Getting rid of stuff you have cluttering your home or taking up storage space is no easy task. When my husband and I downsized from a three bedroom house to an RV, the following strategies made the project a lot easier for me:
1. Set a downsizing deadline.
This might be the day you plan to have a garage sale, the last day of a vacation from work, or the day you move out of your home. For me, it was the day we closed on our house and took our last load of stuff to our RV…but I had already gotten rid of most of our remaining stuff at our garage sale.
Decide what you will do with any belongings that remain after that deadline, and write down your commitment. For example, you might write something like this: “We will have a garage sale the Saturday before our house closing date. Anything in our discard area that we haven’t sold by then will be donated to the thrift store the following Monday.”
By picking a specific day and marking it on your calendar, you’ll create urgency for yourself and increase your likelihood of achieving your goal.
2. Involve others in the process.
If you live with family members, help everyone get excited about what downsizing could mean for them, and let them help make decisions and contribute ideas so you can support each other through this process. If you live alone, update friends and family members about your progress. Verbalizing your plans to others can help hold you accountable to yourself.
Saying aloud to someone, “I’m going to bring you that chair I promised you after work tomorrow” or “This Saturday I plan to take a load of things to the thrift store” increases your level of commitment because if you don’t do what you said you would, you’re not just changing your mind, you’re going back on your word.
3. Be kind to yourself.
It’s not easy to make a major life change. Some parts of the process are easier than others, and you may run into road blocks along the way. Just by deciding to move in a new direction and taking action, you have already done more than many people ever will. As long as you continue to make progress, no matter how gradual, you will eventually reach your goal.
Whenever I’m having trouble motivating myself to work on a task, I try just picking one small part of the task to do and no more. That way I’m not putting the job off entirely, but it’s easier to get started. Sometimes I even end up doing more than I had planned, because getting started is often the hardest part.
4. Don’t worry about what you’ll do with an item when deciding whether or not to keep it.
I’ve found it’s much easier to clean out a drawer or cabinet when the question is simply “to keep, or not to keep,” with no thought whatsoever given to the next question, “What do I do with it?”
To do this, I place any items I’ve decided not to keep in a box or bag, and then I go through the box or bag at a later date and decide whether to donate, sell, or gift the items. Knowing that the items I put in my “to get rid of” box won’t be going directly to a thrift store or dumpster and can even be retrieved later if I end up needing them and makes it easier to sort them, and often by the time I get around to selling or donating the items, I’ve already forgotten about them!
5. Give items you’re getting rid of a new useful life.
I have a hard time with seeing items I loved and cared for sitting with the rest of the junk on the loading dock behind a thrift store, so knowing that’s where my stuff will end up makes me more likely to talk myself into keeping it. On the other hand, if I can find a friend or family member who wants my item, I feel like I’m giving them a present, which is something I enjoy.
If you can find someone to give your things to, or if you can find an organization that accepts donations of that particular type of item in order to put it to some worthy use, you may actually find yourself eager to be able to help.
To get a taste of what giving up your things in order to do good or make someone smile can feel like, take a look at this list of charitable and non-profit organizations which accept donations of unique items.