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b-e-happe

Downsizing & Decluttering

Brooke Happe

If you don't know our story, in June 2019 my husband and I sold everything we owned including our home in Ankeny, Iowa to travel the US. 

I brought up the idea to my husband about 2 years prior as I felt like we were in a monotonous circle of life and missing out on pivotal years with our children. While we loved our custom built home, neighbors, children's school and the suburb we lived in...my heart was yearning to simplify life and take advantage of what we have been given...TIME TOGETHER.

My husband agreed and over the next couple months we really discussed the logistics of this adventure. One of the biggest feats we had to conquer was downsizing and decluttering our 6 bedroom home. 

I don't believe there is no right or wrong way to downsize/declutter. The most important thing to remember is your WHY. Do you want less to pick up? Less clutter? Simpler life? What is your WHY for downsizing and/or decluttering?

This is how our family of 5 went from a 6 bedroom suburban home to a 40.5 foot bunkhouse 5th wheel with less than 400 sq ft. 

We personally were not on a time crunch as we planned to launch in June 2019. But once we both committed to this we started decluttering immediately. And let me tell you, there is an immediate change in how you feel, how your kids act, and the overall ease of life once you start this process. 

Before starting, grab a box and put it in your car-this is your donate box and you will IMMEDIATELY place the donate items in the box. Don't let it pile up in the house! Grab a trash bag and bring it along with you for the items you intend to throw away.

For us it was too overwhelming looking at an item and trying to decide, keep, donate or trash. Instead we went room by room with a theme/category.

#1: If it was BROKE or NON-FUNCTIONAL it goes in the trash. This is for EVERYTHING in the house, go room by room INCLUDING the garage and storage.

    • If you have kids, go get ALL of their toys out and put them in a space where they can all be seen. I know it sounds really hectic and at first it will be a bit chaotic, trust me. BUT during this time I encouraged the kids to explore their new toys asking where all the pieces were and setting them up like they were new. For those with kids you know that most of the time when you bring out a few  'new' toys that have not been played with in awhile its an exciting thing. But when all the 'new' toys and their old reliable toys are out in front of the them together, they  have to decide which ones they want to play with. They will jump from toy to toy but some will simply NOT be played with. I encourage you to sneak out the toys that are non-functional, broken or are not being played with when you have a chance.  They most likely go to the trash if non-functional or donate box.
    • After you have done an initial sweep of the toys, continue to monitor what they are playing with!
#2: Once you have went room by room and gotten rid of all things that are BROKEN or NON-FUNCTIONAL, then restart in a room. This may be a month from now, or next week or the following day...this is at your pace! Now we are focusing on if it has been USED in the last 6 MONTHS. Something to consider is why it hasn't been used. Is it a seasonal item? Do you really need all of the seasonal items that you have? Did you buy it for a specific reason and not use it? 
    • If I wanted to sell the item then I immediately took a photo of it and listed on Marketplace. 
    • This is the category our kitchen, storage, garage and closets really condensed down. 
    • For us not used in the last 6 months is the reason because its DUPLICATED- do you need 4 rakes, 3 of the same spatulas, 20 bowls; 5 pairs of black jeans. If you think about it...especially in the kitchen, you are usually only using a select number of dishes (especially pots & pans) on rotation with the periodic special occasion dishes.
      • Every little bit out of the kitchen drawer  s one less thing tends to get jammed pack full of things makes a difference! Don't tell me that you shake your head every time you open your utensils drawer and it is a mess.
    • When it comes to closets...what is the reasoning that you have not worn it in 6 months?
      • If it doesn't fit then donate it. You can treat yourself to a new piece of clothing when you meet your goals!
      • For what occasion will you wear each piece? REALLY think about the reason you are considering keeping it and IF you will really wear it when that occasion comes. 
      • Yes it can be difficult to get rid of some of the special pieces, but I thought of it as if I was in a hurry to get ready for X occasion, which piece would I grab. If it was a top choice then reconsider keeping it. 
    • Now that you have observed your kids playing, are there still toys that just aren't getting played with? There were for my kids! They were either donated or sold.
#3:  MULTI-FUNCTIONAL. After the last step you should be left with some core items in your house. With whats left of the toys, clothes, tools, kitchen utensils and various other items...are there some things that can do the job of others? 
    • If you are focusing on decluttering and looking to live simpler then this may not apply but you can probably reduce some things still. For us this was important because we would be living in a 5th wheel that has a weight and space limit. If it was coming with us MOST things needed to be multi-functional. 
      • Clothes: We are chasing sandal weather. If it is going to be a bit chilly, my kids prefer to wear a tee and then jacket or sweatshirt. They just are not long sleeve shirt kids. They would prefer to wear jackets. So my kids did not need long sleeve shirts that they had for chilly Iowa winters. 
      • Toys: It was very important for the toys that we were bringing to be multi-functional.  For me the toy needed to 1) Encourage my children to be creative 2) Be played with both inside and outside (easy to clean) 3) Encourage them to have independent play 4) Have the ability to use for homeschool.
        • Toys that were kept include a few board games, cards, action figures, my daughters doll figurines, doll house accessories (doll house did not make the cut), baby dolls, toy food (easy to use for homeschool to teach proper manners, using for menu when working on money, sorting for colors, shapes, food groups), balls.
        • Toys that did not make the cut were either sold or donated!
      • Kitchen utensils: We really simplified our dishes, figured out how many pots and pans we really needed, purchased silicone toppers so that we didn't need plastic reusable containers with those annoying lids you can never find. 

At this point we were down to the minimal except for furniture and things that would have to be a last few months get rid of. The mess to pick up was less, my kids were engaged as they PLAYED with their toys and there was a place for everything. I can't put into words how life changed when we got rid of all the STUFF even when we were living in a 6 bedroom home.  


So you are probably wondering, do we have a storage unit? The answer is no, not really, but kind of. :) My parents have 6 rubbermaid containers of sentimental things...baby books, photos, awards...things like that. But we will be going back for a month this summer, we have a goal to condense that down even more. I am considering digitizing all the photos and making books instead of the physical photos. We will see :) If you have done this...please give me all the advice!!

    One last thing to note, we decided on an extra trash container versus a large drop off container. 1) This route was more economical 2) We started the process immediately and our neighbors/family did not know about our plans at the beginning...we wanted to simplify life and see how our hearts felt about the process. Having a large container in our driveway would certainly raise questions! 3) The weekly trash also gave us a goal to fill it before the Friday pick up. 

    I am an open book about this process. Simplifying life for us and living with less has given us more life and freedom. Feel free to message me on Instagram www.instagram.com/behappedesigns/  or email me b.e.happdesigns@gmail.com

    ~Brooke