STEP ONE: FIND YOUR WHY
Okay, this may seem a little odd and “self help-y,” but for me, I had to ‘find my why’ for wanting to downsize. Whether you want a simpler life, you have a wanderlust bug, you want the freedom to do whatever the heck you want, or you feel called to minimalism. Whatever it is, answer the question authentically.
I had three ‘Whys’:
I wanted to live life simply and out in nature. I wanted to choose where I woke up in the morning and where my backyard was every day. I wanted to live my life by experiencing it. Don’t get me wrong, many nights were spent in Walmart parking lots or overpriced campgrounds. However, the awe we experienced when we did spend a night out in the middle of nowhere was unparalleled.
I wanted less stuff. I felt claustrophobic and overwhelmed by all the items I had accumulated. I began having panic attacks (little anxious Annie over here) and eventually realized they were directly correlated to when I tried to organize. My thought: less items = less anxiety.
Thirdly, I felt like living minimally aligned with my values. I have always been very eco-conscious and I knew having less stuff meant I was consuming less and doing more for the environment.
Over time, I learned there are things I didn’t really need and there are things I don’t want to live without. This journey, through all the highs and the lows, has really allowed me to get to know myself incredibly well.
STEP TWO: START DECLUTTERING
This sounds simpler than it is. How do you begin? What do you do with all your stuff? What room do you start in? JUST START SOMEWHERE. The amount of time you’ve spent thinking about decluttering, you probably could have had all the kitchen cabinets done. So my advice: pick a spot and start.
What to do:
Step 1: Pick a room or section of the house.
Step 2: Set up your piles. Make piles for recycling, trash, donations, to sell, to give away to a specific person and to keep.
Step 3: Label your piles (and stick with them! It’s super important to stay organized as to not get overwhelmed.)
What you’ll need: sticky notes, a sharpie, tape, bins, and bags
What to do: Write on the sticky note where the items inside your bag or bin are going or who they are for and tape it to the outside. For recycling, use paper bags. For trash, use trash bags. For donations, use trash bags or a large bag you also plan on donating. For items to be sold, use storage bins (be practical about this — is it really worth trying to sell your old pants on OfferUp that you may get $5 for?) My suggestion for items you plan on selling would be to have two bins: one for taking to a resell shop and the second for items you’re posting online/will sell at a garage sale. Donate the items the resell shop doesn’t take and the items no one buys after a month or two. For items you plan to give away, use grocery bags. Finally, for items you plan to keep, toss them in a pile off to the side and put away as soon as you’re done with that area.
Do this until you’ve gone through every part of your home. This will probably take more than one day, so don’t be too hard on yourself and take breaks when you need to! With that being said, make sure you’re in the right mental space to do this, because sometimes throwing our stuff out or donating it is emotionally tough.
Helpful tip: no “maybe” piles & do not go back through it!
STEP THREE: GO CHECK OUT SOME HOMES ON WHEELS!
Now that you’ve wrapped your mind around having less stuff and have actively begun the process, check out some homes on wheels! I can’t tell you how helpful it was to actually step foot in a variety of tiny homes.
We went to several local dealerships so we could physically see the space and picture ourselves living in each potential home. This experience was incredibly eye opening because we originally thought we wanted a 22-foot pull-behind (so much so, we did thousands of dollars of upgrades to our truck!), and after a few visits we decided we wanted something more drivable.
Fun Fact! We had a 36-foot motorhome that we lived out of for more than a year before we downsized to the van. When we decided we wanted the van, we visited dealerships again and met up with people from Craigslist.
Head over to my blog post “Why I decided to sell my RV and downsize to a van!” if you’re curious on hearing more about that. (Coming Soon ;))
STEP FOUR: REPEAT STEP 2
Honestly, you’re probably going to repeat Step 2 two, three, or four times (or a hundred times). We keep stuff we think we want/need only to realize later that isn’t the case. I remember I kept my empty 4x6 picture frames (all 15 of them) for years, and not once did I ever put a photo in them. Why did I keep them? Because I had this cute idea for a gallery wall up my staircase. I never actually did it. So when I came across those frames again, my decision was to donate them and, if I wanted to do my gallery wall, I could find some really cool and unique frames I hand selected or had more meaning instead of Amazon Priming black plastic frames.
Some helpful tips:
If I’m not planning on using that item anytime soon, I would get rid of it and when I was actually ready to use it, I would buy it then. It really helped me value my purchases (& save money honestly!).
Turn all your hangers around backwards. In 6 months, the ones that aren’t forward facing, donate!
STEP FIVE: STORAGE UNIT OR NAH?
So, this was a really tough decision for us. When we first decided we would do tiny living, we sold 80% of our belongings (we’re still in the process of getting rid of the rest). That was including our first home we bought together and my business I had for 2+ years. Then boom. I found out I was pregnant.
We decided to forgo tiny living, and repurchased an entire house full of stuff only to decide when she was two months old we actually still wanted that RV. I still cringe thinking about that. If you want to read more about my story with this, head over to my blog post “How I Went From Living in a 1,600 sqft House to a Van.”
This isn’t a decision anyone can make for you. You just have to assess what makes the most sense for your situation. Do you plan on working full time and don’t know when you’re going to stop? Is the furniture something you’re okay with letting go of and rebuying when you settle back down? Do you plan on relocating after? Do you only want only travel part time? Do you really want that extra storage unit bill? Will your friends be okay with keeping a few bins for you for “X” amount of time?
If you decide to forgo the storage unit, repeat step 2 with your furniture!
We have done it a few ways, but this last time we let go of everything except for about 4-5 storage bins. We sold all that damn furniture we bought again that I had to have (from West Elm mind you, so that as a pretty penny down the drain, haha). What it taught me is that material items come and go, and they don’t actually mean anything. They are just stuff.
I don’t say this lightly because I learned it through some pretty tough lessons. I had a house fire, I was robbed, my car was stolen, all my camera gear (+ years worth of photo memories) were stolen, I bought a home, sold everything in it, only to repeat that process again. The 4-5 bins we had left are in my mom’s spare bedroom closet, and they have our keepsakes/some items we just aren’t willing to let go of for now.
STEP SIX: FIGURING OUT INCOME
The most common question/concern when it comes to living on the road is “How the heck do I make money?” You may be thinking to yourself that this should be your first step, and as much as that may make the most logical sense, think again! I believe that the Universe has our back, and if we feel like this is what we’re meant to do, God or whatever you believe in, opens opportunities for us as long as we’re doing the footwork.
You may think that is crazy, but I promise doors will open for you! There are many opportunities where you can make money on the road. What skills do you have? How can you be of service? What do you want to be doing? You can do whatever that thing is you’re saying “I could never do that,” so don’t hold yourself back!
Here are the ways we have made an income for our travels over the past several years:
Saved up enough money with our regular 9-5’s to not work for a year
Found temp jobs in the places we visited
Photography gigs + Instagram + this Blog
My husband got a job in SoCal and we traveled locally for 7 months
Rented our house out
We started a few companies:
Elevation Marketing Co (Social Media Marketing)
Q + C Wilder (Photography business)
PRV Remodeling (Commercial & Residential remodeling company my husband owns — while we were in Columbus, he built it to have people under him where they can run the jobs while he does more of the business side of things on the road)
As far as steady income goes, it’s not the same every month which is sometimes stressful. One month I had about $1,000 in collaborations and then the next month I didn’t have any. For me, it was worth it to have a little bit of financial instability and more freedom to live my life.