Downsizing Within Your Home


downsizing-to-a-smaller-homeAfter our wonderful 7 weeks in Vermont this summer, our family returned to Jersey and instinctively began to get rid of stuff yet again.  We have spent the past 2 years seriously decluttering, yet somehow there was even more to do.  After almost two months in a small cottage with mostly only necessities, the exercise seemed pretty fluid this time around.

Our eyes are open to a possible move, preferable to a smaller space (we believe that 1200 square feet for a family of 4 is just fine). In the meantime, we have labeled this decluttering spree “downsizing within out current space”.  This way, the worst that happens is that we will have an extremely sparse room or two if we decide to stay.  The best case scenario is that a move will be very easy and we won’t have to do much decluttering during the move.

When your home is filled with crap, trying to tackle it is overwhelming. Decluttering doesn’t need to be a planned event.  Taking 5 minutes to declutter today is a great start.  Try 5 minutes a day for one week and you will have made a large dent in your clutter.

Here are some great 5 minute ways to get started downsizing within your home:

  1. Create a collection box. Stuff you bring in the house after a long day often accounts for a lot of our clutter. This is because we put them in different spots — on the counter, on the table, on our desk, in a drawer, on top of our dresser, in our car. Designate an in-box tray or spot in your home (or office) and don’t put down anything anywhere but that spot. Mail, papers, change, receipts, anything in your pockets goes in the box.  You can “process” what’s in the box as a designated time.
  2. Start clearing a starting zone. Designate one area to call your “clutter-free zone”.  It does not need to be an entire room. It can be a counter, your kitchen table, or a small perimeter around your couch. Wherever you start, make a rule: nothing can be placed there that’s not actually in use. Everything must be put away. Once you have that clutter-free zone, slowly expand each day until it envelopes as much space as possible! This is really challenging with kids, so try to get them on board!
  3. Clear off a counter. Making sure all flat spaces are clear of clutter is a great start, so start with one counter. Clear off everything possible, except maybe one or two essential things. Do you have a food processor that you use rarely?  Put it in the cupboard.  Clear off all the other stuff you’ve been tossing on the counter too.
  4. Pick a shelf. It doesn’t matter what shelf.  A shelf in a closet or on a bookshelf is a great start. Don’t tackle the whole bookshelf — just one shelf. Clear all non-essential things and leave it looking neat and clutter-free.
  5. Schedule a decluttering weekend. If you really want to clear your schedule and take a day to do this, then go ahead! If you have a family, get them involved too.  Get boxes and trash bags ready, and plan a trip to a charity to drop off donated items. You might not get the entire house decluttered during the weekend, but you’ll probably make great progress.
  6. Visualizea perfect room . When I’m decluttering, I like to take a moment to take a look at a room, and think about how I want it to look. What are the most essential pieces of furniture? What doesn’t belong in the room but has just gravitated there? What is on the floor (hint: only furniture and rugs belong there) and what is on the other flat surfaces? Once I’ve visualized how the room will look uncluttered, and figured out what is essential, I get rid of the rest.
  7. Put a load in your car for charity. If you’ve decluttered a bunch of stuff, you might have a “to donate” pile that’s just taking up space in a corner of your room. Take a few minutes to box it up and put it in your trunk. Then tomorrow, drop it off.
  8. Pull out some clothes you don’t wear. As you’re getting ready for work, and going through your closet for something to wear, spend a few minutes pulling out ones you haven’t worn in a few months. If they’re seasonal clothes, store them in a box. Get rid of the rest. Do this a little at a time until your closet (and then your drawers) only contains stuff you actually wear.

Who knows…maybe by downsizing within your home you will find that you free up space in an entire room.  Maybe you will decide to repurpose that room.  Or maybe that will be the hint that it’s time to buy a smaller home!  I’ll let you know what we come up with…

If you haven’t checked out these sites yet, please do so!  They are incredibly inspirational in every way:

365 Less Things

Be More With Less

Miss Minimalist



  1. Good post – I started to declutter my household a couple of years ago because I (a) had an overfull house and (b) I felt that there was some sort of change on the far off horizon and I wanted to be ready for it, not so weighed down with stuff that I/we couldn’t jump when this change actually presented itself.

    I don’t know if our next house will be downsized or not, or if it will be a house, townhouse, apartment or ????? but I do like the idea that we won’t be held back by a mountain of clutter and that we will be able to transition into a different home without a tonne of stress.

    Even though my home is decluttered far beyond what I ever hoped when I first encountered 365 Less Things, I am still amazed at how clutter still seeps out regularly.

    • Hi Moni! Great point you make about being ready for a move. We considered moving almost 2 years ago, and I shudder to think what that would have been like! We have never been the types to keep a lot of “stuff”…it is hard to keep up with things coming in!

  2. Great post, my family of 4 also downsized from 2000 to 1350 square feet a couple of years ago and are loving it. Fighting clutter is required now more than ever!
    FI Pilgrim recently posted…Smaller House, Larger Life!My Profile

    • 1350 square feet is perfect, in my opinion! The layout is all that counts. And yes, clutter is way more obvious in the small space..and that’s a good thing!

  3. Tony! That’s what I love about you, always striving, always improving, always thinking. You make an excellent list and give the reader an easy and quick way to begin a potentially arduous process. I have recently seen the stack of old clothing in the bedroom, the stacks of papers and old electronics in the spare room, the stack of books in the hall way. These are the signs of progress in our home and none, I am sure, took more than a few moments. Have a lobster tail Tuesday!
    cj recently posted…Speaking Your Language of LoveMy Profile

    • Excellent, CJ! A lot of this stuff I have written before, in a different way perhaps. The thing is that aspects of my life bleep on and off the radar and that’s how I write…this week…decluttering!

  4. Hey Tony, I’m so glad I’m following this blog now. You’re always looking for ways to make life better for yourself and your readers. I decluttered my house a few months ago. Wish I would have had this then! I’ll see ya around the blogosphere!
    Josh @ recently posted…How To Make A Budget Spreadsheet That Makes Budgeting Fun!My Profile

  5. Hi Tony, I love hearing that – a family of four could live comfortably in 1200 square feet. We live in 1400 and are now finding that it is too big for just the two of us. In fact, if we could just cut off the top half of our townhome, we’d be all set!

    Our living room and bedroom are now peaceful places because we took the time to get rid of so much stuff! Floor to wall bookshelves just “had” to be filled with books, right? Nope! We sold them back to Half Price books. Now others can enjoy them and we can enjoy a few empty shelves we find no need to fill anytime soon.

    Thank you for the helpful reminders that it can be a gradual process!
    Tammy R recently posted…Speaking Your Language of LoveMy Profile

  6. Clutter makes me nuts! I love to donate things and keep our belongings to a minimum while bf is practically a hoarder (well not that bad, but I swear he hates to get rid of anything-he should have been born during the depression years)
    KK @ Student Debt Survivor recently posted…Survivor’s Standouts-Labor Day EditionMy Profile

    • That may be tough with the BF…good luck with that! Maybe if you eBay some stuff and he sees that money in the bank is worth more than “stuff” he will start to come along.

  7. Having move from a 6 room apartment to a 3 and a half room apartment three years ago, I had to really declutter and rid myself of a lot of junk. I am also thinking now of paring a little more and looking at what could possibly go. It’s hard at times to figure out what to keep and what to get rid of. But I’ll come up with something :)

    Take care Tony and thanks for some great tips and an informative post. All the best.

    Lyle @ The Joy of Simple recently posted…10 Ways to Make Your 9 to 5 Work Day A Little Better Until You Find Your WayMy Profile

    • Lyle, it is a process not a destination. We will never get there either, nor are we true “minimalists”. We were “normal” Americans, and we didn’t like it.

  8. I liked your tips on clearing the clutter in the house. It is usually overwhelming when you want to clear off unused stuff in your home at one go. I liked your idea of collection box. With kids are around home it is very tough to keep things in its designated place.

    • The kids are the trickiest part of the equation. I hope that (possibly by osmosis) they see we like to keep things orderly, and over time remain clutter-free.

  9. Another tip: once you de-clutter don’t re-clutter. I suck at that part.

    The collection box you mentioned, or “in station” as we call it in our house is key to survival in our home.
    Taynia | The Fiscal Flamingo recently posted…Chiconomics 201: How To Be A Budgetnista When You’re Income Changes Every Month (Or How To Budget On A Variable Income)My Profile

  10. Ten years ago, I moved across country with what would fit in my Honda sedan, including carriers housing three cats who complained in disharmony for the entire three-day trip, I was almost immediately sorry I had brought a lot of that stuff. And of course I’ve acquired more. What a first-world problem we all have, the amassing and disposing of stuff. Amassing I’ve got down. Always appreciate tips on disposing of it, as I’m in heavy disposal mode right now; these are great. You make it sound doable.
    Jes Billings recently posted…Basil Fawlty as metaphorMy Profile

  11. I need to declutter for the winter – I always do so in the fall so that I don’t feel clausterphobic in the colder months. I definitely need to start with my closet!
    Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter recently posted…Apply Minimalist Principles to Your Life, and Reap the Financial BenefitsMy Profile

    • It seems like each season brings the opportunity to declutter, for sure. I still like doing it on a weekly basis. Keep a box around to put stuff in and take it to donate each weekend.

  12. I can’t stand clutter around the house! It’s such a bugger. I like your tips about having mess free zones or to pick a shelf to clean off. That re-enforces the need to keep areas clear and free of the junk that seems to find its way there.
    Mr Financial Debauchery recently posted…Cool Checking Account Promotions from Banks that Want Your BusinessMy Profile

  13. I usually have a “major” decluttering period every year where anything that hasn’t been used for over a year simply goes. Then I have “mini” ones for sometimes of the year to take out the smaller things that get added over time and to that, everything is seriously vetted before its dragged through the door.
    As someone said, simplicity is the ultimate sophistication and a minimalist is just beautiful.
    Wonderful post!
    Simon @ Modest Money recently posted…MBNA Smart Cash MasterCard Review – MBNA Cash Back Credit CardMy Profile

  14. I have to disagree a little bit with item #7 “Put a load in your car for charity.” While I am all for donating to charity, I think one should not wait until tomorrow. Do it right away. Human nature being what it is, all one has done is transferred clutter from the house to the car. Fill the car and drive to the shop and dump it. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200. You may not solve all your clutter woes at once but at least you accomplished something from start to finish, the goal of getting stuff out of the house and to charity.

  15. Excellent advice. My husband is the ‘collector’ and he’s got a lot of junk in the apartment. I moved in 2 years ago and, weirdly enough (even if I’m a woman and supposed to be the one hoarding junk), I have little stuff here, since I don’t like to own too many things anyway. As we’re getting ready to become parents he’ll need to do some serious ‘downsizing’ since there’s little space to put the baby’s stuff 😀
    dojo recently posted…Blogging: How to get your blog to the NEXT LEVELMy Profile

  16. I am all for downsizing! Heck if you ask the wifey she may say I am too much for downsizing. I really dislike clutter and well look for any and every opportunity to clean and clear things out. The fact is most of the things that cause clutter are rarely if ever used. My wifey gets one area of the house that is hers to put stuff and we have a rule that if things are used within 30-60 days we get rid of it unless its a seasonal item.
    Thomas recently posted…Using a Scalable Business Model with Niche Websites to Go After Real IncomeMy Profile

  17. Yeah, when I am ready to declutter and reorganize, I have to do it in sections. One room or closet at a time until I am satisfied with my house again. Usually this only happens every year or two…
    Crystal recently posted…You Don’t Have to Fear Estimated Quarterly TaxesMy Profile

  18. I grew up in a 1,650 sq. ft. house, so that seemed to be to the perfect size. I don’t plan on having a large family, so my ideal-sized home would be ~1,400-1,500 sq. ft., 3 bedrooms, and 2 full bathrooms. Not tiny by any stretch of imagination, but a whole lot smaller than many houses built nowadays.
    Well Heeled Blog recently posted…Hello to London in 30 Days!My Profile


  1. […] @ We Only Do This Once writes Downsizing Within Your Home – After our wonderful 7 weeks in Vermont this summer, our family returned to Jersey and […]

  2. […] @ We Only Do This Once writes Downsizing Within Your Home – After our wonderful 7 weeks in Vermont this summer, our family returned to Jersey and […]

  3. […] @ We Only Do This Once writes Downsizing Within Your Home – After our wonderful 7 weeks in Vermont this summer, our family returned to Jersey and […]

  4. […] @ We Only Do This Once writes Downsizing Within Your Home – After our wonderful 7 weeks in Vermont this summer, our family returned to Jersey and […]

  5. […] presents Downsizing Within Your Home posted at We Only Do This […]

Leave a Comment


CommentLuv badge