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5 Lessons in Downsizing from a Tiny House Couple

By Laura M. LaVoie

With the tiny house movement on the rise, it seems like more and more people- including couples and young families– are attempting to live smaller and smaller. In order to go smaller, many of us are downsizing with great abandon.

For me and my partner to transition comfortably into our 120 square home we had a lot to get rid of; things that we had accumulated over 17 years together. Here are a few tips I have learned over the last several years as we have made this big change in our lifestyle.

    • Small Steps. Downsizing can be terrifying when you start looking at all of the things you have and the memories that go with them. Sometimes it isn’t even sentimental. You might look at an object and think you could do something with it someday. I learned quickly that if I hadn’t yet I probably wouldn’t. You don’t have to eliminate all of your earthly possessions in one fell swoop. Do it in stages. Pick a weekend and pick a room and start there.

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5 Downsizing Lessons from a Tiny House Couple

I encourage you to read the other four lessons on downsizing below:

  • Donate. There was a lot of stuff we owned that we could have sold, but we were more than ready to make this big move and selling things seemed like a hassle. We could have thrown it away, but that would have been the antithesis of this movement.  We settled on donating a lot of our things to the Good Will. Not only did it help to move large objects out of our home quickly it made us feel like the perfectly good things that we no longer had room for could help someone else.
  • Go digital. Some people tell us they would love to live in a small house but they have too many books.  We like books too, but we realized that we couldn’t hold on to all of them.  Our solution was to transition all of our media – books, music, movies – to digital files. We read on our Kindle readers and we listen to music on our iPods.
  • Holidays. Because we had been planning our transition for several years we started to ask friends and family go easy on gift giving. Since we also work closely with a nonprofit organization if we have a party we will ask that guests make a donation instead of bringing us gifts.
  • Don’t get discouraged. Whether you’re telling yourself you can’t do this or you’re hearing from people around you who just don’t understand why you would want to in the first place, don’t let yourself get discouraged. When you feel a mental block, take a break. If you come across an object that has great personal meaning spend time with it. Write down your feelings. Take a photo. We learned early on that our deadlines were self-imposed so if we felt ourselves getting overwhelmed we would step back for a moment.

Downsizing is a big job. I’ll be perfectly honest. We still have a storage unit full of stuff back in Atlanta that we weren’t ready to deal with. Eventually we will be, especially after we have some distance between ourselves and those things.

For now, living here in this little cabin in the woods, I don’t think about all the stuff I left behind or all the things I don’t have any more. It is truly liberating.


  1. https://zuluorphans.org/Home.html

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Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!
{ 9 comments… add one }
  • sesameB
    June 7, 2012, 2:29 pm

    This was an excellent read for me today. Just excellent.
    “For now, living here in this little cabin in the woods, I don’t think about all the stuff I left behind or all the things I don’t have any more. It is truly liberating.” GREAT. This is such a true statement of living with less.
    Wish you all the best from the woods in rural south central sunny Arkansas — I am living small, too.

  • sesameB
    June 7, 2012, 2:33 pm

    Cases in point: Actress ERIN Moran Living In Trailer Park: ‘Happy Days’ Star Evicted From California Home The Huffington Post – 06/06/2012 –“Happy Days” star Erin Moran may not be singing the theme song to the ’70s sitcom anymore. Moran — who played Joanie Cunningham — is currently living in a trailer park. According to the National Enquirer, Moran was evicted from her California home, forcing her to move into a trailer park in New Salisbury, Indiana.

    And, Huntsville Housing Authority eyes work requirements, time limits for public housing residents
    Published: Thursday, June 07, 2012, 6:20 HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — Many critics have called on the Huntsville Housing Authority to limit how long families can stay in public housing. They may get their wish if the agency becomes a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development “Moving to Work” program. Housing Authority officials are applying to be one of four “Moving to Work” demonstration sites that HUD plans to announce later this year. A copy of the application on the agency’s website says time limits, work or education requirements for able-bodied adults, and rent reforms are among the many sweeping changes under consideration. “At some point, you’ve got to have that conversation with the people you serve — that we want to work with you and get you to a point where you can go out on your own,” Housing Authority Executive Director Michael Lundy told The Times last week. “I think that’s where we’ve fallen short in past years, by not having that conversation.”
    Everyone should think about downsizing at some point in their own life, these articles attest to that fact.

  • sesameB
    June 7, 2012, 2:35 pm

    “Unfortunately, poor and depleted urban neighborhoods are now quite common in American cities, particularly in the regions that suffered most from deindustrialization: the Rust Belt and the Northeast. And while this is true in cities across the United States, it seems especially cruel in New York City, where the most dangerous and isolating neighborhoods lie in the shows of the most safe and prosperous communities on earth. (pg. 180), “But New York City has nearly a million senior citizens—its elderly population alone outnumbers the total population of all but the nine largest U.S. municipalities—along with hundreds of thousands of others who live alone. It is no doubt a wealthy place, yet when the economy is sluggish the city government struggles to fund its public programs, and the cutbacks can be painful.” (pg.182) “We could, for instance, begin thinking about how to redesign our metropolitan areas so that they better meet the needs of the people who live and work in them. As the Yale historian Dolores Hayden has shown, most modern cities and, especially, suburbs were designed for nuclear families in which the mother stayed at home, while the father labored elsewhere; so, too, were most residential units, both apartments and stand-alone homes. These old forms do not suit today’s world, where women work outside the home and millions of people live alone. And from an environmental perspective, they may even be dangerous, because sprawling, sparsely populated urban centers. How might the physical places that we call home be resigned to suit the new metropolitan population, in which most adults are workers and singletons are ubiquitous? Answering these questions is especially……”.(PG. 186) “The main reason that there’s not enough affordable housing for people who live alone is that our metropolitan areas were not built for them, and we’ve failed to redesign cities and suburbs to meet the needs of a singleton in society.”(pg. 207)

  • Liz
    June 9, 2012, 6:09 pm

    I am making (one of?) my last, final ditches. I’m a “singleton” as sesameB posted, (age 53.) I’m down to 96 sq ft (with loft.) I still squeeze in between the furniture, but I havent manipulated the furniture *this week. I’m still in the “stuff,” peeling back those onion layers… I read this today (looking for **something) like a balm for an addiction or hard work. One thing I decided: I would not get a storage unit. I have been downsizing many years and this is my tiniest. I am thankful for an outlet I can share my progress about downsizing, I appreciate your support! I am now in the “tiny.”

    • sesameB
      June 14, 2012, 2:05 pm

      One thing I decided: I would not get a storage unit. Excellent. Excellent. Congrats to you, Liz, in your very own “tiny” journey with the rest of us!!!!

  • Carey
    June 10, 2012, 9:16 am

    Thank you!! I really needed this. My son and I live my mom in a 1200 SF house, the one I grew up in. We are starting to make plans to move out to the country and build either a tiny house or a cob house for me and my son and a tiny house for Mom. (She not sure she wants to share a 120-240 SF with us. LOL) But we are getting ready to go through the clutter and downsize. Just looking at it all is so overwhelming. We were a military family and have beomce pack rats since my father left the service in 1986. There are boxes in the garage I haven’t looked through since I moved back home in 2000!!

    Thanks again for the great article! One small step at a time. I can do this!


  • June 12, 2012, 3:13 am

    Excellent article!
    It’s not easy to get rid of things that aren’t useful in order to live in a smaller home.

    We interviewed a lover of tiny house movement and she told us it took two years to downsize her life. Majority of her books and music go digital as well.

    Thanks again for the read!


  • Denine
    March 3, 2013, 12:27 am

    As a newly single woman who is paying $55.00 a month to store crap (a lot of which I haven’t even seen since I packed it up in June of 2012), I am going to be doing some serious downsizing. I’m looking at starting my own tiny house on my mom’s property in the very near future. A good many of my relatives are looking at me like I’m crazy for wanting to make a home in less than 150 sq. ft. I’m seriously looking forward to it. I can’t wait to get started.

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