Two weeks ago we announced that we are selling it all, paying off all debts, and living life a little differently. Since then we have had a ton of questions about our decision and HOW we are actually doing the downsizing and purging. I feel super qualified to talk about my journey into a minimalistic life since I came from such a materialistic one! Seriously, the girl who previously lived in my brain was a shopoholic maniac with an insatiable thirst for MORE and now I am here cleaning up her mistakes and erasing the credit card debt that accompanied them.
Materialist to Minimalist - How We Downsized
Okay so in the sake of keeping this blog useful and not overflowing with junk (like my closets a few weeks ago) here are the main 3 reasons WHY we are radically downsizing:
- To feel lighter. I am experiencing this already! It's like a new corner of my mind has even opened up to allow more creative and positive thoughts as more and more psychical junk clears out. Items can weigh you down mentally, emotionally.
- To clear off debt. We are not ashamed to admit that we spent a lot of money over the last couple years and racked up some good ol' consumer debt! But it just SITS there collecting interest, and the things we bought SIT there collecting dust… so something doesn't add up.
- To be more location independent. Nothing says ‘stay home and go nowhere' quite like a huge mortgage payment.
But HOW right? Although we are minimalists with training wheels, and no two minimalists rules have to be the same, here is our playbook on how you can get started too!
How We Downsized and Embraced Minimalism
Step 1: We determined NEED vs WANT
The hardest (but most crucial) part of downsizing is to identify what you NEED and what you WANT. Trust me, I know how much a ‘WANT' can feel like a ‘NEED'! I have had many moments in my life where I NEEDED those shoes, that car, those blender attachments and that crop top with the tags still on it from 5 years ago.
The first step on your journey will be to ask yourself when faced with any object: “Do I need this?” or better yet “Does this bring any value into my life now? Does it serve me?”
My socks where knocked RIGHT OFF when I discovered how many of my once treasured items and mistake purchases did NOT serve me or fulfill a need whatsoever. I was merely holding them ‘incase'. Incase of what? I wanted to open a professional garage sale of crap?
Step 2: We just DID it.
All of the following will mean diddly squat unless you just DO it. It's so easy to say ‘next week, next month, next year' and that is exactly how we wound up with piles of crap surrounding us. Just get er' done!
Step 3: We started in the drawers.
Or the closets. Or under the stairs. Or anywhere that doesn't see the light a whole bunch. This is where the jackpots are hiding! Huge boxes full of crap that you have even designated as ‘not good enough to be out in the house with the rest of the crap', labelling it as sub-par crap. 99% of what is in these dark chambers can be donated/sold/thrown away. No, I will never need that old DVD player, the 20th pair of mittens in the house or that old textbook from 20 years ago.
Step 4: We made 4 piles.
Take a room, or an area of the house that won't drive you bonkers to do this in (although that might light a fire under your downsizing behind) and make 4 piles. 1- Sell. 2- Donate. 3- Trash. 4- Keep. I found these piles magically grew and shrank and items migrated between them over and over again as I tried to reason why I needed that thing I don't need. In my opinion, the piles should be as big as their order listed above. 1 should be HUGE, 2 should be pretty hefty, 3 should be decent and 4 should be microscopic.
Step 5: We sold stuff online.
Facebook buy/sell groups are incredible for this. There are hundreds of ravenous fiends waiting to get their next used goods fix. You literally will join a local group (like for us it was Kelowna Buy/Sell) and you will list your item, the price, some photos of it, details, and pickup info. If you price the items right, they will fly off the shelves. My advice: Don't get greedy, just get it over with. They can be extremely time consuming if you are trying to always get top dollar. You can also use sites like Kijiji, Craigslist, Ebay etc. Or of course, ask someone you know if they want to buy it. As you are raking in the cash and the adrenaline is pumping, it's wise to set a goal or a designation for all that money. It will keep you incentivized and focused on the task at hand. Example: I will take my husband on a 1 week vacation to Mexico. Or- I will pay off that credit card bill of $2000.
Step 6: We started going through everyday items
The clothes hanging in our closet, the things we see daily, and the more prominent items in our home. This one was harder to do, but we kept remembering: WANT vs NEED. I combed the closet over and over again and kept asking myself “When was the last time you wore this?” If it was over a year and it wasn't a speciality gown, it HAD to go in Piles 1, 2 or 3. I will be writing a blog on JUST this topic in the near future about how to know what clothes to keep, why I kept certain items, doing more with less makeup/cosmetic products, etc.
Step 7: We talked about the BIG things
The house, the car(s), the big ticket items in our life that came with matching big ticket payments. We got rid of my Mercedes that didn't drive more than 2 times a year but was costing $900/m (ouch!). Not everyone wants to sell their house like Trevor and I, but here are some things to ponder: Do you use all the space you have? Could you sell and buy a smaller place for much less money? Do you have 2 vehicles and really only need 1? Are you making large payments on things you don't use like a snowmobile, boat, etc?
Step 8: We planned for the future.
We talked about being accountable for buying new things going forward. Only if it serves a purpose and adds direct value to our everyday life. Example: If my laptop is getting scratched and I want a sleeve for it, that would be alright. If it's not getting scratched and I am not using it ever and I just SAW a sleeve I like because it was cute…. no, that is not alright.
So was this easy? There were some moments where I temporarily felt like I was going to have a panic attack and then it just faded away. It's not EASY, but neither is hanging on to crap for no reason while your credit cards grow and loom over your head constantly. This is much easier than the awful feeling of weight on your shoulders.
My last little tips for your downsizing journey:
- Use smaller things (forces you to give up excess!) Smaller make-up cases, smaller storage areas, smaller closets.
- Do you have a double of an item? (like 2 toasters or 2 identical Lululemon shirts?) Then one of them is 100% going in pile 1-3.
- When you can, donate to people near you. I mean locally as well as socially. It's amazing to be able to donate something to someone and see their smile, watch them use and appreciate it and know it's still a part of your community. Example: we donated a color printer, school supplies, white boards and kitchen items to a teen studying to be a chef! It's great to watch someone grow and excel! We also made donations to charities, shelters, and local food banks.
- Storage? If you have a storage locker somewhere, I challenge you to get the smallest one they offer and make it work 😉
- If you have debt, mark at least 75% of all your ‘sales' to re-paying this debt. 25% can be used for fun stuff and instant gratification thrills, but the debt needs to GO!
- Involve your spouse and do it as a team. Make it fun and keep each other accountable! Trevor pointed out SO many things I didn't need and I wasn't even aware of it.
This entire downsizing journey has now inspired something bigger than ourselves. As we pledge to live in a new home every 90 days of less, we are also adding an element of philanthropy so we can give back in each location. Read about the ‘New Home 90' Movement HERE
As I write this blog we have 10 days left in our home. In 2 days we will make the last mortgage payment of our lives. Our adventure will begin on a very light foot as we have downsized by literally 98%…. And it feels SO DANG GOOOOOOOD!
Will you try any of these downsizing tips? Have you already and want to share a downsizing success? Tell us in the comments below!
Downsizing Minimalism UPDATE 2018:
It's been 17 months since we sold it all, downsized, became minimalists and hit the road. Has it been everything we've dreamed it would be? 100%!
Since then, we have even taken our minimalism and downsizing journey to a whole new level, by getting rid of the storage unit, writing a book on minimalism, and living with even less!