Nov 1, 2015 · 4 minute read

By: Colleen Valles

Last Friday, I wrote about my obsession with downsizing.

Today, I’m going to talk about how much downsizing is actually necessary.

While we’ve downsized a lot, there’s no specific goal I had in mind. Some people look to get rid of a certain percentage of their things, but if that means I have to count all my things, I’m not interested. I did it with my clothes, but all my stuff? That seems like a ton of work. I’m pretty intense about some things, but counting is not one of them.

So how do you know when you’ve downsized enough?

It depends. If you’re the counting type, that makes it easy. You can set a goal for a specific number or percentage of items to get rid of and keep track until you meet it.

But for me, and I bet for a lot of us, I just want everything to fit in the space I have, to be easy to get out and put away, and to be stuff that I use or enjoy regularly.

Seems easy enough, right?

Turns out, there are many, many things that don’t fit any of those criteria, and many more things that are just tough to decide about, like sentimental items that you don’t really need, use or look at, but still can’t bear to part with. We’ll save sentimental items for a future date. Right now, let’s talk about getting down to what we really need so that we can free up time and space for what we really want to do.

First, get rid of the excess and the things you don’t really use. That crêpe maker? You probably don’t need that. Three spatulas? Nope. Thirty-five pairs of shoes? Definitely not. I should know. That’s how many I had.

The important thing to remember here is there is no need to keep things “just in case.” If you haven’t used it yet, I think you can say with a fair amount of certainty that “just in case” is “never.”

Let me also just point out that I’ve gotten rid of LOTS of stuff, and I have never thought back and wished I had kept something. I do have a “maybe” pile where I put stuff I’m not sure I want to keep, and that lives in an unused corner of a closet. Know why I can have an unused corner of a closet? Because I get rid of stuff. See what I did there?

Second, I’ve devised some tricks to help me figure out if I really need something. Here are some of the things I try to do when downsizing:

  1. Remember back to when you were young and just starting out. If you are young and just starting out, remember back to yesterday. What items were in your dorm room or first apartment? During those heady college days, were your things that important to you or was it spending time with friends, studying, working?

  2. This one is tough, but if your house caught fire, what would you take with you? This is a good exercise to refocus your priorities and really give you an idea of what’s most important to you. Chances are, your people and pets are top of the list. If not, please do a little soul searching before coming back to finish this post.

  3. This one’s a little easier: what would you take with you on vacation? Whatever makes the top of that list, start with that. Live with that for a week or two. Then try living with it for a month. Add back in what you need and use (I’m looking at you, kitchen supplies. No one takes those on vacation unless you’re going camping.)

This is not to say you need to get rid of things like holiday decorations, and this can be where the “what you need” criteria can get a little squirrely. Do you need decorations? Probably not, but you want to make your house a home. If you go all out during the holidays, keep your decorations, but pare them down to the ones you love. You don’t have to put out everything just because you own it. Maybe it’s time to think about not owning some of it.

I think the true test of having achieved an acceptable level of downsizing will be when we move again, and I ask my big brother to help. He has helped me the last few times we’ve moved, and each time he has observed that I have too much. To which I always respond “yeah, I probably don’t need so much.” And then he answers “You don’t. Throw it away.”

This next time, if he doesn’t say “Dude, you have too much stuff” then I know I will have hit the mark.

In the end, I want to have what I need so I can concentrate on doing what I love. Because even though I’m obsessed with downsizing right now, it’s more important to me to create relationships and words that add beauty to this world. You can’t do that if you’re taking care of, cleaning and schlepping around stuff.

How do you know you have just the right amount of stuff?


Colleen Valles
I'm Colleen, a writer, mother, knitter, pet mama and tiny house enthusiast who truly believes that everybody should slow down and simplify to make room for the things that are most important in their lives. I'm on a journey to do just that, to be able to spend more time with family and friends, riding my bike and working in the garden. Sign up to get awesome content right in your inbox, or follow me on social media.