Does a couple hundred square feet of living space sound like a dream come true for you? For many people familiar with the rising trend of tiny houses, it does!
Moving into a tiny house used to be a fringe idea that’s becoming more mainstream. Many people live in tiny houses or micro houses to cut down on living costs, reduce their carbon footprint, pay down debt faster, and enjoy a simpler way of life.
Especially in Seattle and throughout the Pacific Northwest, tiny houses are rising in popularity. Local businesses like Seattle Tiny Homes offer to build or design tiny houses for those interested. You can stay at the Tiny House Hotel in Portland to try out the lifestyle for a night.
Of course, moving into a tiny house for the average person is not as simple as a regular move. You’re not just changing where you live, you’re changing how you live. Whether you’re a 20-something paying off student loan debt, or an empty nester or retiree looking to downsize, moving into a tiny house is a challenging transition for everyone.
Check out some tips and strategies to prepare you to make the tiny leap!
The Downsizing Mindset
Downsizing to move into a tiny house can be tough. You need to make a lot of hard decisions about your belongings. Obviously, a smaller space is not going to fit all of your belongings that you’re currently keeping in a larger space. So what are you going to do with all that stuff?
The first thing you’ll need to do is adjust your mindset. Start looking at your belongings in a new way. Here’s how:
Need vs Want
How much of your stuff do you actually need, and how much of it do you just want to have? Imagine everything you own was suddenly lost in a fire. What would you replace? What would you be heartbroken to lose? These are the things you need. Everything else is just kind of nice to have. As you downsize to move into a tiny house, make sure you know the difference.
Utility vs Joy
There are some items that you don’t necessarily need, but you don’t want to get rid of either. Think about your photographs, old boxes of childhood memorabilia, all the treasured books on your bookshelf, or other items you love. These types of items don’t really serve as a utility, but rather bring you joy or store your memories.
While it’s important to focus on getting rid of things you don’t need, that doesn’t mean you have to get rid of everything. We don’t technically need a TV, but many people enjoy having one. You probably don’t need four TVs though...
When you’re downsizing your belongings, it’s a good idea to keep the 80/20 rule in mind. The 80/20 rule, also know as the Pareto principle, states that in many circumstances roughly 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes.
For example, we often spend 80 percent of our time wearing 20 percent of the clothes we own. If we got rid of the vast majority of clothes we don’t wear, we’d spend less time doing laundry and deciding what to wear each morning. We’d also spend less money on clothes.
How can you apply the 80/20 rule to the rest of your belongings?
How To Downsize Step by Step
Time to get your hands dirty! Make sure you allow for plenty of time to downsize your belongings and transition to a smaller living space. Deciding what to keep, what to get rid of, and how to shuffle it all around is a process that will take longer than you think. As they say, you never realize how much stuff you own until you have to move! Let’s get started.
The first step is to take inventory of all the things you have. You can get very meticulous about this if you want. Some people like to make a spreadsheet of their belongings, others take a simple walk from room to room and make mental notes. The goal is to get a handle on what you’re working with.
Go Room by Room
Once you have a general plan, it’s time to break up your downsizing project into smaller pieces. Identify which rooms of your home to declutter first, and take it one room at a time. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, narrow the scope of the project. Start with one drawer, one shelf, or one corner of your desk. Little by little you will make progress.
The next step is to sort your things based on the action you are going to take. Essentially, your things will fall into one of the following categories:
Keep - Make sure whatever items you choose to keep will fit in your new, smaller living space!
Sell - Items of value that you can sell online or at a garage sale.
Donate - Gently used items you can donate to Goodwill or the Salvation Army.
Dispose - Items that can’t be sold or donated should be recycled if possible or put in the trash.
Store - Items you would like to keep but not in your immediate place of dwelling.
The “Big Wins” In Downsizing
In the same light as the 80/20 rule, you can approach your downsizing process in terms of “big wins.” Take a look at your belongings during the inventory process, and identify a few areas to focus on:
If you are anything like the average American, your wardrobe is probably stuffed with clothes. Clothing is cheap for various and controversial reasons, so many people don’t think twice about buying a new shirt whether or not they actually need it.
There is a counter-movement of people who buy fewer, higher-quality clothing items instead of numerous, cheap items. You can have a surprisingly stylish and versatile wardrobe with as few as 33 items.
The bottom line is that it’s likely that you have more clothes than you need in your closet. Sell, donate, recycle, or dispose of items you don’t use. The closet in your tiny house won’t have the space!
A lot of people have drawers or closets full of old electronics. Formerly beloved TVs, stereos, and computers tend to sit around long after they’ve been replaced by newer models. Clear up some closet space and recycle or donate your old electronics. You can often drop off your items at big box electronic stores to be recycled at no cost.
CDs and DVDs
While once prized possessions, CDs and DVDs carry very little value these days. Odds are, the last time you listened to music or watched a movie, it was streaming from an online source like Spotify or Netflix. It’s time to get rid of your CDs and DVDs. There are quite a few services you can use to sell them online to make a quick buck. If it makes you feel better, burn their contents onto a hard drive before you let them go.
Books can take up a lot of space. While books look nice on bookshelves, the truth is there isn’t a lot of space for books in tiny houses. Keep the books you can’t bare to part with, and sell or donate the rest. Consider getting a Kindle from Amazon to store thousands of books online and read electronically instead.
The “Packing Party” Method
Want to get a jump start on your downsizing? Try the packing party method. The packing party method was popularized by Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn of The Minimalists as a way to simplify your belongings and your life.
Here’s what you do:
- Gather up all your things and pack them away as if you are moving. Yes, everything.
- Unpack things only as you need them.
- Continue unpacking only as needed over a set period of time, such as two to four weeks.
- At the end of the time period, look at all the things you never used and get rid of them.
Over time, you will identify which belongings you actually use and which are just taking up space. You’ll probably unpack and use things like toiletries, clothes for work and the weekend, bed and bathroom linens, cooking tools, etc.
When you return to your boxes of stuff at the end of the experiment, you will probably be surprised at all the things you forgot you even own! That’s probably a good sign it’s ok to get rid of them.
But What About...
There’s always going to be something you want to hold on to for one reason or another, despite your best judgement. These types of items generally fall into three categories:
“Just in case” - Items you’re saving “just in case” you need them. Examples include that old futon “just in case” you have overnight guests, or that China set “just in case” you have a dinner party.
Aspirational - Items you’ve acquired in hopes of achieving something, but they’ve never really been used. Examples include a dust-covered treadmill or books you meant to read three years ago.
Seasonal - Items you don’t use every day, but have a need to use more frequently as the seasons change. Examples include winter clothes and sports or outdoor gear.
Only you can know if you really need to keep an item, or if you can let it go. The key is to be honest with yourself.
The Easy Storage Solution
Even the most optimal tiny house storage spaces are, well, tiny. So what do you do with all your stuff you want to keep but don’t have room for?
- Seasonal clothing
- Collectable items
- Sports gear
- Holiday decor
Storage space is the obvious solution. And with storage on demand, it’s also the easy solution. Storage on demand solutions like Urbin Attic allow you to store your things off-site without the hassle of moving everything yourself.
With Urbin Attic, a team of moving professionals will pick up, deliver, and transport your items between your storage unit and your residence. Plus, can keep track of all your things with a specialized high-tech tracking system
Get the best of both worlds! Enjoy living in your tiny home without worrying about storage space for all your stuff. Find out if Urbin Attic is available in your area today, and enjoy living large in your new tiny house.