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Downsizing the Stuff, Not the Memories

Empty House

One of the questions I hear most about living in an RV is, “Living in a space that small….. where do you put all your STUFF?”

I admit that when I first seriously considered selling my house, the prospect of parting with my accumulation of STUFF was a little paralyzing. That stuff made up my whole life — pictures in frames, hard copy books lovingly arranged by color on the huge wall of bookshelves, three bedrooms worth of walk-in closets that were PACKED with clothes in every size for every season in every color. There were gifts from very special people, and things that I kept around because I had always kept them around, because that’s just…where they went. I was drowning in beloved stuff.

 
Library
I’m not gonna lie…. parting with my books stung like no other. I did keep about seven VIBs (Very Important Books) that earned a spot in our tiny home. Sadly, the ladder wasn’t so lucky.

Downsizing… and I mean really downsizing…. led me to understand something that I otherwise could have never truly understood. Love and memories exist in a completely separate space from physical objects. I can appreciate and cherish the people associated with objects without bringing the objects with me wherever I go — seems simple enough, right? It was actually devastatingly difficult at first. I would recommend not rushing this phase as you get used to the idea. Dip your toe in, and don’t just throw away objects without paying your due respect and properly saying your goodbyes. Digitize your photos — all of them. I have an external hard drive that is packed with documents and photos that I wasn’t ready to part with, but now fit in a brick the size of a notecard. The digital frame in our tiny home, much like my Kindle, has launched us into an efficient 2021.

 
clothing donation
Round 28 of thinning the herd of work clothes.

Becoming a minimalist, should you choose to join me on this spectrum, may really help you grow from one chapter of your life to another. As I was looking in the rear view mirror at a very painful divorce and forward to a hopeful future, I was in need of a catalyst. I couldn’t drag my past along with me into a tiny RV that I would share with another person and a dog. Enter: drastic downsize. Loving respect was paid to the people and objects that had lived with me in that happy home, and then left in the past with a feeling of content closure. I don’t need proof that happiness had lived there in the form of wood, metal, or fabric. My mind’s eye has got that covered.

 
Empty Closet
Aftermath of one guest closet full of pants. Just pants! I couldn’t tell you what one of them looked like.

In the end, I donated over 50 overflowing contractor trash bags of clothes and other household items to Goodwill and my church thrift store. This was not, however, done in one rush of motivated decluttering; I downsized in waves over the course of three months. My closet went from 53 pairs of jeans, (yes- 53 actual pairs of blue jeans, which is separate from the number of colored jeans) down to 16 pairs, and then six, and now I am so happy with my two pairs of jeans. I buy really nice ones… the pair I would never have splurged on in my previous life of excess. When you limit your allotted number of things, you can justify having the exact things you desire. I know for certain that when something makes the cut to belong in my small space — it’s A-List important to me.

MOST IMPORTANTLY… we have a cardinal rule in this tiny house: 1 in, 1 out. This means that if I buy a pair of running shoes I can’t live without…. I donate or toss my existing running shoes. There are no duplicates in my home. Therefore, I know the exact inventory of my space.

 
Murphy Bed
The metal handle you see here on the left side of my murphy bed… that’s my closet. For real.

We have one pair of scissors that goes in the one drawer where office supplies belong. This was mind-blowing to me as a former…. (let’s just get it out there)…. I was a borderline hoarder. I have one hairbrush that goes in the one cabinet where my six hair products belong. This might seem extreme. (My former home had no less than 30 hairbrushes and I was the only female in the building, people.) However, when you allow yourself to get comfortable with the minimal amount…. an amazing thing starts to happen. You have suddenly made space in your life for other things.

In the absence of stuff… you gain something. I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is, but it has the essence of ‘perfectly content’. I know what physical objects are truly invaluable to me, because those are what I choose to carry with me in my tiny home. Everything else…. all the memories and people that surface when I let my mind wander back…. they’re with me always, wherever I roam.

Could you do it? Could you look at your beloved stuff and channel your inner Marie Kondo, bidding each item farewell with gratitude? Here’s a secret…. you totally can. If I can do this…(a former borderline hoarder with a penchant for nostalgia and triple-prints at Shutterfly)….. ANYONE can do this.

Reach out and share your downsizing experience! Is this something you’ve done, or would like to do? I’m here to help!

Happy Travels,

Emily


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