5 Ways to Start Downsizing

I talk a lot about downsizing. As a former “accumulator” who stressed about building yet more storage space to house more stuff, I had a radical epiphany when I came back from my Western Feng Shui training. I understood how much my stuff had been holding me hostage.

It dragged me down and kept me working soul-killing hours to maintain the larger house and lifestyle and pay off the maxed-out credit cards. All the stuff was supposed to make my life easier (see the Story of Stuff and Why We’re Addicts), but the truth is that I was a slave to it.

I realized that the more stuff I had, the more space, energy, time and money I needed to maintain it, not to mention the toll my unconscious behavior was taking on the planet. Multiply that by billions and it is no stretch to see how we got ourselves into this global environmental crisis.

As we move into the holiday season, I encourage you to become aware of  the buying hype that bombards us, and make a commitment to look at all that you have already. Come up with a plan to give away, move on and recycle things you have not used in 6 months or more, and find resources to purchase gifts for others second-hand. Or better yet, give a gift that helps others such as a charitable donation to a foundation that has meaning to them.

And, give  yourself the gift of freedom that downsizing will bring. Imagine that you could live in a home with just the right amount of stuff; the things you truly love and need on a regular basis. How much time and energy would it free up to live the life you dreamed you would live when you were in your teens or twenties?

Meditation: Take 10 minutes to sit with your eyes closed, breathe in and out slowly for 10 breaths, and imagine what you would be doing if you didn’t have to maintain all the stuff you have? How would your life be different? How much time and energy is spent maintaining your stuff, such as organizing it, clutter clearing and cleaning it? What would you do instead?

Once we have the aha moment about how much the accumulation of material possessions has kept us drained of energy and distracted from living the life we truly want, we can choose to change. We don’t have to be a victim to our stuff.

Here are 5  tips to help you downsize and get on the path of freedom!

It might take you six months, but once you go through every part of your home applying these principles, you will see how little space you really need to be happy. You can then move to a smaller space, pay less for it and free up time and money for the adventures you still need to have in your life!

  1. Do the clutter test with everything you own….do I love it, is it useful, when was the last time I used it? If more than a year old, decide whether you are going to give it away or sell it. Be very thoughtful about what you save. Is everything you own worthy of a space in your home or office? Do you really want to spend time and money maintaining it and housing it?
  2. Rent or borrow the things you only need periodically. There are companies and organizations you can join that allow you to rent the camping gear, tables and chairs for Thanksgiving dinner, fishing gear or skis you need every two years. Do we all really need the huge garages to house the things that we use infrequently? I borrow the tables and chairs for large parties from my neighbor whom I do favors for in exchange. This practice encourages us to get to know our neighbors and become a part of our community.
  3. Make sure as many pieces of furniture as possible have a multi-purpose. Coffee tables can house books and magazines and secretaries can disguise a home office.  Less furniture allows for us to live in a smaller space and still have it feel spacious. Make sure to separate work areas from play areas by using furniture that is multi-functional.
  4. Regarding the mementos and furniture that has a sentimental value: if no one wants the item, take a picture of it, write the story behind the object and send it out to your family via Facebook or email. Then donate or sell the item and allow it to become a part of someone else’s family story. We can’t take it with us so let it go on to its next incarnation.
  5. Reduce, recycle, reuse and keep clutter from entering the home in the first place. My article on Creating a Zero Waste Home is loaded with tips on how to do so.

Go for the downsizing this holiday season  and get on with the dreams that you still need to realize!

Erica Sofrina is a motivational speaker, teacher and author and founder of the West Coast Academy of Feng Shui. She offers Practitioner Certification Programs and seminars on-site and in home study.Find out more at www.ericasofrina.com Erica is also the author of the book Small Changes Dynamic Results! Feng Shui for the Western World


Anteater Ants
Anteater Ants4 years ago

Keep calm and eat ants.

Christine Jones
Christine J4 years ago

Good article. I've heard many de-cluttering experts on tv say "If you haven't used it for 6 months it's out", but I think that's way too harsh.
I keep a bag behind the dining room door ready for anything I want to donate to charity. I had put in it a small battery powered light that clips onto a book. It seemed like a useful buy at the time, but I hadn't used it for ages so decided it should go. There were massive storms here last week and the power went out. Instead of just sitting alone in the dark I was able to read and I was so glad the light was still there. So I think it's great to streamline and de-clutter, but be flexible about it.

Alan Lambert
Alan Lambert5 years ago


Rosemary H.
Rosemary H5 years ago

Finally, I grew up in a Spartan home devoid of pretty things, though my parents did buy me good books. I felt sad watching antiques programmes on TV because if we'd ever had anything like that, my mother would have sent it to a jumble sale!

When I had my own home, I discovered car boot sales. Lovely things at tempting prices!. I really, positively enjoy having them all round me. They definitely make my home feel more homel! Me bother about the dusting - why? Do they look dusty? No! So why fuss about dusting if I can't see any dust? Life's too short for jobs like that!

If things do outlive their usefulness, or I no longer find them so attractive, I have a friend who has a stall in the weekly car boot sale, and she lets me have a space to sell them.

Rosemary H.
Rosemary H5 years ago

I should add that I do search cupboards and drawers in winter to see if I really need everything in them. I find it better to work on a five-year cycle. I go out so much in the summer that only essential jobs get done then. I'm always going to 'do everything' next winter, but winter isn't long enough! (How many people can say that! ;-) ) Plenty has to be left till the next winter - and so on.

How many times have I said: 'Aha,at last a chance to finally get this job done', and the things I need are on hand just where I expect them to be! How much money would I waste if I'd thrown the stuff out, then had to go and replace it?

Rosemary H.
Rosemary H5 years ago

I like my stuff, so long as I know where things are. I may not use something for a year or more but suddenly - am I glad I didn't get rid of it!

An example - I had an orthopaedic boot left from the time I broke my leg. After a recent accident I wasn't issued with a new one. I'd just left hospital when I suddenly had the chance of a day out. I was wondering what on earth I could put on my foot, swollen too much for shoes. I could hardly go in slippers, my normal wear! Suddenly I remembered the boot. I knew exactly where it was and *was* I glad of it?

Tammy Baxter
Tammy B5 years ago


Michael A.
Michael A5 years ago


Sheri P.
Sheri P5 years ago

great reminders. thanks, Erica!

Donna Ferguson
Donna F5 years ago