4 Tips for downsizing & decluttering

Our family of 5 sold everything In June 2019, including out 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, missing out on pivotal years with our children and after a health scare from our middle kiddo. 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.

Over the next couple months, we discussed the logistics of this potential adventure. One of the biggest feats we would have to conquer was downsizing our 6-bedroom home. 

There isn't a right or wrong way to downsize/declutter but the most important thing to remember is your WHY. Do you want less to pick up? Less clutter? Simpler life? Does visual clutter stress you? 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...and I still use this concept quarterly in our RV when we are going through things.

When we decided that this adventure was a go, 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...the visual clutter will just be a stressor. 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, pulled everything out and went through this list of categories before moving onto the next. You could do it this way OR if you have a short amount of time go room by room and start with one category each.


#1: If it is BROKE or NON-FUNCTIONAL it goes in the trash.

This is for EVERYTHING in the house INCLUDING the garage and storage.

Get rid of all things that are BROKEN or NON-FUNCTIONAL. 

#2: Get rid of duplicates

  • 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 is 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.

#3 Has it 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 something and not use it? Many things in this category were unnecessary purchases or gently used items. 

    • 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. 
    • 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. 

#4:  Multi-functional

After the last step you should be left with some core items in your house. With what's 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. 
      • 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 the last few things to 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 3 Rubbermaid containers of sentimental things...baby books, photos, awards...things like that. 

    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.