Paring Down Before Going Tiny: Tips towards a less-cluttered, happier home.

We know, paring down sucks! Getting rid of our stuff was hard because we spent money to be that way. It took effort; we chose it. We bought things and then crammed our homes full, placing arbitrary levels of value on paper, clay, and cotton. We hoarded.

 When we are convinced that bigger is better, that more will be enough, our homes become shrines to ourselves – to material. We end up with cluttered lives, but we keep on buying even in the midst of the mess.

I believe, in the absence of a deeper daily focus, we convince ourselves that we care about stuff– our homes, our clothes, ultimately our collections. We believe we care, and that we care immensely. We are distracted from meaningful, productive living.

Here are some things we did to pare down the hoard and to simplify our things.

1. Identify the things you actually wear and use.

I’ll be honest, we had closets jammed full of clothes, but found ourselves wearing a few things on repeat. I called mine “the wheelhouse collection.” Same hats, same jackets, same T-shirts. Everyday I ended up going for the same things.

Think about your own closet. How many items haven’t been taken off the hanger in the past year? Do you basically wear the same 10-15 things on a cycle? Pare down!

 Here are some questions we asked to help us decide what to let go:

  • “Do I love it?”
  • “Does it have meaning to me?”
  • “When did I wear/use it last?”
  • “Do I have real plans to wear/use it in the near future? (think: this month)”

Now, we have implemented a 6 months rule. If you haven’t worn or used it in the last 6 months, it’s history (Seasonal items not included). This goes for dishes, shoes, clothing, etc. A rare exception in our home is books. We’re suckers for a stacked library.

Taylor’s side of the closet. It’s actually a decent size for an Airstream, but obviously smaller than what we were used to.

2. Stop asking, “What if…”

We all tell ourselves lies about our stuff. You know you do it. Stop it!

When we were considering our possessions, we suddenly became Hemingway, creating wild backstories and hypothetical situations in which we might use the items.

What if we have 14 guests over…? What if there’s a late spring snow…? What if I buy a sweater later that will match…? What if I’m invited to the christening of a ship and need something nautical…?

 The fiction went on, none of it ever happened, and we were left stressed in a cluttered home. The “what ifs” are in direct opposition to simple living. The two cannot coexist.

I know why we did it – we didn’t want to be unprepared. We tried to be ready for the unknown, the maybes, the “what ifs.” But as we waited for these tall tales to come to life, the spaces we lived in grew crowded. We made it stop! When paring down, being realistic goes a long way.

So, next time you’re considering your things:

  • Do not create a hypothetical,
  • Do not be unrealistic,
  • Do not ask, “What if.” Don’t even think it.

3. Become utilitarian

Our stuff is only around to serve a purpose, to be useful. Literally. If something stops being useful (or never was), it should go. In your home, everything should have a role. Even sentimental objects serve a purpose in that they hold memories that make us happy.

Become utilitarian! We started by asking ourselves, “What role does this thing have in our home?” We said, “Does this get used?”

We got rid of things with inferior performance. Two pairs of gloves? We kept the warmest. Three of the same sized pans? We kept the one that was the “go to.” Hairbrushes, muffin tins, don’t make me bring up bowls and plates… or worse, coffee mugs. I had a majestic and timeless mug collection that had to be quelled when we simplified. But it was necessary – we didn’t use them!

Also, we identified items in our home that were “single purpose items.” If they were not used multiple times a week (like a coffee pot), we donated them. Examples were: a fajita press, a waffle maker, food-specific dishes, etc. – items that maybe came out of their cabinet prisons three or four times a year. Believe me, you can live without them. Streamline your life. Love the simplicity.

We had to pare down a lot of our decor to avoid the clutter.

4. Acquire quality things

Here’s the secret: we stopped buying junk. You already know that cheap only goes so far. We began identifying quality brands that we love and that last. Longevity is the goal with any purchase. We aim for companies whose values we support and who make a superior product. We look for lifetime guarantees. We consider future purchases to be investments for years, not single seasons.

This doesn’t mean you have to be a brand snob. Search sales and past season colors. Buy second-hand. Get your thrift-game on. You can still be frugal! The point of investing in quality brands is to save money in the long run, and to minimize the need to bring new items into your home.

5. Start using the displacement method.

Minimizing doesn’t have to be a sufferfest. The end result is not supposed to be monkhood. It doesn’t need to be monochromatic closets or gray scale homes. It’s not even a choice between two extremes: bleak and excessive. Displacement is about finding balance in your home. Balance is the key.

For us, this means we still buy things… even in less than 240 square feet. If we need it, we get it. Simple. However, when something new comes in, something old must go. It’s a trade: a shirt for a shirt, boots for boots, dog toy for shredded spit puppet dog toy. This develops habits of replacing items instead of adding to a collection. Before we buy, we ask: Is this worth giving up something else?

Displacement isn’t necessarily minimalism. It is whatever level your home finds balance between clutter and calm. It looks how you want it to look. Once equilibrium is achieved, it takes conscious effort to maintain. It can be a slippery slope back into chaos.

The displacement method is the only thing that has kept us living happily in Augustine. Finding material balance – one thing replacing another – is our long-term key to tiny living.

Don’t be a slave to your stuff! Take control, un-clutter your home, simplify your life. If you’re trying to live tiny, paring down is essential. We did it and you can do it too!

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