Every time I get something out of our outdoor storage, I ask myself “Why do we still have those dang snowshoes?” About nine months ago, when we were taking inventory of our belongings in preparation for RV life, it seemed logical that we would still go on the occasional hike in snow. But now that they take up a quarter of prime storage space, it has become obnoxiously clear how unlikely we are to use them in the next year.
Over the course of two years, we went from a four-bedroom house to a two-bedroom apartment to a one-bedroom apartment to crashing in a spare room at Buddy’s sisters house to (finally!) our RV. And although we are still learning to redefine what we “need,” we have gotten pretty good at selling, donating and trashing things. So, whether you must downsize to move into an RV or just want to unclutter your space, here are our tips for minimizing your possessions:
1. Make a List
Really want to get motivated to downsize? Make a list of everything you own. No need to go into minute detail, or you may never finish (for example, “two boxes of Christmas decorations” is a sufficient description). Then once your initial feelings of nausea subside, choose what you want to sell, give away, trash, keep or decide on later. Just be sure to create realistic limits for yourself – especially if you are downsizing to fit into a smaller space. How many shoes do you really need?
Anything you plan to trash or donate, get rid of as soon as possible to start feeling a sense of accomplishment! This is an easy way to get started and it can be addicting once you get going.
2. Start Big
When you are looking around at all the things that need to go, it can be very overwhelming. It can also be frustrating to know you will likely be taking a loss on many items you hope to sell. For us, focusing on selling the biggest items first made downsizing a lot less stressful.
We had a few months to get rid of everything, but knew the time would go quickly (and it did). So, getting rid of the things that took up the most space and/or could make us the most money helped lessen our stress. Yes, it was weird living in an empty apartment for a few months. But it was such a relief to know we wouldn’t be rushing to clear things out at the last minute.
3. Learn the Art of Re-Homing
There are always those inevitable items that just no longer serve a purpose in your life, but are still hard to let go of – because you will take a big monetary loss or they have sentimental value. For us, giving these things away as gifts or donating them to a good cause felt much better than selling them to the highest bidder on Ebay. Everyone got a re-homed item for Christmas and we even gave away a few lingering things as “favors” at our going away party (which was a big hit).
I was also ecstatic to find a non-profit near our old apartment in Colorado that gave donations directly to families in need. A Precious Child in Broomfield, CO, actually has a little store that families can “shop” in for home goods and clothes. I found myself searching out more items I could give, instead of reluctantly bagging things up to donate. It made all the difference.
4. Make Regular Assessments
Even after you’ve completed your initial chunk of downsizing, take a look around every couple of months to make sure you haven’t let unneeded items creep back in. This is especially important in an RV because you have to stay under a certain weight!
We have been dropping a bag of donations off monthly – mostly clothes, but also books we’ve read, gear we rarely use, and gifts people give us. Yes, we get rid of gifts! And we don’t feel bad about it because we’ve told our friends and family that if they get us something we don’t need we won’t keep it. And we highly suggest nicely explaining this to your loved ones if you have any hope in keeping your minimalist goals. We ask them to buy items to donate to a good cause instead, which is hard to argue with – win, win!
We know first-hand how daunting minimizing your entire life can feel, but the hardest part is getting started. And, at least in our experience, it gets easier with each item you unburden yourself from. As every elementary-aged little girl will happily sing for you, just “let it go.”