Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

How to Start Simplifying and Downsizing Your Life Today

We regularly receive emails from readers looking for suggestions for how they can start ‘editing’ their lives. They find themselves living lives that feel chaotic. They have too much stuff. Their houses are too big. They might want to downsize their homes but the areas where they live do not have many options for compact housing. Their families are not necessarily aligned with the would-be simplifiers’ ambitions. They are having a hard time letting go of stuff and the idea of downsizing themselves. Almost invariably, they ask, “What do I do? Where do I start?”

Much to our chagrin, we are not oracles here at LifeEdited and have no special access to wisdom in regard to simplifying one’s life. We know how hard it can be to change habits that are often forged over several decades. We know letting go of stuff can be tough. We know that many places, particularly in the US, don’t have a ton of options for desirable compact homes in walkable areas outside of major cities. We know that getting family members and friends on the same page can be tough. We offer no easy answers.

That said, we do have some experience, both our own and from many others. With that experience, we have compiled a short list (the best kind) of suggestions we find to be pretty universally effective in starting the process of simplifying and downsizing lives:

  1. Don’t wait for a good time to start. At risk of sounding cliché, the time to start something is–and always will be–now. Don’t worry if the changes are tiny–maybe throwing away a pair of old sneakers you never wear–make them as soon as possible.
  2. Get rid of stuff you are very attached to, but don’t worry, it gets easy with practice. This is one of the biggest hurdles for many people. They are simply unable to give up many of the items that clutter their lives due to sentimental attachments. Perhaps it’s heirlooms or high school yearbooks or art your children made. Important, sometimes valuable things. The unfortunate fact is a certain amount of sacrifice is necessary for simplification. As it’s been said, “are you willing to give up what you have for what you want?” If you’re not willing to give up your stuff for a simpler existence, no biggie. Many people have lived great lives with tons of stuff. But if you actually want to start making changes, something–and more likely many things–will have to go. But take heart! And this we can promise, it gets easier. Once you get rid of one sentimental object and live to tell the tale, the next one is so much easier to part with. You start realizing that the value of having less is often greater than the sentimental value you placed on the dearly departed item you were clinging to. Soon you wonder why you kept the stuff for so long.
  3. Don’t wait for the right home to start downsizing. As Gandhi (or someone) said, “There is no path to simplicity. Simplicity is the path.” You can live a simplified, downsized life, even in a big home in the suburbs. If we use our environment as an excuse to getting rid of stuff and simplifying our lives, there’s a good chance we’ll never get started.
  4. Moving is the best way of getting rid of stuff. Okay, we’re totally contradicting ourselves from point #3, but nothing clears the coffers like moving. One of the ways we hold onto more stuff than we need is by creating invisibility. Out of sight, out of mind. When we move, everything comes into view, and sometimes that view ain’t so pretty. We get a taste of the shear enormity of our acquisitiveness. Moving into a smaller home works doubly well to get rid of stuff as the space’s spatial limitations will guide your excisions. Getting rid of stuff whilst moving also tends to build the habit of removing the unnecessary–to reiterate point #2, practice makes perfect.
  5. Don’t wait for the support of friends and family to start making changes. This is a simple, though often exceedingly difficult proposition for most of us. We might read this post and be excited to start getting rid of stuff or even look for a new home. We reach for the _____ that we’ve been meaning to get rid of for years. Then our significant other says, “You’re not getting rid of the ______. I love the ______.” We become crestfallen. We realize the futility of our endeavor. Like any change, there will be internal and external resistance. It’s natural. Start with your own stuff. Get rid of some of those clothes you don’t wear or bathroom products you don’t use–stuff no one can stop you from getting rid of. Lead by example. Simplicity and manageability are contagious. And if your friends and family are immune to that contagion, at least your house will be in order.

If you have successfully simplified and/or downsized your life, what has worked for you? Let us know in our comments section below.

Complicated or Simple Road Sign via Shutterstock