Guidelines for Downsizing

Helping my sister’s family move made me remember our downsizing move a year ago.  We went from a four bedroom house to 350 square feet of RV.  This required radical downsizing because we were determined to have everything we owned in the RV.  We succeeded with a few exceptions (a corner of John’s basement has some of our boxes and my parents have the two gifts we received as retirement presents) largely because of three guidelines that we utilized.

First, if we haven’t used it in a year, we probably don’t need it.  This is an easy guideline because it is pretty cut and dried.  Have we used it in the last year?  Keep it.  If not, out it goes.  I recently went through the clothes I brought with me and got rid of some I haven’t used in the last year.  This was simple to decide because when I hung all my clothes in the closet, I turned the hangers backward.  As I would wear something, I turned the hangers around.  So the two things still on backward hangers – out they go!  The pair of pants and the three shirts at the bottom of stacks – gone.

The second guideline was one that I used to determine how much of a frequently used item I needed.  I call it “the rule of four.”  Four pairs of jeans, four t-shirts, four blouses, four skirts, four sweaters.  I am working my way down to four pairs of shoes, but that is taking longer because I’m actually wearing all the ones I have.  Four cloth napkins, four cans of soup, four games, four gift bags.  Yarn for four projects.  Four screwdrivers, four hammers, four tape measures.

pm13aThe third guideline is necessary for the radical downsizing we did.  Do I love it?  There were a few things I couldn’t bear to part with. One Precious Moments figurine.  Tom and his stuff.  There were also plenty of things that met the previous two guidelines but I didn’t love them – so they went.

Tom and I talk sometimes about whether or not we miss the things we left behind.  While we miss our family and friends when we are traveling, we never mention the stuff.  We don’t miss it at all and we haven’t wished we had anything back. I easily cleaned out 3/4 of my wardrobe last year when we moved and I haven’t regretted getting rid of any of it.  We feel lighter – and free-er – than we did when we had the big house.  Living is less expensive and we feel like we are leaving a lighter footprint on the earth.

Living in such a small space has led to one new guideline: if something new comes in, something has to go out.  It is the only way we can keep the stuff under control and contained in the RV.

Downsizing was not easy, but it was so worth it.  We came away with what was really important to us and necessary to our lives and we haven’t missed the stuff that we left behind.