I recently moved from a very roomy two-bedroom flat with a massive yard to a compact one-bedroom unit. I realised that although my spacious flat was lovely, it didn’t really suit my lifestyle.
The second bedroom was supposed to be a study/guest bedroom. I put my desk in there with the intention to using it as a quiet place to do my writing. However, the fact that the room was freezing cold in winter and oppressively stuffy in summer meant that I very rarely went in there. Additionally, having guests stay over was an unusual occurrence. In the five years I lived in that flat, I had guests stay exactly five times, an average of once per year. By the time I moved out, I was mostly using that room for storage.
The yard was much the same. I’m not really an outdoorsy person, and if I want to be out in nature I’m more likely to take a walk around the lake than sit out in the backyard. I detest yard work and I burn the second the sun hits my skin. As a result, my beautiful backyard was more of a burden than a pleasure.
I realised that I was spending money on a flat that simply didn’t suit me. I had a whole room that I barely set foot in and a yard that was a source of toil and frustration. When it came time for me to end my lease, I looked for a much smaller flat, with no spare room and no yard. The flat I’m now living in is perfect for me. I use every inch of it, and there are no rooms that are sitting idle. I don’t have to worry about mowing or weeding and I don’t miss the extra space. Best of all, I’m spending about $80 less per month by renting a flat that is a more appropriate size for me.
Perhaps you’re reading and nodding your head, thinking that you might also benefit from downsizing. Maybe you’re feeling a cold hand of fear squeezing your chest because you have no idea how you’d condense your life down to fit into a smaller home. Worry not, because it can be done! Here are my top tips for downsizing your living space:
- Think carefully about how you use your current space. Are there rooms in your house that you seldom or never use? Are there rooms devoted to the kind of life you wished you lived, rather than the life you actually lead? For example, do you have an elaborate study but mostly end up setting up your laptop at the kitchen table? If so, you could benefit from looking for a place that has fewer rooms.
- Start decluttering now. I began by doing a massive purge of my home about eight months before I intended to move. I went through every single drawer, every shelf and every cupboard with ruthless efficiency. Be very honest with yourself about what items you genuinely need and use and those that are just clutter. Do it slowly and over a long period of time to make the process less daunting.
- Think carefully about the furniture and appliances in your home. Are there any pieces that you never use? I sold my desk after I realised that I usually did my writing at the kitchen table. I also sold my deep freeze after I unplugged it to defrost it….and then realised three months later that I hadn’t plugged it back in again and didn’t miss it at all.
- Stop buying so much crap. Decluttering is great, but the reason that most of us find ourselves swimming in clutter six months after a huge clear-out is that we continue buying things we don’t need. In order to downsize, you have to stem the flow of things coming into your home. Be strict with yourself and clamp down on your shopping habits. Resist the urge to buy things you don’t need just because they’re on sale. Stop accepting free tote bags/keychains/lanyards whenever you attend an event. If you reduce the number of things you’re bringing into your house, you’ll be better able to deal with the stuff that’s already there.
- Be creative about getting rid of stuff you don’t need. Invite some friends over to go through the clothes you don’t want and let them take anything they like. Find a swap-library to donate your old books to. Bundle up your DVDs and sell them in blind boxes on Gumtree. Think outside the box and start moving your unwanted items along to people who will use them.
- Think carefully about your current lifestyle and habits. A lot of the time we hold onto items that represent the person we wish we were. I had loads of high heels because I wanted to be a glamour-puss who wore heels at every opportunity. But the truth is that I’m much happier in sandals, sneakers or boots. I held onto a sewing machine that I’d bought in the hope that I could make my own clothes, when actually sewing makes me want to tear my hair out. There was the cupboard filled with fancy table cloths and bed linen because I dreamed of being a domestic goddess, but truly I prefer a bare table and I have two pairs of sheets that I love and the rest sat in the cupboard. Be honest with yourself about the things you’re keeping because the represent another version of you, and make peace with the person you actually are. And then let go of the items that don’t fit with your current lifestyle.
Downsizing is tricky but it is so worth it. I’m much happier in my smaller flat, it’s easier to clean and I’m saving money. It’s also very freeing to let go of those items that make you feel guilty because you aren’t the type of person that uses them. It feels amazing to take an honest look at who you are, accept it and let go of those expectations. I feel like I’ve curated my life to better suit the person I am now, and I’m happier for it.
Do you have any questions about downsizing or decluttering? Have you ever moved to a much smaller home?