning how to downsize your house means you’re going to have to go through everything. But, doing it all in one day would be an overwhelming task, and that would be even more added stress. Instead, you should give yourself as much preparation time as possible to carefully plan the move and really think about what you do and don’t need.
This means that you may want to take a few days, weeks, or even months to go through your home.
Start off room by room and see what you can get rid of. Then, when you are done doing that, go through everything again and again until you are down to the amount of items you absolutely need to have. By doing this process, you will clearly see what you need and do not need, and this is because you will be able to see how much you have, evaluate items more clearly, apply past reasoning to other items you think you can't get rid of, and so on.
Create a donation list.
Donating items makes getting rid of things and downsizing your home a little easier. By knowing that your items will be better used by someone who actually needs them, you are giving your stuff new life! If you have a large amount to donate, many donation centers will even come to your home, which can make getting rid of items a breeze.
Plus, you'll feel great knowing that someone else is able to make use of and enjoy your former belongings. Because downsizing your home is so stressful, this can be one sweet spot in the process.
Think about when the last time was that you used an item.
Many people keep items that they hardly use or have never used, yet keep and store them anyways. This was a hard thing for me, and it might be hard for you too if you are deciding how to downsize your home.
If you want to start downsizing your home, you should think about the last time you used a specific item.
Once I realized how ridiculous it was that I was keeping things that I might possibly use five years down the line, everything got easier. This became a big reason for why I was able to get rid of so many of our things. I just sat down, created a list, and thought about the last time I used a certain item. For many things, it seemed like years had passed since I had actually used that item. For some things, I knew I didn't actually need to use them when I thought I did.
So, you should do the same. Be as honest with yourself as possible. Think about when you last used an item or if you will ever use it in the future. If it’s something that you only use occasionally (an appliance or yard tool for example) perhaps you could borrow or rent one should you ever need to in the future? If it’s something large, heavy and hard to store, I’m certain that you’ll feel the relief of not having to lug it around with you anymore!
Related: How To Live On One Income
Get rid of the “maybes.”
If you have no space for items in your new home, but you still have a huge pile of things that you want to take with you, you may want to think about just completely getting rid of your “maybe” pile.
After all, these are “maybes” and you probably don't want them as badly as you think! This can make downsizing your home much easier in one swoop of a decision.
Related tip: Are you looking to downsize? I recommend checking out the course Downsizing for Tiny Life. This course gives you the step by step process for downsizing to move into a smaller space. This course will help you identify what to get rid of, change your mindset about your stuff, help you sell your stuff, and more.
Carefully evaluate future purchases.
So that you are less likely to have as much clutter in the future, you should evaluate future items before you buy them.
In the same way as you considered which of your old items to keep, you should think long and hard about whether you truly need something, whether you should buy, borrow, or rent it if you won't need it in the future, and think about where the item will be stored in your home.
We do this now that we live on a sailboat. We think about every purchase in terms of weight, size, where we can store it, and more. This has helped prevent us from buying many items because we knew that it wasn’t realistic to store them in the first place.
How big is your house? Have you ever thought about how to downsize your home?
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