Top 7 Tips to Downsize to a Smaller Home

I follow a lot of RV sites and Sailing Groups on Facebook and an often repeated question is how to part with much-loved possessions when downsizing for a tiny home. Since we did this four years ago to move onto our sailboat, I consider myself an expert on the subject and am here to impart some of my wisdom on the matter. So here are my top 7 tips to downsize to a smaller home.

Make no mistake, downsizing is never easy. Much of our “stuff” , and it really is just stuff, has emotional elements and it can be extremely hard to part with.  However, I have a few tips that worked for me and I hope they will be helpful to you too.

  1. Cherished Possessions.                                                                                                        First off, lets tackle the subject of dearly loved items. For me it came down to two major items I absolutely would not part with. One was a photo frame of my son where he camethird in a baby competition, and the other was a teddy bear, my Mom gave to him;  one he loved and kicked around as a rugby ball until he was six! The photo frame issue resolved itself as it accidentally got thrown out with the move. The bear travels with us. He is a well-travelled bear and has many stories to tell, if only he could talk. One day he will hopefully go to a grandchild. My point is that you don’t have to get rid of things that really mean the world to you, but you need to learn to tell the difference. If you have something you really love and you feel it is part of you, keep it. If you cant find space for it, loan it to a family member for safe keeping.

2. Get Strict with Yourself.

With that said, my mantra while tossing things onto my bed, was Love it, Need it, Want it. With these three piles, I had to decide whether I really needed an item or just wanted it. Think of where you are going and if you will really need it there. We moved onto a boat and I really didn’t need 21 scarves or sweaters, even though I loved them and some of them were gifts, so I either gave them to friends or Goodwill. Moving to the Caribbean, I knew I would be in a warm climate, but did I really need 30 T-shirts? I thought I did, truth is, seven are enough. And so out came the favourites, which were then whittled down to the ones that were newest and had the most life left in them. And so the process goes. Eventually you have a pile of must haves.  When this pile is too big, you go through the same process of elimination until you have the bare essentials.  Some people opt to put their extra possessions they feel  they can’t part with in storage, and this is fine if you can afford it. It at least makes the process easier to bare. In reality, few people actually use the stuff in storage and after a year you will realize you don’t need it and will be able to part with more stuff.

3. Clothing.

Most of us have way too many clothes even if we don’t want to admit it. One tip I found helpful with clothes, was to hang all your hangers the wrong way  in a closet about a year before you move. I say a year because you want to work through all four seasons.  When you wear and wash your clothes, hang them up the right way, then when it comes time to downsize, you can see at a glance what you haven’t worn in a year and therefore don’t need. Donate it so someone else can make better use of it. Do the same with shoes.  Place them all in one direction or one end of the closet. As you use them, replace them at the other end of the closet or turn them around. This way you will filter out your most comfortable must have shoes and those that look cute but were really a bad buy can go someone else with a shoe fettish.

4. Go Digital.

With technology being what it is today, a lot of things can go digital. Scan your photos and put your favourites on your screen saver for your laptop. CD’s and music can be downloaded to your computer and most important paperwork can be scanned and saved onto a thumb drive.  The only paperwork I have is our passports, birth certificates, vehicle/vessel registration and the latest tax returns. Everything else is paperless.  Be sure to get your bank to send statements via email. The paperwork I have fits easily into a slim concertina file and takes up very little space.  If you dont want to scan photos, take them out of big albums and put them in smaller ones which can fit in a pretty box, like the ones you get at craft stores.  Digital devices. – This is a tricky one because we do so love our devices, but do we all need to have a phone, a tablet, laptop and a computer? Can you condense this down without causing a riot with the kids?  I suggest each member of the family has a laptop and a smart phone. I have tablets, but rarely use them because my phone is an iPhone 6 plus and acts like a mini tablet. Hubbie lost his phone in the ocean and only uses a tablet now. The choice is yours, but remember, all these things need to be charged and that takes up space so limit the number of devices each person can have.

5. Kitchen Items.

You wont have space for most of your appliances and if you are on a boat, you probably wont have the power to run them.  I have a toaster, a kettle, hand-held mixer-beater and a small smoothie processor. I use them very occasionally but for the most part I have become the one pot wonder queen and you will too. You will want a coffee pot, the smaller the better and I recommend you looking at getting an Aero Press. Super small and they make two cups of coffee at a time. Some people like the french press which is the way I would go if I drank filter coffee.

6. Cosmetics.

Ladies! Make Up!  You don’t need most of it. Trust me on this one. What you need is a good moisturizer and sunscreen. Some basic make up products for that special night out but honestly, if you’re going sailing or RV-ing, chances are you are going to get friendly with your real face, warts and all. This is not because you are lazy or don’t care about your appearance anymore, but rather because this life style makes you realize what’s really important  in life and spending hours plastering your face with cosmetics isn’t one of them. None of my sailing friends  bother with make up anymore and they all look quite beautiful. The sun-kissed look gives a healthy glow and even  grey hair gets a blonde sheen to it, so I don’t even dye it anymore. Even if you are downsizing to a smaller house or apartment, look at all those bottles of goo and ask yourself, “how much do I really need this?”  Place a shoe storage holder over the bathroom door for a month. Each day put what you use daily in pocket. At the end of the month, toss everything else out. Better yet give it to a friend to use up for you.

7. Man Stuff.

Gentlemen! Those tools! You probably will need them sooner or later, but take only what you need and ask a friend to store the rest. You could put that into storage if you want. Tiny homes take a lot of maintenance so I wish I could say you wont need those tools, and you won’t on a day to day basis, but they might come in handy if you have big repair jobs to do. If you are a DIY sort of guy, keep those tools.

I strongly suggest you start this process about a year before you plan on moving to a smaller home, it makes it easier. I did it in six weeks and it was painful. Really painful! There are so many things I could have repurposed better and I’m sad to say a lot of my stuff landed up in a landfill.  So in closing, I have one thing to urge you all, please repurpose your stuff. When you buy storage containers or anything  for your new home, don’t buy plastic. There are many other great alternatives you could use.  I will write an article about that soon, but for now happy downsizing and happy travels. In the end, it is most definitely worth it and the best thing I ever did.

If, after reading this article, you begin to have a panic attack and wonder what the heck you are doing, please read my blog on tiny house living and why it is so worth it. I trust you found these top 7 tips to downsize to a smaller home useful and helpful.  Sign up for our newsletter for more tiny house living tips and advice. Bon Voyage and Fair winds.  Join us on and let us know how your moving went. We would love to follow you and your travels.

Phone and Tablet Holder
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