How To Downsize Your Life Without Getting Overwhelmed

Got a lot of stuff you need to get rid of?  Can’t figure out how to downsize it all without getting overwhelmed?  Well, continue reading.

How To Downsize Your Life Without Getting Overwhelmed

For some people, there’s an emotional attachment to “stuff”.  That sort of thing might need to be addressed by a therapist and this blog post won’t help you in that area.  This post is for those who might be feeling overwhelmed by the idea of downsizing and who need help with organizing the process into bite sized pieces.

Benefits of Downsizing

  • You can save lots of money.  If you own a large or medium sized home and downsize to a much smaller home, your savings can be enormous.
  • You can reduce your debt.  If you can reduce your mortgage by as little as $500 per month, you could reduce a 10 year student loan of $18,000, for example by 7-8 years.
  • If you have children, having smaller housing expenses could allow one parent to stay home and take care of the kids.  This could increase family closeness.
  • Fewer bills can reduce your stress and increase your peace of mind.
  • Decluttering your belongings will give you more space as well as help to increase your focus.

Bonus: No time to read this post now? No worries. Download a free PDF version for future reference.

How to Downsize

Whether you’re downsizing your life because you have too much stuff and you’re tired of looking at it all or you want to move to a smaller home to save some money, the tips below can help you organize the whole process. There are a few ways you can get organized prior to tackling it so that you don’t get stressed out or overwhelmed.

Start by breaking it down into bite sized pieces.  Do you want to go room by room?  Category by category?  Or in some other fashion.  Decide how you want to tackle this and give yourself a deadline so you don’t end up procrastinating and taking longer than needed.

If you’ve got some newer items, you can try to sell them if you need the extra cash.  You could have a garage sale, sell on auction sites like EBay or on classified ad sites like Craigslist.

Let’s start by going through the categories of things you might own and how to downsize them.

Downsizing Your Clothes

downsizing clothes
via Tiny House Talk

Go through your closets, your clothes drawers and anywhere else you might have clothes.  If the clothes no longer fit or you haven’t worn them in over a year, get rid of them.  Something fancy like a suit or dress that you wear for interviews or special occasions, can be an exception, but don’t make too many exceptions.

If you can’t sell the clothes you want to get rid of or give them away, consider donating them.  There are plenty of charities that take gently worn clothing items and some organizations will even come to your home to pick up your donation.  Just go to Google (or Yahoo or Bing) and type in the name of your city and the words “clothing donation” and you should find some helpful options.

Related: Tiny House Vacations: Tiny House Hotels & Tiny House Vacation Rentals

Downsizing Your Paperwork

downsizing your paperwork
via Lifehacker

If you have a tendency to save piles of insignificant paperwork, like I used to, this section should be helpful.  The following items are what you should keep and for how long you should keep them.

Things you should keep forever:

  • Important certificates: birth certificates, death certificates, and social security cards.
  • Ownership paperwork: Car titles and house deeds along with their corresponding loan/mortgage paperwork.
  • Legal documents: Wills, trusts, living wills, powers of attorney
  • Important licenses: Business licenses, marriage licenses
  • Retirement savings paperwork
  • Insurance paperwork
  • Identification information: ID cards, passports

Items to keep for a limited time

  • Tax documents and corresponding receipts: keep up to 7 years
  • Pay stubs and bank statements: keep for a year
  • Medical records and bills: keep for a year after you’ve paid off the bills.
  • Home improvement documents: keep for about 6 years after you sell your home
  • Warranty documents: keep for as long as you own it.

For most of the limited time documents, you could scan them so that you have them on your hard drive instead of your file cabinets.  That’s a way of moving towards being paperless.  Scanners are cheap, but if you don’t want to buy one, which is understandable, you could get a scanner app for your smartphone.  I use a free app called Genius Scan which makes scanning documents easy.  It’s essential taking a picture and it converts the picture into a PDF file which you can then email yourself to save on your hard drive.

Downsizing Your Memorabilia

downsizing trophies
via AARP

Keeping medals, awards, ribbons, ticket stubs and just random things to remind you of the past can all be given away or recycled.  None of it is anything you need.  They’re just memories.  Take a picture of the items if you need to, but if you’re looking to downsize, here is where you can make some significant progress towards simplifying and decluttering your life.

Recycle Old Electronic Items

recycle old electronics
via Kiplinger

Getting rid of old obsolete electronics, kitchen gadgets, cell phones and computers should be an easy one, but I’ve seen so many people just put that stuff in their garages and call it a day.  There are tons of places that accept these things and will recycle the items, refurbish them or dispose of them responsibly.  Just go to Google and type in the name of your city along with the words electronics or computer recycling and you should find some places that will take your stuff.  If all else fails, you might be able to donate your old electronics to Goodwill, but give them a call first to see if they’ll take the items.

Editing Your Books

how to downsize your books
via Bustle

I love books; always have, but the problem is they take up a lot of room.  The beauty of living in the 21st century is that most books come in an ebook format or a PDF.  If you’ve already read a book and still have it and need it for reference, you may want to consider having it converted into an ebook format.  There are book scanning services on the internet that can help you or you can scan the pages yourself.  Doing the latter would be very time intensive, however.

If you don’t have a special attachments to books you’ve read, go ahead and sell them or donate them.  Books are massive dust collectors when they’re sitting idle, so if anything, once you get rid of some or all of them, your home’s internal air will be much healthier.

Replacing Your CDs, DVDs, VHS Tapes, etc

downsizing dvds
via Iverson Movie Ranch

Like books, if you’ve already watched a DVD, you can get rid of it.  No point in keeping it around, but if you’re attached to the movie, a DVD can easily be added to your computer’s hard drive by ripping them.  CDs are easily transferred to your hard drive as well and can be ripped using iTunes.

If you’ve got VHS tapes the process to digitize them is a little more complex.  You can read about it here: How to Transfer your Videotapes to your Computer.

I won’t be cruel and tell you that you should get rid of vinyl albums because I know those are precious items haha.  Seriously though, those can be collector’s items, so it’s up to you how you want to handle that.  If you’re downsizing because you’re moving to a much smaller space, you may need to rent out storage if you have a large vinyl collection and don’t want to get rid of it.

Downsizing Luggage, Backpacks and Purses

downsizing luggage
via An Uncluttered Life

In reality, you only need one suitcase, one backpack, one carry-on and one purse.  If you’ve got a huge collection of bags you don’t use, sell them, donate them or give them away.  All they’re doing is taking up space and collecting dust.

Downsizing Tools

downsizing tools
via Organizers List

Some of you may not like this section, but if your tool collection is taking over your garage to the point that you can’t park your car in there, it’s time to start downsizing your tool collection.  Go through the ones you use on a regular basis once a year or so and sell, give away or donate the rest.  No point in having a tool you never use or haven’t used in the past five years.  Someone out there will surely put it to good use.

Downsizing Sporting Equipment

downsizing sports equipment
via Designed to Dwell

Like many other things on the list, if you haven’t used a piece of sporting equipment for a year, feel free to sell it, donate it or give it away.  Sports equipment tends to be large and takes up way too much space, so downsizing your collection will go a long way with freeing up some much needed space.  Also, lots of sports equipment can be rented like camping equipment, bowling balls, skis.  That could be a much better option than just keeping stuff that’s being unused year after year.  If the equipment is in good shape, see if you could donate it to a school.  They would put it to good use.

Getting Rid of Things that are no Longer Useful or Beautiful

downsizing knick knacks
via Ugly House Photos

If you’ve got objects in your home that serve no purpose and aren’t beautiful, remove them from your life.  This includes knick knacks, chachkies, items you used to collect, broken items, old stuffed animals (that no small children are attached to), random things people gave you decades ago, etc.  Often, these things can’t be sold, but you may have a shot at giving them away or donating them.  Make sure you dust them off before you give them a new home.


Hopefully this post has given you some helpful tips on how to downsize your life and made the process of decluttering a little less overwhelming for you.  If you’ve started this process and have any tips or tricks you’d like to share, post them in the comments section below.  Good luck!

Want to read more?  Check out other related content from our site:

Protecting Your Tiny House

Trying Out Tiny House Living

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1 Comment

  1. I have several hoarders in my family that would definitely benefit from this article. I hate clutter, but I also hate waste, so I’m always trying to find a way to sell, give away or reuse items. I completed a long distance cycle tour a couple of years ago, and after I returned home I discovered how much stuff I had that I didn’t really need. I went on a total downsize of everything I had. Surprisingly, I also ended up making a lot of cash from selling most of the stuff I no longer need. I definitely feel better off now. A clear house = a clear mind.

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