Downsizing: The Quickstart Guide

Reading Time: 4 minutes


donation box clothes

Downsizing is intimidating! Here’s a practical look at where to start with the easy stuff.


Minimalism is my new drug. I want more of less and I want it now!

If you’re reading this, you’re already in the mindset to make this happen. Don’t stop with just reading!

Here are some steps that have helped me on my start toward living with far less.

The basics

If it’s broken, it goes. Get real. You’re not fixing it. It’s sat there for months. If there are any chips or cracks, it likely won’t have retail value. Your trash might be someone else’s treasure but it’s still your trash. Let someone else have that broken, damaged thing. You’re better than that.

It doesn’t matter what it cost you, when you sell it, most of your stuff will barely be worth 20% what you paidif you can sell it. Get over the dollar value. Get over the price. Is it of use to your life on a regular basis? Is it beautiful and in top shape? No? It goes.

If your first reaction is a bad memory, it goes. Period. Ain’t no ghost going to haunt you because you didn’t keep that serving dish that reminds you of all those horrible holidays at Aunt Marge’s.

Only keep the keepers

Books, media, photos; these are what keep too much of. You don’t need every picture on display. Instead, have one montage frame for all of the photos you love and put most away, keep only the nicest out. Most books aren’t worth keeping.

My handy guide for book purging will help you make tough choices. I’m still sad I made so little money on all my books, but I’m ecstatic I got rid of them. I have so much space now. I’ve kept my digital media, though, but it’s all in two binders that fill one 12×12” cubby on my bookshelf, and I recycled the cases. For now, I think digital media is a “keep” because if anything happens to your hard drive, et cetera, you could lose all those bought & downloaded files.

.chair and bookshelves organized

The kitchen

The kitchen is where the cray-cray lives. Time to go hardcore.

Mugs and glasses: There’s no reason on Earth you need 20 mugs or glasses. Cut it back to 8 or 10 tops, even if you’re a family of four. Like omigod, your glasses are all dirty? Whatever will you do? Wash one? Hey, there’s a plan.

Plates and other Dishes: Anything cracked or chipped needs to go. If you have a full set but others that are mismatched? Get rid of anything not in the set.

Take a hard look at your gadgets: I love garlic and using a press is a convenience I’m willing to live with, but I don’t need the pastry wheel, the cheese-serving spatula, three whisks, or multiples of anything, really. The lemon zester can probably go. In fact, we’ve got a couple great articles for you to read, here and here.

How many casserole dishes do you have versus using at any one time? Don’t keep duplicates. Don’t keep anything damaged or ugly. This goes for any kind of bakeware or mixing bowls too.

The clothes

If it’s out of style and not a classic item, toss it. What are you, a time machine, you’re willing to wait for it to become trendy again? Get over it. Donate it. If it’s got any stains or tears, donate it.

If it’s old bedding or towels, some charities will be happy to receive it for cleaning or whatever else one uses old textiles for.

If it fits too big/small, it goes.

Be real when you’re going through your closet. Imagine the joy that comes from spending less time “trying to find something to wear,” and doing less laundry. Imagine the glee of opening the closet or drawer and not having to push things aside to see what you have. It’s very freeing. You want this. You can do this.

clothes organization before and after

The appliances

From yard equipment to kitchen equipment, appliances are where we spend the most money on convenience items that can be done old-school and with space saved. These appliances are also where you stand the most chance of getting money back on your unnecessary purchases primed for downsizing.

If it’s nearly obsolete, sell it while it’s still worth something. If you only use it a couple times a year, it’s better to sell. So many things you have, if you really needed it for a special party or event, you likely have a friend who could loan you one. Remember that — you can always borrow or rent equipment short term, and enjoy a more minimalist lifestyle until that day comes.

The furnishings

Does every seat need a side table? Do you need as many chairs as you have? Are there too many framed photos? Get real about what you really need in your space and aspire to have less. A lot of these items — tables, chairs, et cetera — are the ones you can make a few bucks on, and do without. Keep the items you love but sell the ones that generally just sit there unused, or whose only purpose is to display a few books or knickknacks.

The end

It’s stressful and daunting to tackle downsizing, but that changes the more you do it. It’ll create a mess, throw you for a loop, force you to rearrange your home, but that’s all part of the process, and getting to the other side is like having a huge oppressive weight lift off your shoulders.

If you crave downsizing and you get pangs when you hear others speak of successfully doing it, then you’re ready and you need to take this step. Don’t be scared. Be excited. You’re about to change your whole world and give yourself more freedom than you dared think possible.

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Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.