How to Downsize Your Lifestyle

by Miranda Marquit · 34 comments

how to downsize
Many of us look around and wonder how we ended up with so much stuff. Sometimes I wonder why I spend the money on things that don’t get used much. There is a lot to be said for a little more simplicity, as many people are discovering in this 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.

how to downsizeLook at all of your expenses. Do you like what you see? Is there any real reason for the spending 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. Now that pretty much all competitive sports are on hold, you really get to see what it’s like to not watch any sports. Does life go on fine? Or do you miss it so much your heart aches?

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 haven’t used something and it has been sitting in a box for years, maybe it’s time to get rid of the item. You can plan for a yard sale (and get a little extra cash) when we finally open up, 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’s 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 since I love to read, but it’s something to consider if I want to downsize my lifestyle. 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 it’s finally safe to 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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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Holed up says:

    I agree with Jamie O there. With so much more time on our hands, why aren’t we packing everything we don’t use and just preparing for a huge yard sale in the future?

    I doubt I’ll be able to move to a smaller place but good for Jamie if she can actually save on housing costs in the future. That’s at least one good thing happening for her in this pandemic.

    • David @ says:

      Hopefully we’ll be open by June, when the weather is nice and everybody can cash in on that yard sale.

      Like you said, start packing now!

  • Fahfiti says:

    I see a theme here. Make a plan works for investing, it works for downsizing, and it probably works for other stuff too right?

  • Simplicity is Key says:

    Don’t forget that you can also sell all your stuff online. Believe it or not, people are still willing to buy second hand stuff these days so for those who are looking for money right now, decluttering can be another way to generate income.

    • David @ says:

      You are right. You would think many people are scared to transact these days but I went to ebay and Craigslist just now and the postings are still lit up.

  • Jamie O says:

    With everybody basically stuck at home, now is a great time to declutter since we have so much time on our hands.

    We’ve been packing and organizing everything around the house so we can either throw it away or donate it.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up selling our place after all this is said and done since we won’t need as much space as we thought we needed!

    • David @ says:

      Good point about having a ton of time to declutter. It sure beats watching the news all day on what’s the latest on the coronavirus response.

      And do let us know if you actually end up downsizing! That would be so awesome!

  • DNN says:

    Downsizing is good if you desire to increase your cash flows for the sole purpose of running PPC advertising on your affiliate links. It helps to make life simple by having less to worry about and $ gUaP $ on hand to run ads on Bing and AdWords to multiply that money faster. Can you tell how much I love affiliate marketing? 🙂

  • Jewel says:

    I’ve developed the habit of evaluating a purchase before it happens. I think it started in my late 40s after my parents passed away and my siblings and I were cleaning out their house that was full of stuff. Now if I see something that interests me, I take a look and usually think “I’ve lived without this in my life for x amount of years. I see no reason to purchase it now”. It works for a majority of household things. When I needed clothing for a change in job requirements, I went to the second hand clothing store and in many cases found designer clothing at greatly reduced prices. I wish I could cut the TV subscription but my husband is not ready to. When he finally takes the plunge, we can also get rid of a monthly phone bill that is part of the TV package.

    • David @ says:

      You are asking the right question Jewel. Encourage your husband to try to find alternative ways to watch his favorite shows and you will save even more!

  • Latoya @ Femme Frugality says:

    It’s definitely easy to evaluate those important things and eliminate things that don’t really matter. Like you said, cable isn’t one of those things that is important to me like it is for some folks. It saves us a nice piece of change each year and also cuts down on mindless tv watching.

    • David @ says:

      Good for you. I cut my cable TV subscription a few years ago even though we could clearly afford it. My friends thought I was nuts but I’ve already saved a few thousand dollars at this point and I don’t miss watching TV at all!

  • Gwendolyn says:

    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.

  • Jean says:

    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.


  • fatakha says:

    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.

  • Editor @ Double My Net Worth says:

    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.

  • Cd Phi says:

    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.

  • James says:

    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.

  • Life Compass says:

    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.

  • Neil says:

    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.

  • Stephan says:

    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.

  • James says:

    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.

  • Lauren says:

    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.

  • Julie says:

    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.

  • MoneyNing says:

    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.

  • marci357 says:

    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 🙂

    • Miranda says:

      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…

    • Ann says:

      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.

    • Michelle says:

      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! 🙂

      • Lifeisdynamic says:

        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.

  • marci357 says:

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

  • Ann says:

    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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