Updated: September 15, 2020
One financial advice that I always give to someone who’s about to retire soon is to downsize their life. This meant taking a hard look at their current lifestyle and finding the courage to let go of the things that seemed important, but otherwise unnecessary.
Downsizing doesn’t mean going for a minimalist lifestyle. And it isn’t the same as doing the KonMari method of getting rid of stuff that doesn’t spark joy.
Downsizing means removing the things that serve no real purpose in your life, so you can spend more of your time, money, and energy on things that do and with those that truly matter.
How downsizing allows you to live more
During the time when I started to earn more and I felt that my finances were getting better, I also began to accumulate stuff. I simply felt happy that I could now afford the things I only wished to have years ago.
At first, it was branded shirts, then it was CDs and DVDs. Shortly after, books and gadgets followed.
Because I had so much stuff, I had to move to a larger apartment and spent on shelves, closets, and storage organizers. Cleaning and upkeep took away a good amount of my free time as well.
I was oblivious to my materialistically excessive lifestyle because I was earning good money, and could actually afford them. And it was not until I started traveling when I realized how much of my stuff was unnecessary.
I believe the tipping point was after a 2-week vacation abroad, while I was packing up my stuff at the hotel room and getting ready to go home. It was when I looked at my compact luggage and saw how I actually brought only a few items to the trip, and yet never felt that I lacked anything.
I did not bring all my camera lenses and just brought one, but I was happy with all the photos that I was able to take. I only packed 15 shirts, and it felt good to realize that it was the exact number I used and needed, no more and no less.
Because I needed to work within my check-in baggage weight limit, I was forced to be more conscious of what I would bring to the trip. I felt anxious during the first few days, but as I prepared to go home that night, I can’t remember wishing for anything that I left at home.
That was the start of my downsizing journey, and how I was able to earn back the time, money, and energy that I was unnecessarily spending on things that didn’t add anything valuable to my life.
The things I downsized
Here is the list of things that I downsized, or reduced the number that I own. It goes without saying that I kept specific items that I loved or had great sentimental value. However, for the rest, I either donated, sold, or regifted.
1. Memorabilia and keepsakes
This is probably the most type of item that I got rid of. I took photos of them, however, so I can still look back and remember the good memories and stories that are connected to them.
2. Clothes that I haven’t worn for a long time
Except for the occasional outfits, if I haven’t worn it in 6 months, then it’s time to say goodbye.
3. Excess linens, curtain, towels, and bedsheets
These simply take up too much space in my closets. And it felt great to see so much room afterward.
4. CDs, DVDs, cassette, and VHS tapes
Everything is now digital anyway. So, save for the albums and movies that I love, everything else was sold for cash.
Again, I kept those that I love. And got rid of those that I haven’t read, I have no plans of reading again, and have no intention of reading anytime soon.
6. Sports, exercise, and musical equipment
Just like the clothes, if I haven’t used it in the past 6 months, then they’re being decluttered out of my life.
7. Bags and luggage
They’re bulky and easily accumulate dust. If I haven’t used them in a year, then they’re gone, especially the old ones which I was keeping for no sensible reason.
8. Kitchen gadgets and home appliances
I now prefer gadgets that have multiple functions and got rid of redundant appliances. For example, I got rid of my coffee maker because I have a coffee press, which I use more often anyway.
9. Unused furniture
When I started getting rid of my stuff, I was able to do away with a few of my shelves, tables, and cabinets.
10. Decorative knick-knacks and old home decor
I realized that I kept a lot of them because I didn’t ask myself if I could throw them away. If they’re not useful or not beautiful, then they’re gone.
11. Paper, old documents, and magazines
Not only are they a fire hazard, but they’re also better off being recycled.
12. Outdated electronics and tools
It’s the same with old magazines and paper, they’re better off being recycled and not gathering dust in your home.
13. Silverware, crystals, plates, and glasses
I didn’t need 12 sets of tableware when my place could barely fit 8 guests.
14. Beat-up board games and broken toys
Some of them, I haven’t touched for a long time that they’re either broken, ruined, or missing essential parts that rendered them unusable.
Moving on with the new normal
Decluttering and downsizing is just the first step. I had to make sure that I will be able to keep this lifestyle for the long-term.
To help me, I made a list of questions that I’d always ask myself whenever I’m planning to buy something unnecessary:
- How will this bring value in my life? What will be its purpose?
- If I buy this, how often would I use it? Would it be more sensible to rent it from somewhere or just borrow from someone?
- Do I own another item that already serves the same purpose as this one? If so, can I get rid of the old one?
- What’s the upkeep cost of this item? How much time, money and energy do I need to maintain this?
Downsizing my lifestyle was one of the best changes I’ve made because it has allowed me to live with less, but without necessarily compromising my quality of life.
In fact, I’d say that it allowed me to enjoy life better because everything I own is just exactly what I need. And I’ve created space in my life for more things that can bring me joy.