Downsizing: a simple how-to

After amassing a lot of stuff, a sudden downsize turned me into the Simplifying Jedi Master. Let me teach you the ways…

Editor’s note: The RVAFamily…uh…family…would like to send out a great big congratulations to Hayley and Patrick on the birth of their daughter! Baby Girl DeRoche arrived on Wednesday, July 9th and we can confirm reports that she is, in fact, the sweetest little peanut of a thing. Much love to the entire DeRoche clan!

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During the earlier years of our marriage, my husband Patrick and I accrued a lot of stuff. That’s what happens when you frequent Diversity Thrift all the time with people who are Bad Influences. The signed and (and dated!) painting of Leo Romeo and Juliet in their armor/angel liplocked embrace captured–as all masterworks are–in glitter paint? That is a family heirloom now. The 70’s LPs of nothing but seal and whale sounds? Record Store Day score of hilarity! A set of tall JFK-etched drink glasses from an estate sale? Priceless.

The problem is that as the years went by, we continued to acquire such priceless treasures. At first, this was solved by the age-old solution of also acquiring more space to put said treasures. However, our solution collapsed when we had to massively downsize from 1,500 square feet to 550.

You just cannot cram that much stuff into that kind of space. Or at least, you shouldn’t if you value your health and sanity. However, it turns out that this was one of those cliched blessings in disguise situations they keep talking about. Long story short, I now consider myself the Simplifying Jedi Master. And like a good Jedi Master, I’m going to teach you the ways of simplifying. Afraid? No? You will be. You will be.

Kidding! But seriously, I know facing down clutter is hard stuff to tackle. Let me offer a few simple tips of the trade.

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1. Do not buy more stuff in order to simplify.

We are pruning, not polishing. Simplifying here means No More Stuff, not necessarily No More Disorganization. Do not fall into the trap of confusing the two! If someone tries to sell you something that will replace three other somethings in your life, ask yourself if you’re really going to toss the three other somethings, or if your house will just have four somethings now instead of three. This is the big problem with gadgets. I sound like an old fogey,1 but if you’ve got a device that does what you need it to do, think twice before purchasing a second gadget that does that thing AND another thing. Do you really need the other thing? Or is it just a temptation to upgrade and you’ll end up with a house full of gadgets that overlap in an endless Venn Diagram? Wisdom you must have, my young pruning padawan.

2. Do not move junk.

If you moved with it, and it’s still in a box six months later, it’s time to consider whether or not you need it in your life at all. Seriously, we had stuff that made it through two moves without ever being unpacked, and those were the boxes whose contents ended up going to the donation pile in the end. We could have saved ourselves a lot of space by at least donating them after the first move instead of the second. Ideally, we would have never packed them at all.

3. GIGO.

That’s “Garbage In, Garbage Out.” Buy something new? Find something to get rid of in its place. New toy? Pick a toy to donate. New shirt? Cull a shirt from the herd. New book? Well, OK, books can stay. But every so often, go through your stash and reassess. I KNOW. The librarian telling you not to keep every book ever! Seriously, your home is not a repository or a museum, and there are probably some books that would enjoy a better life elsewhere.2

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Of course, there are plenty of times when I may not use one of the three rules. I’ve been known to keep two copies of the same book.3 But I think it’s important to evaluate your stuff periodically and assess what you really need versus what’s taking up space, and let those space-stealers go. Yard sales and thrift stores offer great deals, but just like with couponing, just because it’s a good deal doesn’t mean it’s a good deal for you. If you weren’t in the market for a Rotato, the fact that you could get one for $3 doesn’t mean you should. It might be better to pocket the $3 and consider it money saved that way.

I’ll be honest: the reason I recommend all the culling is that it feels so GOOD to have less stuff. It’s great to have a room that isn’t packed in every corner with stuff that’s not that important to me or Patrick. Now that we’re back in a bigger place, I don’t want to start the cycle again of getting more stuff to fill the space, then needing more space for the stuff. No. We keep the stuff that means something.

And the Romeo and Juliet glitter painting. That is never, ever leaving our family.

Photo by: comedy_nose

  1. Kids these days and their whoziwhatsists! 
  2. Have you gone through your cookbooks lately? 
  3. So I have one to give away if it’s a favorite I want to recommend! There’s logic to it! I gave away a double two weeks ago! 
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Hayley DeRoche

Hayley DeRoche is a librarian with a penchant for cardigans and corduroys. Luckily, her professional life revolves more around technology & information than fashion.

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