How to Downsize Your Lifestyle

by Miranda Marquit · 21 comments

Many of us look around and wonder how we ended up with so much stuff. Sometimes I wonder why I spend the money I do on things that don’t get used a whole lot. There is a lot to be said for a little more simplicity, as many people have discovered during the recession. It is possible to spend less money, and still live a full life. And, of course, just because you can afford something doesn’t mean you have to buy it. If you are ready to downsize your lifestyle, you can do so, with a little thoughtful planning.

Examine Your Expenses and Your Priorities

Before you can downsize your lifestyle, you need to understand what you are spending money on, and decide whether there’s a better way to use your money. These are deeply personal issues that require honest evaluation, so take some time to evaluation your situation.

Look at all of your spending. Do you like what you see? Is there any real reason for it other than the fact that you have the means at that moment? It also helps to consider whether you need what you are buying, or even want it. The first step in lifestyle deflation is to cut out unnecessary expenses, and stop buying things and experiences you aren’t really interested in having.

Next, consider your priorities. Decide what is important to you. If having access to all the sports games you enjoy watching is important to you, then it makes sense to buy the necessary TV package. But if you really don’t care to watch TV, having cable is superfluous, especially if you can get your favorite shows online. Decide what you want to spend money on, and cut out the things that aren’t really important to you.

Decluttering Your Life

Another essential step in downsizing your lifestyle is to get rid of the clutter in your life. It might be time to clean out the garage, the attic, and all the little nooks where various items have been hidden for years. If you find you haven’t used something has been sitting in a box for years and you haven’t thought about it, maybe it’s time to get rid of it. You can have a yard sale (and get a little extra cash), donate to charity (and get a tax deduction), or pass your items along to relatives and friends who might need them (and feel good about helping someone else).

Technology can make your life easier in this regard as well. It is often possible to find smaller, streamlined versions of what you have that take up less space. I’m working up the desire to declutter my life by getting an electronic reading device so that I don’t have so many books. This is proving more difficult than I would have thought, due to my attachment to books. But if I want to downsize my lifestyle, it’s something to consider. Of course, the downside to this type of decluttering is that it can mean an outlay of money. So if you are trying to avoid spending as you downsize, technology might not be the way to go.

Making a Plan

Finally, you need to make a plan for your money and for your life if you want to downsize your lifestyle. If your goal is to reduce the amount of food you get eating out, or via take-out, or in expensive packaged form, you will have to engage in meal planning and make time to cook at home. If you want your family to enjoy simpler, frugal activities, you will need to plan ahead to make time and look for discounts. The same is true of budget travel when you go on vacation.

If lifestyle deflation is your aim, you will need to take the proper steps, setting smaller goals that can be achieved in stages. I might not be able to get rid of all of my books at once, but I can buy an e-reader and stop buying new books. My sister-in-law bought slow cooker recipes that she can use to help her with meal planning, allowing her to produce home-cooked meals without a great investment of time and attention, saving money and simplifying meal time.

Choose which aspect of your lifestyle you want to downsize the most, and start there. Then move on to other areas, and repeat the process. Before long, you will have the simpler, less expensive lifestyle you want.

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Ann May 25, 2010 at 7:44 am

I like the idea of decluttering. It frees up space in an already small home, which in turn brings more peace to my home. Books, however, I find hard to let go of. There’s a real comfort in reading a real book, turning the paper pages, and curling up with it in the evening. It’s hard to get a warm feeling with an electronic reader. However, books can be passed along to others when you’re finished, or traded for ones you haven’t read. They can be donated to hospitals, jails, or homebound persons.

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marci357 May 25, 2010 at 7:57 am

The simplifying expenses I’ve got well taken care of.
It’s the time issues and decluttering I’m trying to work on now.

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marci357 May 25, 2010 at 8:03 am

How do you put a 100 -150 year old book on an electronic reading device?

How can you get the old smell, the yellowing pages, the texture of the binding, and the feel, the reverence of something that old. It’s all part of the enjoyment of handling and rereading the book.

No, I cannot let go of my books – it’s asensual experience in itself to touch such things :) It’s a good heartwarming experience that I don’t think you can get from a cold metal/plastic item :)

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Miranda May 25, 2010 at 8:10 am

That’s why getting an e-reader is proving such a challenge for me. Although I know that my husband would love it if there were fewer books to move…

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Ann June 2, 2010 at 7:55 am

When I was a child, I would slip away to the library and spend hours there. It was an old library and smelled of old books and oil cloths, which they used to polish all the wood. It wasn’t air conditioned but the old building remained comfortable even on the hottest summer days. My love affair with books began over 50 years ago and it’s not likely that it will end soon. Other things? The plastic, built-in-obsolescence, buy today and cast away tomorrow items? I can live without them. I’m a very basic person.

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Michelle October 12, 2011 at 12:37 pm

I too love books… but more to the point, I LOVE reading! I bought an ereader because while I love to read, I do not love filling my house with books – I was running out of wall space to put up shelves! What I then did, after I bought the reader was to get rid of the “fluff” in my book collection, really narrowing down the books I cannot possibly live without because of either 1) inability to replace them electronically, or 2) their age – some of my books are nearly 150 years old, or 3) sentimental value such as an inscription or autograph.
By doing this I narrowed my book collection significantly and now am reclaiming my wall space. And now that the library has ebooks, I can check them out and not spend money on those books too.

The knick-knacks are next to go… then old dishes which I never use… then extra furniture which I seem to have been acquiring… now I just need the energy to get them all out of here! :-)

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Lifeisdynamic November 8, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Ahh yes, the sensuality and uplifting feelings of owning, holding, smelling, reading and seeing books in my home!

Above all possessions I most value my books. Most are educational in some form – historical, scientific, social and biographical. A home for me would not be the same without my books, my radio (to keep abreast of what is happening in the world today) and my kettle for making a cuppa.

That said, I am culling some of my university texts (now 6 years post-grad and the information is becoming outdated), while I am preparing to downsize and retire. All those professional and special interest membership magazines I have held for those vital bits of information which may come in handy, are already been re-cylced elsewhere. This information can probably located on the internet these days.

To part with those beautiful books, many still in near pristine condition (speaks for the value I place on them) and some are old leather bound with gold leaf page edges, I cannot so easily part with – yet!

I estimate overtime, I have spent thousands of dollars on books, but they have given so much pleasure and given me the language to converse about events and topics and helped shape who I am as a middle-aged adult, (as has my radio keeping me informed of current affairs and news throughout the day). The money I have spent on the books has come back in the value they have given me and can go on giving me as I re-read and refresh my memory for facts, events, comments and thoughts of the time. Additionally, some books cause me to recall memories (like photographs) of a time when I purchased the book and first read it – such as the times I spent with my husband while we each read quietly together. Priceless!

I shall be downsizing with many of my books, even if they are held in storage while I travel or work away from ‘home’. Eventually, I shall re- settle and books help make a home for me.

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MoneyNing May 25, 2010 at 8:31 am

I think many people who want to downsize their life will benefit from volunteering, because it gives their life (and time) a productive boost.

Many of us buy stuff because we are just bored, but if our life is fulfilled with activities like volunteering, we will naturally have less urges to buy/clutter our life up.

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Julie May 25, 2010 at 9:33 am

Thats a very helpful article on lifestyle. I learned a lot from these article. Thnks for posting. Hopefully you will share some more in future.

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Lauren May 25, 2010 at 10:49 am

Prioritizing is important. Often times, we value the wrong things…

All of this information you provided is great, and really the basis to developing a great budget.

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James May 25, 2010 at 11:26 am

I’m definitely going to bookmark this post. I have been over spending and living beyond my means for too long. I’m a recent college grad and i need to get a handle of things while i’m young.

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Stephan May 25, 2010 at 12:59 pm

this is one of the few posts where i have seen a more rational way of looking at downsizing. most PF sites i check out say get rid of cable. i like that you made a distinction here between poeople who actually get their moneys worth from cable and those that dont. no rule is universal when it comes to PF, everything will work differently for every person.

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Neil May 25, 2010 at 3:05 pm

I think that the point about taking small steps when decluttering is a very good one. I’ve been putting off clearing out my garden shed for ages – maybe now is the time to start.

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Life Compass May 25, 2010 at 8:36 pm

I think everyone should set aside some time, at least once a year, to evaluate their lifestyle. I’m amazed at how things “creep up” when we don’t pay a lot of attention to the things we say yes to.

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James May 26, 2010 at 8:01 am

i have always been really good about getting rid of items i don’t need. sometimes it takes a few weeks or a month to tell myself to just do it, but most of the time i can get rid of items, to allow space for other items.

the good and bad of this is even thought i get rid of something within a few months i am probably going to go out a spend money on something else and the vicious circle continues.

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Cd Phi May 26, 2010 at 12:47 pm

For me, downsizing means de-cluttering my house. Sometimes my neighbors and I will get together and do a street garage sale where we get to get rid of our unused items and we’ll also get to make some money out of it. It’s so easy to let things pile up that after awhile, there just aren’t any uses for it anymore.

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Editor @ Double My Net Worth June 7, 2010 at 5:45 pm

Aye, I am currently in the beginning stages of downsizing my lifestyle in more ways than one. Certain factors have come into play where it may very well be possible that I will be moving out of the country from the USA to the Dominican Republic.

This is a huge change from the American lifestyle to a Dominican lifestyle.

This means if the move happens, nearly 100 percent of every material thing I possess here in the USA will have to be sold before I leave the country. It is far much cheaper to buy what I need there than to have everything shipped to an island in the Caribbean.

As a result, I am slowly transitioning to a mobile lifestyle where all I would need to possess is my laptop and wireless device (iPad, Blackberry) but a plan is needed for a Dominican lifestyle which is a huge difference from the American lifestyle. So that’s one thing I will be working on in the coming months.

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lifeisdynamic March 8, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Editor, you are making me very envious. :-)

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fatakha June 8, 2010 at 6:59 am

In my opinion, in all depend on personal or family economics factors. If all of basic needs have been fulfilled ( primer sectors ), second sectors are ok. But someone or family must have planning in the future ( education, health, insurance and etc ). saving is wiser to face the future life, since we never know what happened next.

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Jean January 3, 2012 at 11:14 pm

I’ve seen my parents be very possessive and never wanting to throw away anything, be it an old phone from 20 years ago or a pile of audio cassettes that are pretty much useless now. I try to be the opposite, by holding on to only things that are of use to me and doing away with all outdated and useless things. Sure, objects of great sentimental value I may hold on to but only to a point.

-Jean

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Gwendolyn July 31, 2014 at 12:48 pm

I am at the point that due to changes and sickness i need to learn how to cut back more . so far i like what I am reading.

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