Moving to a tiny house requires a lot of adjustments, but the transition doesn’t need to be stressful. Among the major changes you will undergo if you decide on tiny house living is learning how to fit all your possessions in your new space.
Downsizing is the process of being mindful of your possessions and cutting down on the excess, so you can create more room in your tiny house and keep clutter to a minimum. So what are the best ways to downsize your possessions when preparing for tiny house living? Here are our 12 expert tips:
Tip #1: Digitize all your files
If you’re the sentimental type, the bulk of what occupies most of your storage are files and media. Books, magazines, photo albums, CDs and DVDs, and other personal documents all take up space in your house. Even if they contain your most treasured memories, chances are you only go through them once or twice while taking up some much-needed space in your home. Personal files and similar material are among the easiest things that can be downsized in preparation for tiny house living.
- Books: Allow yourself to keep the books you truly love, then save everything else in eBook or audiobook format.
- Photo albums: Make a habit of uploading your photos onto the cloud. You can even compile your photos into digital scrapbooks for easy safe-keeping.
- CD and video game collection: You can easily copy these from the discs onto your computer. Alternatively, you could also buy digital copies of games and software to eliminate the need for physical discs.
- DVDs and Blu-Rays: With the popularity of streaming platforms, there’s isn’t as much of a need to keep DVDs and Blu-Rays. Even without access to streaming sites, movies are easily accessible online and digital copies can be stored on your computer.
- VHS and other tapes: Consider looking into professional services that can convert your tapes into digital copies so you can keep treasured family and home videos forever.
Steps for Digitizing Personal Documents
- Invest in an external hard drive, thumb drive, or unlimited cloud storage.
- Gather all the documents you wish to organize. Aside from important and official files, also consider old letters, certificates, diplomas, newspaper clippings, and heirloom photographs.
- Save your files as PDFs and JPGs, then label and sort them in different folders so you can easily access them.
Tip #2: Invest in multipurpose furniture
Downsizing isn’t as simple as letting go of your existing furniture and belongings. Think of it as an opportunity to reevaluate the things you already own. During this process, you can get rid of the things you bought years ago in favor of things that will fit better in your new tiny house. And what would fit better in a tiny house than multipurpose furniture?
Multipurpose furniture works especially well for living in a small space since you get maximum utility without sacrificing too much space. Some examples of great multipurpose furniture are:
Tip #3: Fit all kitchen essentials in a hanging rack
Kitchen items tend to take up a lot of space, but do you really cook with all of the things you have? Maybe it’s time to create a “Swiss-Army knife” style kitchen. Take advantage of your tiny house’s wall space by adding hooks, shelves, and a hanging rack. Limit the kitchen implements you’ll be bringing with you by imagining how much of it will actually fit in this space.
You should also get rid of redundant or ornamental kitchenware, such as an entire knife collection or an ice-cream maker. Find multipurpose alternatives for these products instead.
Tip #4: Take on a “declutter challenge”
Decluttering is such a universal experience that the Internet is a great resource for so many helpful ideas and tips. Some of these include challenges that can motivate you to declutter your house in simple steps. Here are some fun ways to do it:
- The 12-12-12 Challenge: By picking out 12 items to throw away, 12 items to donate, and 12 items to return to their proper storage, you can address 36 items at once. You can even convert this into a game to play with your kids: just set a timer and let them go.
- The 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge: This challenge has inspired thousands of people to declutter their homes as part of their spring cleaning. The goal of this challenge is to fill up a bag every day for 40 days. At the end, you can either sell, donate, or throw away the contents of these bags.
- The Four Box Method: Before you start this method, you will need to collect three boxes and a trash can. Label each box with “Put Away”, “Give Away” or “Storage”. The trash can is for what you’ll to dispose of. Focus on going through each piece of clutter in an area of your home and decide which box it goes into. This process is effective because it forces you to make necessary decisions on what is dispensable and what is not.
- The Declutter 365 Mission: This challenge sets easier decluttering goals for every day. Take 15 minutes out of your day to fulfill a declutter task - whether it’s sorting through the papers on your desk or clearing out your kitchen cupboard. It will train you to make regular cleaning a habit, which can come in handy when moving into a small space.
Tip #5: Keep a capsule wardrobe of clothing staples
A capsule wardrobe consists of 20 - 40 pieces of clothing staples that are timeless and flexible. While it may sound intimidating to limit your wardrobe to a handful of items, it will save you closet space and time, since an ideal capsule wardrobe makes it easier to mix and match clothes every day. Capsule wardrobes also make it much easier to pack, as you can ideally fit them into a single bag.
Here are the initial steps you can take for assembling a tidy capsule wardrobe:
1. Remove what you haven’t worn in a year
Identify the pieces in your wardrobe you haven’t worn in a year and remove them from your closet. If you’re unsure, try Oprah Winfrey’s Closet Hanger Experiment. Hang all of your clothes in a reverse direction. Once you’ve worn an item and washed it, return it to your closet and hang it back in the correct direction. After 6 months, you will be able to determine what clothes you can remove without feeling guilty about it.
2. Pick a number
Since a capsule wardrobe should have 20 - 40 pieces, you should pick a number based on what you need. Most people choose around 33 - 37 pieces, but your number depends on you. Are you working with more closet space in your tiny house? Would you need more dressy pieces for work? What about the pieces you bought years ago that you’re still holding on to? When you’re downsizing, decide which pieces to keep by thinking in terms of space and utility over sentimental value.
3. Categorize your pieces
Create categories within your wardrobe. Here are some categories that can organize your closet:
- Tops: T-shirts, blouses, tank tops
- Bottoms: Jeans, shorts, slacks, skirts
- Footwear: Boots, sneakers, flats, heels
- Outerwear: Coats, jackets, hoodies, sweaters
- Loungewear: Yoga pants, sweat shirts
- Gym clothes: Leggings, sleeveless shirts, sports bras
- Accessories: Hats, ties, scarves, jewelry, bags
4. Choose items based on category
You can now choose the pieces you wish to keep based on the categories. Think of the pieces that are practical, sturdy, and wearable. You can also decide how many articles of clothing to keep for each category, which can help you keep track of your total closet inventory. Narrow down the pieces until you reach your capsule number.
Tip #6: Make an inventory checklist
An inventory checklist is a must-have for anyone who is planning to move houses, tiny house or otherwise. Creating an inventory sheet allows you to take stock of what you have so you can spot redundancies.
It’s best to organize your inventory checklist by room. Take note of everything in each room, including the pantry and the linen closet. You would be surprised at how many things you no longer use.
You can also mark how often these things are used. For example, if they are essential seasonal items, you can move them to a storage unit instead. Take your checklist into account when planning the layout of your tiny house, and replace bulky objects with smaller or multipurpose items.
Tip #7: Note what you can replace with smaller things
Your giant flat screen TV and trusty old washing machine may not be the best options to bring into your tiny home, since these will undoubtedly take up a lot of room. Consider downsizing to smaller items - cute mini fridges, TVs, and washing machines are available in the market now.
Tip #8: Eliminate the “multiples” in your house
When in doubt, take some inspiration from the minimalists: if you own multiple versions of the same item, let some of them go. A good place to begin downsizing on multiples would be your kitchen. Part of tiny house living is accepting that you can’t invite a lot of people into your house anymore. With more intimate lunches and dinner parties, ask yourself if you really need all those coffee mugs and dinner sets.
Beware of multiples in furniture and other houseware, since there will no longer be enough space for these things in your new tiny house. Check your inventory list when deciding which items to keep and which to get rid of; your list is bound to reveal multiples and help you make quicker, better decisions.
Tip #9: Consider donating your stuff
While most people believe that selling their extra possessions is a win-win situation, donating your stuff could actually benefit you better in the long run. Unless you’re in desperate need of some extra cash, consider donating your excess items for the following reasons:
- Reselling your items will only cost more time and effort.
Reselling your items online takes a lot of additional effort, since you will have to take photos, post them, meet up with buyers, and so on. Sometimes, you might have to hang on to an item that has no takers. And even if you do find a buyer, the effort is not always worth the financial return. If you have mixed feelings about donating or selling your old items, consider turning them over to your local consignment shop or thrift shop instead.
- Discover the joy of owning less.
Minimalists swear by the philosophy of detachment from material possessions. In donating your unused stuff, you are creating more space for yourself and helping other people in turn. Instead of considering personal gain, why not try embracing personal contribution to the welfare of others. Your stuff may no longer mean as much to you, but you may find joy in giving them to someone else.
- Generosity is your new motivation to purge.
With the previous point in mind, you can even use charity and donation as your motivation to declutter. Instead of thinking about how you’re letting go of your items forever, you can rest easy knowing your belongings are going to people who actually need them. Beneficiaries of charity organizations and homeless shelters will always appreciate your donations, so start flexing those generosity muscles.
Tip #10: Learn to gift experiences over objects
Scientists have proven that it’s better to give an experience over a material object. This is especially true for people you live with, such as your roommate, spouse, or kids. Not only will the experience be more memorable and create better bonds but adopting this mindset will also reduce the clutter you have hanging around at home. So the next time you’re out shopping for gifts, spare yourself the hassle and book a fun activity instead.
Tip #11: Adopt a “one in, one out” policy
A “one in, one out” policy is all about keeping your inventory simple by letting go of an item after you purchase something new. Minimalists swear by this policy since it keeps the “stuff level” in your house low. Here are a few guide-pointers for adopting this concept:
- Similar items should leave every time you buy something new. This means you cannot throw out a pair of socks when you get brand-new shoes. The value and the space taken up won’t be equal.
- Teach yourself to toss something out immediately. Promising to throw it out later means never getting rid of it at all.
- The number of things you throw out should always exceed the number you buy. You'll be faster at getting rid of stuff once you stop the flow of new purchases coming in. It will save you money too.
Tip #12: Set goals and boundaries
There is no single, perfect way to downsize your possessions because it will ultimately be up to you. Give yourself goals, such as cleaning out a room in your house per week, and make sure to hold yourself to these goals.
It’s also important to establish boundaries for yourself. For example, don’t keep an item if it doesn’t meet two qualifications: you love it, and it has a purpose. Or let go of all the replaceable objects and keep only those which have sentimental value. You can even go by Marie Kondo’s rule of thumb: if an item does not spark joy, it’s time to say goodbye to it. By forming these goals and boundaries, it will be much clearer to find a decluttering system that will work best for you.
Above all, make the transition to tiny living easier by looking at downsizing your possessions from a different perspective. Rather than thinking about downsizing as a sacrifice you have to make, think of it as an opportunity to enjoy a fresh start for yourself and for your stuff.
Aside from being able to choose furniture and decor that will better fit your tiny house, you may also be providing a new place for your well-loved possessions. Let go of your possessions and embrace the downsizing process as you move into your new home.
Hey, there! We're Ivan and Manuela from Croatia, and we're crazy about tiny houses. We don't own one (yet).
This website is a result of our passion to share all the knowledge, photos, tips and tricks that we were able to learn while studying everything possible about the tiny house movement.