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Downsizing Your Home

February 1st, 2017 - 8:18 AM

Getting rid of clutter: A guide to downsizing your life

It’s no secret that many people have a lot of stuff in their homes. In fact, a UCLA study found that 25 percent of homes with two-car garages don’t have enough room for vehicles because they’re filled with other things. But why does this happen?

Many psychologists believe our tendency to hoard comes from our belief that owning more will make us feel happier and more secure, or it may just be because we’re susceptible to advertisement. Whatever the reason, the need to own can get a little out of control, leaving us with a cluttered house and a desperate desire to reduce our belongings. The good news is downsizing is easier than you may think — all you need is a plan and the willingness to see it through.  

downsizing home

Benefits of downsizing your home

Every possession comes with costs other than the initial purchase price. No matter what it is, everything you buy requires space to store it and time to clean or maintain it. While some possessions certainly make our lives better, getting rid of items that are only taking up space can have many benefits. By eliminating unnecessary belongings, you can experience:

  • Reduced spending. Deciding to own less will help reduce the number of home items you purchase in the future
  • Less cleaning. Minimizing belongings means there’s less stuff to pick up, dust and organize
  • Lower stress levels. With less clutter to look at, your home will become a place to relax and recharge

How to downsize your belongings​

Whether your weakness is clothes, kitchen appliances, decorations or random knickknacks, it’s easy to find yourself with too many items and no idea how to begin downsizing. Before you start throwing things out, take the time to sort through everything and figure out which belongings can go.

1. Decide what to get rid of

The following tips and tricks are designed to be easy, efficient ways to determine what you actually use. Each one can be customized to fit your needs, so be sure to consider how much you’re trying to get rid of before starting. If you want to drastically downsize, you may need to use a shorter timeframe or stricter guidelines than the ones suggested. 


Plastic storage containers, multiple cooking gadgets, mixing bowls, sets of dishes and a full pantry can make it difficult to keep even the largest kitchen organized. Begin downsizing by getting rid of things that are only used a few times each year — china sets (unless they’re valuable or sentimental), appliances that only have one use, etc. — and then move on to things you have duplicates of and only keep your favorites. Unless you entertain regularly, you probably don’t need multiple sets of drinking glasses or silverware.  Once those items are removed, go through your cabinets and pantry and get rid of spices, food and other ingredients that are old or that you haven’t used for some time.  


Other than furniture, clothing and shoes are probably what take up the most space in the bedroom. To cut down on closet clutter, try this simple trick:

  • Turn all of your clothes hangers one direction
  • When you wear an item of clothing, put it back up with the hanger facing the opposite direction
  • At the end of the month (or season), get rid of anything that’s still facing the original direction

Dresser drawers and closet shelves can undergo a similar treatment by using boxes. Just keep everything in a box and put items away after you wear them. Shoes can easily be pared down the same way.


Bathroom supplies can stack up fast — especially if you regularly receive samples of makeup or hair products. The best way to get the bathroom organized is to take inventory of what you have. Get rid of duplicate blow dryers, curling irons, brushes and combs, and only keep the products you actually use. Chances are if you haven’t used it in the last few weeks, you won’t miss it.  Take the time to sort through towels, too!

Living area

Living rooms, dens and other communal spaces can quickly become areas where random belongings end up.  Put items that don’t belong in these spaces in their proper spots (and get rid of things that don’t belong anywhere). Then, set up designated areas for things like charging cords, keys and mail so they stay organized. When deciding what gets to stay, ask yourself if it’s useful or if it makes you happy. If it doesn’t accomplish either of those things, it’s probably safe to get rid of it.


Is your office full of paperwork, old electronics and supplies like batteries, pens and notebooks? If so, it’s probably in need of some serious organization. Start by clearing off the desk or main workspace so you have a clean area to work on. Then, go through drawers and boxes and sort documents into colored folders to keep like items together. If you don’t need a paper copy, consider scanning the documents to save them digitally. Get rid of any electronics or office supplies you don’t have a foreseeable use for, and utilize storage containers and filing cabinets to keep things organized.

Pro tip: Shred any documents that may contain personal information before throwing them away.


Decluttering your garage will probably involve a little more work than the rest of the house — mainly because there’s probably more inside it. One way to make sure you’re only keeping what you need is to create “zones.” Have a car zone (where only your car can go), a work zone (for tools, ladders, etc.) and a miscellaneous zone (for things like holiday decorations and bikes). You can use crates, wall organization products and cabinets to maximize your storage space. While sorting through things, make sure to consider the last time the item was used. If you haven’t used it in a few months (or forgot you owned it in the first place), get rid of it.

2. Donate, sell or trash

Once you’ve determined the items you no longer want or need, it’s time to actually get rid of them. Consider having a garage sale, taking things to a consignment shop or charity, giving away items to friends and family, or simply throwing away things that will be of no use to anyone. While it’s a big step to remove the things from your normal living space, permanently getting rid of them will help ensure you don’t slowly bring them back in to the house.    

3. Prevent the return of clutter

The final step is to stop yourself from buying new items to replace the things you got rid of. In order to do this, you’ll need to set limits. For example, you could make a rule that for every item of clothing you buy, something that is already in your closet has to go. Set weekly or monthly spending budgets to curb impulse buys, or plan fun activities that don't include window shopping. Making these types of adjustments will help your home stay organized.

Share your story

Have you successfully downsized your belongings and gotten rid of clutter? Tell us how you did it in the comments below!

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