The struggle & unexpected benefits of downsizing your home
Living in 300 sq ft (or less) over the past 10 years, I didn’t think it was possible for me to “downsize” any further. And then I found myself living … #vanlife in a 72 sq ft cargo van. This wasn’t the initial plan, but I have found that through the struggle, there are unexpected benefits of downsizing your home.
In the typical home, there are rooms we use often, such as the kitchen and family room, and then there are spaces we rarely use, like formal living rooms or dining rooms. What if you downsized your home and used all the spaces all the time? Depending on how big your space is, and how small you decide to go, I can’t guarantee there won’t be struggles to downsizing, but I can promise you there will be benefits to downsizing your home that will outweigh any initial pain points.
REASONS TO DOWNSIZE YOUR HOME
When you think of downsizing your home, I’m guessing like most people, you think seniors selling big forever family homes for a condo on a golf course (disclaimer: exactly what my parents did!). But as housing prices increase, climate change impacts our planet, and families are spending more time outdoors than inside, downsizing isn’t just for the elderly anymore.
Some of the many reasons to downsize your home that you may not have considered include:
Monetary: reduce expenses, pay off debt, save for future dreams
Environmental: reduce your carbon footprint, spend less time inside and more outdoors
Practical: just don’t need so much space anymore, you have unused rooms, better location, less maintenance costs/time
Family: spend more time together as a family
WHEN IS THE RIGHT TIME TO DOWNSIZE YOUR HOME?
Take your pick from the list of reasons above as to why you would downsize your home, but the question remains, when is the right time to downsize your home? As with anything, is there ever a right time? Personally, I say jump right in! But there may be some key factors in the timing of your decision (lease ending, season, kids still living at home), that you may need to take into consideration.
Regardless of when you decide to make the leap to a compact living lifestyle, there are some things you can do today to prepare to downsize your home.
DECLUTTERING & DOWNSIZING HOME CHECKLIST
Plan to declutter your home
Planning is an integral component to the process (disclaimer: as an event planner, my love language is planning, so …. ). Think about your motivations for downsizing your home and how much potential space you will need in your new, smaller space. This will give you a better understanding of what you will need to do to make the leap.
Declutter the clutter
Did I even need to say it? You are going to have a smaller space and with that comes the need to reduce your home’s “inventory”. I’m not going to lie, this is probably going to be tough, but if you break it down into stages, it can be less of a struggle and more of a personal challenge.
Tackle this process room by room. If you need to break it down further, designate zones within the rooms. An example of zones in a room would be breaking down your kitchen into “pots, pans & bakeware; dishes, glassware & cutlery; recipe books; etc …” or your home office into “desk; bookcase; files; electronics” and then designate specific days to specific zones. You can then tackle a different zone each day and break the decluttering into manageable pieces.
Organize the clutter in your home
The next step in decluttering in preparation to downsize your home is to organize your clutter. Organize your belongings into SELL, DONATE, KEEP, TRASH/RECYCLE. Being able to visually see these piles is important, as typically you will attempt to KEEP far more than your future downsized home can accommodate. Check your local charity shops to see what they take, as some won’t take furniture or electronics. Also check your local recycling depot for what can be recycled and what will need to go to the landfill.
A cautionary note to avoid disappointment: as the older generation moves into retirement facilities and baby boomers downsize, antiques are a dime a dozen, and most likely not worth as much as you think. Think about consignment as an option for antiques and collectables and even well cared for high-quality clothing items. Although privately selling these items can possibly yield more, sometimes taking a hit to be able to move your items quicker, can be beneficial. If you are looking at auction houses, verify their commission and check if they implement minimum reserves to avoid disappointment or low sales prices.
Lather, rinse, repeat …
Decluttering to downsize your house can be a hard process, especially if you have a lifetime of memories wrapped up in your belongings. The nostalgic items can be the hardest – photo albums, kids’ artwork, family heirloom furniture … it can all seem too important to give up. But downsizing your home requires commitment. Do you really love that old desk, or has it just been in the family so long you think you need to keep it? Do you actually look through your photo albums … ever?! Is that macaroni & glitter necklace your child made really something you wear?
Take another look at your keep pile and see where you can reduce it further. Try scanning your photo albums and putting them onto a digital frame – you will actually see all of your photos regularly instead of having to pull out an album to look at them. Pick a couple of the finest works of art & frame them to put on display. There are lots of ways to keep memories without keeping all the mementos!
Want to save this list as a reference?
Download the Declutter & Downsize checklist to keep close at hand for inspiration!
THE STRUGGLES OF DOWNSIZING YOUR HOME
Change is hard, but the toughest changes typically bring the greatest rewards. There will be struggles in downsizing your home, but once you have moved into your smaller space, I am confident it will have been worth it.
It’s all important
Some things will be easy to part with but expect that some items that currently feel integral to your life won’t fit in your new space. Learn to be okay with parting with some meaningful items. I like to think that I’m giving them a new life and bringing someone else joy, instead of putting them into a storage locker hidden away.
How small is too small
When you first start planning your new space, you may get overzealous and think you can go micro. Be realistic. Downsizing a 5-bedroom home to a 1-bedroom tiny house may seem dreamy, but will it be achievable? Maybe downsize to a 3 bedroom first, with the plan to go smaller in the future. Think about the spaces you use in your current home and how you could potentially utilise less spaces multifunctional in a smaller home – could you replace an office with a desk in your living room?
THE UNEXPECTED BENEFITS OF DOWNSIZING YOUR HOME
The gift of time
When you live in a big space, there’s always something to clean or tidy or organize. There’s probably a day of the week that you do all your chores and it probably takes the better part of the day to get it all done. When you live in a smaller space, you end up cleaning as you go –tidying up your multi-use table after a day of working from home before dinner, doing the dishes after a meal and putting your clothes away each night because there’s no other place for them to go. By cleaning as you go, your home is always clean and tidy. There’s no need to devote a full day to cleaning anymore!
Money, money, money.
Living a more compact lifestyle may mean that you live right in midst of the hustle and bustle of the best part of town. This reduces the need for a car to get around when you can walk everywhere. Or maybe it means lower utility bills and property taxes. Or perhaps you saved money by not having to furnish a bigger space. There are so many ways that living in a smaller space can save money and how much you can save can be an unexpected benefit of downsizing your home to some people.
You love everything you own
When you go through the steps of decluttering with the aim to downsize your home, you’re sure to find hidden treasures from years gone by packed away in your house. Items that were so important to you that you couldn’t imagine not living with them. But guess what … you did. You didn’t even remember them. They probably gave you warm & fuzzies when you found it, but until then, you had forgotten about them. When you live small that doesn’t happen. You see everything you own all the time. Everything you own becomes the most important, most treasured, most “joy sparking” items you have. And to be honest, it’s one of my favourite unexpected benefits of downsizing. For each item to be important, to hold a memory, your home becomes like a curated museum of your life, and that is very special.
Is downsizing your home right for you? Is now the right time to downsize your home? How much of a smaller space should you move into? Those are questions only you can answer. Will downsizing your home be a struggle? Yes, at times it will. Will there be unexpected benefits to downsizing your home? Definitely. Embarking on living a smaller, simpler, more curated life in a smaller space takes time, planning and commitment to an unknown end goal – but in life, typically the more challenging, the more rewarding.