How To Pare Down Your Stuff

How do people live in small spaces? Well, most of them don’t live with a lot of stuff, and those who do have very creatively learned how to organize and live with it. Regardless of whether you live in 200 square feet or 2000 square feet, it’s a healthy habit to be continually paring down your belongings. Here’s how…

What You Need

Your Stuff!

Patience and an Open Mind


1. Edit, Edit, Edit If you’ve participated in an Apartment Therapy Cure then you know the importance of evaluating what is important and productive to keeping in you happy and your home comfortable. Stop hanging on to things that don’t matter or don’t contribute in a productive way. Remind yourself that just because you really love all those mugs, doesn’t mean you need 20 of them &mdash let someone else love them. Target your weakness &mdash shoes, clothes, books, plates, etc. &mdash acknowledge it, and deal with it.

2. Consolidate The future is now, and while gadgets may seem like they’re piling up, so are a lot of our old technologies. Copy all your books, movies, music and other media on a hard drive and watch as your space clears up in your house. Consider utilizing a shared appliance and equipment resource with your condo, apartment complex or even neighborhood, because not every residence needs their own lawn mower, power tools, vacuums and other space hogging and rarely used equipment.

3. Simmer On It If you’re on the fence about getting rid of something, put it aside and out of sight for 3-6 months. If it hasn’t been used, needed or missed then it’s time to let go. A simple strategy for clothing is to hang everything facing away from the door, once it’s been worn hang it so it’s facing the door &mdash everything that’s still facing away after 6-12 months is ready to be donated (this method could be revised for most other things).

4. Donate, Recycle or Toss Once you’ve figured out what will stay and what will go, hopefully very little of the stuff that is to ‘go’ will get trashed. Ask around if anyone you know can use your stuff &mdash as they say one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. From there it’s really easy to get rid of things on Freecycle, Craigslist and of course thrift and salvage stores, yard and garage sales, anything really other than the garbage dump.

5. Stick to a Schedule For those of us who’ve had to move on an annual (or even more often) basis, moving with a lot of stuff eventually gets very tiresome. Moving is the perfect time to purge and prioritize and decide what is actually worth carrying up and down another 3 flights of stairs. However, some of us may have settled into homes where keeping extra stuff isn’t all that burdensome and we forget the importance of editing. One of the easiest ways to avoid accumulating stuff is to stick to the 1 in, 1 out practice &mdash or even better 1 in, 2 out (and so on and so forth) to ensure that you’re never increasing the amount of stuff you own. Another strategy would be to schedule a quarterly Salvation Army (or your salvage method of choice) pick up; or for example, growing up my house would do a once or twice yearly pickup and then one or two yard sales during the summer. Essentially, just make sure your regularly regulating the amount of stuff in your home.

6. Buy Only What You Love and Need Moving forward, change your buying habits to limit the amount of incoming stuff, read Emily’s post for some great tips.

Additional Notes: No purging regret! Remember that paring down your stuff is an important part of life, living green and going small, and will contribute to your overall happiness.

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Originally published 2010-04-19

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