Now that it is the New Year many of us are trying to keep up with our resolutions. Whether we want to be in better shape or eat a healthier diet or reduce our clutter, January is the traditional time to start new projects.

I know it is possible to downsize from a large home (2700 square feet) to a tiny home (120 square feet). Your experience doesn’t have to be as drastic as mine but I don’t know too many people that hope to add more clutter to their lives in the months ahead.

Before you abandon your mission to reduce your clutter and possibly downsize your current living arrangements consider these five tips.

  1. Start small. Lots of people, myself included, get overwhelmed when starting the de-cluttering process. Clutter is, by its very nature, stressful. Don’t try to tackle the entire house at once. Start small. Clean out your junk drawer and organize it. Then move on to your closet. Then tackle the guest room where you might throw everything you can’t think of a better place for. Finally, how about your garage, basement, or attic. If you take each of these in small manageable steps, you can face them more easily.
  2. Inventory your things. What could you really not live without? What would you have to replace if it were destroyed or went missing in some weird alien invasion? These aren’t your sentimental belongings but the things you really use every single day. For instance, you will need a place to sit, a place to sleep, and enough dishes for the number of people in your home. Can you live without a dishwasher? Do you want to? How about a washer and dryer. Are you attached to having a bathtub or would you be okay with just a shower?
  3. Plan your space. To this day one of the best exercises I have ever seen in regards to downsizing and space management is an off handed tip from the book Little House on a Small Planet by Shay Salomon. It suggests placing a sticky note at the door to every room in your house. Every time you walk into that room, write down what you are in there to do. After a week or a month look at the patterns. How often do you really use the spare bedroom and for what purpose? How much space to do actually use versus how much you have? What changes can you make?
  4. Effective storage solutions. De-cluttering doesn’t do anyone any good if there isn’t a place for all of the things. Even if you have fewer things they can get out of hand just as easily if there isn’t an effective storage solution for them. Make sure you have the right shelves or drawers in your closet. How effectively organized are you kitchen cabinets? There are seasonal things that you will need in your life but don’t use every day. Where are these kept? Use boxes with labels or a good shelving system to keep things in order.
  5. One in, one out. Finally, the most important tip to staying clutter-free and downsizing your life is to make sure you don’t replace the things you got rid of with more things you don’t need. Many people in the tiny house community subscribe to the one-in-one-out method. For example – I love to buy hippie skirts at the thrift store. I have plenty of hippie skirts but sometimes I can’t help browsing the racks to see what else is there for less than three dollars. If a skirt needs to be replaced this is an easy process. If not, I have to decide if there is a skirt I can live without to replace it with a new option. We have employed this technique with a number of things in our lives and it really helps keep us from buying more than we need.

What downsizing techniques have you used in your life?

Laura is a contributing writer for Tiny House Listings and she walks the walk. She lives in a 120 square foot cabin in Asheville, NC that she and her partner Matt built themselves. You can learn more about Laura and Matt at their website

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