What It’s Really Like to Get Rid of Over 75% of Your Things

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Are you feeling like you want to declutter in a big way? Here’s exactly how you will feel when you begin getting rid of a large amount of stuff from your home and your life.

What It's Really Like to Declutter Over 75% of Your Things

What It’s Really Like to Get Rid of Over 75% of Your Things

In the past few weeks, we’ve been so busy preparing to move that I haven’t had much time for new blog posts! Since it’s blizzarding this weekend (yes, in April), I thought that it would be a perfect time to sit and get some writing in.

I’m often asked about downsizing and de-cluttering. I wrote quite a bit about it in my 31 Days to Simpler Living ebook that I published after we’d already lived in an RV fulltime and then moved into a tiny farmhouse. Now I’ve been decluttering and downsizing in a major way again so I thought I’d share a bit more about it and how it really feels to get rid of over 75% of your things.

Since we plan on moving into our RV for an undetermined amount of time (but not less than a year), I knew that a major cleanout was about to happen. We are literally downsizing from about 3000 sq feet (plus outbuildings) to right around 380 sq feet. A bit of a difference isn’t it?!

So what is it really like to get rid of over 75% of your things?

Self Sufficiency Goals for 2014

It’s work.

It’s a lot of hard work. It’s a lot of decisions that you don’t really want to have to make. It’s easier just to keep the stuff and tell yourself you can deal with it later. But if you ever are forced to make a decision (like if you need to move), there’s nothing you can do but go through the steps to clean out, unless you really want to pay for storage on your material items.

Our family’s decision was to buy an enclosed trailer. If it doesn’t fit in the camper or the trailer, it can’t stay and has to be trashed, donated, or sold. And I’m not talking about a 40-foot shipping trailer/container either. For us, that means getting rid of almost all of our furniture and carefully considering each item that goes into a box.

What else is it like to get rid of over 75% of your things?

It’s hard.

And not just because it’s work, but because it’s emotionally draining. You don’t really realize how much you care about your items until they walk out the door in someone else’s hands. Some pieces are easy to get rid of, some are not. My rule has been, if I can buy it again someday, I can sell it now. If I can’t ever buy it again, I need to consider if I want to store it for 1+ years, if it’s not worth that, it needs to go.

The last time we moved into an RV, I took several months to carefully pare down our things (and we had less then!) to get everything to a manageable amount. This time I was really crunched for time and have only had less than 2 months to fully clean out.

But what is it really like to get rid of over 75% of your things?


It’s freeing.

It really, truly is freeing. Once you realize you may have an attachment to some of the material things in your home and you are able to let them go, there is a weight lifted off your shoulders. You are no longer burdened by the weight of so much “stuff” and you feel a release of being “owned” by your possessions.

I will admit that the feeling is rather addicting. Once you get to that point, there’s no telling how much stuff you will want to get rid of. It took me about a month of cleaning out to get here. Not that it didn’t feel good to declutter in the beginning but now that I’ve let go of so much, I can really see how little we need and the rest of the stuff is just flying out the door. I want to live life, I don’t want to feel owned by my possessions.

I don’t believe that you need to downsize to a smaller home to be able to downsize and declutter your possessions. It does help to give you that sense of urgency, but it’s not always necessary. Anyone that no longer wants to feel the burden (or honestly, just doesn’t want to have to do as much cleaning!) can work on downsizing the number of possessions you have and cleaning out the clutter, both literally and figuratively, in your life right now.

Are you feeling the need to clean out this spring or are you planning on downsizing in a major way anytime soon? I’d love to hear your comments!


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  1. We have been downsizing/decluttering for the past 3 years since we moved into a much smaller home. I have been doing it slowly and putting a lot of thought into possessions I want to keep and what I can let go. It really is amazing how much can accumulate over a period of time!

    1. I’ve been cleaning out for what seems like years and have made some progress but it hasn’t been as fast as I would like. If I don’t have a time that it has to be done by I continue to put it off. Thank you for sharing your experience it really is encouraging.

  2. You make some good points about how to decide what to keep. I”m building up to a large decluttering, though I have no urgency factor. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. Also, your photographs are breathtaking.

  3. I purged about 40% of our belongings over the weekend. We, too, were stuck in the house over the weekend by that same blizzard you had.
    I still have a ways to go, but it feels good to be lighter, and have more space in my place!

  4. I love this! We are both motivated to get rid of so much right now. We just did our floors, and had to move everything out of the living room. When we put the furniture back, without any of the clutter and other stuff, it was amazing! We couldn’t believe how good it looked. We want to make it look like that all the time. I know it will take some hard work, and I’d like to get it done relatively quickly. Thanks for the post!

  5. We went through this process, last Summer. We had gone through a very busy period for four years before the clear-out time. Things had accumulated during that time. We took four months off from church attendance and other social outings, to clear out the old stuff rapidly.
    We were not moving. Our home is 1060 sq. feet with five adults. We feel we have plenty of space.

    I even have space for a new hobby… sewing. I am done buying fabric for a long time. I got a little carried away after so many years of taking care of others. . . Oh well, I deserve it!!

  6. I love your way of thinking! I have just received a set of china dishes that belonged to my grandmother. I was going to put the entire box into a closet to “keep them safe”. After reading this article, I have decided to USE them! I will carefully hand wash them and think of my grandmother every time I use them!

    1. I love this! Just try to remember to be prepared to let go of the inevitable broken piece. I hope you can enjoy them without guilt.

    2. Mara- I received my Grandmother’s extensive collection of Limoges; she bought all of it herself. For MANY years, it was in storage, but as soon as I had the opportunity in our new house, I pulled it out. It now lives in a built-in next to our dining room table, and I use it every single chance I can. It’s a gift, and the best way to honor it is to use it as much as possible.

  7. Yes! We have hopes of moving and I would prefer to downsize now instead of waiting. I agree, cleaning up and clearing out is a wonderful feeling

  8. We went through that about 6 years ago. Now in our mid 60’s downsized from a 1800 sq. ft. house with a double car garage to a 980 sq.ft. house with 8X12 shed but no garage. Bottom line is it’s just stuff and you can’t take it with you, no one ever has. If you think about it it never belonged to us anyway. We are only the caretaker of it before we pass on and leave it for the next generation to deal with. Nothing on this earth lasts forever not even the rocks for over time even the rocks are ground into sand/dirt. Your memories are locked in your mind not in objects.

    1. Love the way you phrased that – that we’re caretakers of it. It’s kind of ironic when you also think about how much stuff we somehow collect that we DON’T actually even care about or care for – like closets stuffed to the gills with clothes that we don’t bother repairing when they get a little shabby, or scuffed shoes we don’t bother cleaning, or drawers that are annoyance because they squeak when all it takes is a little tlc and some beeswax. Becoming a minimalist has certainly made me change my attitude towards my stuff and I definitely take much better care of the stuff I still have because I love it and I don’t want it to break down beyond repair. Compared to 2 years ago I’ve got rid of about 80% of my stuff and I can agree with Merissa it really does feel liberating!

    2. Your post made me feel so emotional. I plan to move from a 2 story house with steep stairs and laundry in the basement to my single family rental house. We have so much stuff and it is so hard to get my husband on board with the decluttering. I have organized our garage every year for 15 years and it always return to being a terrible mess that makes me want to cry. There is always a “good reason” that things are not put in there proper place. Wish me luck.

  9. I’m a full time RV’er and we downsized from a four bedroom house to live in approximately 375 square feet. When living small you cannot collect much. If something new comes into the home something old must leave.

    Since we travel we have to be aware of weight….sitting still for any length of time we tend to ‘gain weight’. We’re paring down now as we’ve been parked since October.

    Getting rid of stuff is tiresome but necessary in all stages of life

  10. I was living in a 2,100 + sq foot house, but due to my arthritis getting worse, I had to move out & into a barely 800 sq ft 1 bdrm apt. The bdrm is long & has a large walk-in closet, but the kitchen is teeny tiny. I’m a cookbook collector, along with solid copper cookie cutters. I have been getting rid of items, but I have to go at a slow pace. I’m looking for jobs in a warmer state & I don’t want to have to pay a moving company to transport all my belongings several hundred miles. A lot of people want me to go faster on my purge, but I have a lot of my mom’s old things, along with the memories, & I’m taking my time with them. I’ll get there eventually.

  11. I’m in the middle of a three way de-cluttering job….our house here, my late Uncles’ things as I am executor of his estate and my Dad’s house as he is now in long term care and my Mom is gone. Dad has dementia and had to be placed in care. It’s a question of what comes home with me from the house. There are a few things I do want to keep, especially of my Moms. So to make room for those items, things have to go to make room here. Likely 95% of the clothes at the house are either tossed or donated or will be. I kept a few of her t-shirts and sweaters that fit me (and tossed a bunch of mine) and the rest is out. I see several trips to the local landfill in my future and the local thrift store is loving me right now!! It’s quite the juggling act and it’s a slow job but I’m getting there….. There will be a couple of loads going to recycling too. I could really use a burn barrel about now for all the papers I have to destroy. It’s a 40 year collection…. My poor paper shredder!! I will get there. I do a little bit at a time as any more than that is too overwhelming. I’m in town visiting Dad every week and checking the house so I can do a bit every trip.

  12. I admire your resolve. I was “cornered” into moving after 20 years/5 children. Going from my extensive collections (of everything that I like and do, or were meaningful to me somehow), from my large home to one less than half the size, in a different state, before I was emotionally ready (is that even possible??) including a career change, was very, very difficult for me. I ended up giving away most of everything. It was simply the fastest and least painful for me. I still have boxes of things to go through in the garage, as this new home is very small. I just keep my focus on God throughout all of these life changes.

  13. The last time I ‘purged’ was about 15 yrs ago, when we moved to our current home. Kids left/came back and are leaving again. And we are looking at moving ourselves. So it is time to do it all again. It’s amazing how much ‘stuff’ accumulates over time. When the kids moved back in, we had to rent a storage for some of OUR stuff. THAT will be the first stuff to go/be gone through (out of sight/out of mind, altho we have had to make a couple trips to ‘find’ stuff we knew was in there but ended up needing). I can be brutal with the keep/donate/pitch, the DH not so much. So I know I have a lot of work ahead of me. Thankfully, we aren’t looking at the time constraint just yet. But it will arrive sooner than later.

  14. You truly inspire me. I don’t know that I could go that “small”… however, we recently moved into a different home… (*ha! actually, last June…as a matter of fact) and I’m still settling in – with what feels like too much stuff… and you should have seen what all we tossed, donated or sold.

    I’m ready to do it again… pare down some more.

  15. So I fist ran across your blog back when you lived in your rv. We have now lived in our rv for almost 3.5 years and are loving it. It’s tough but the good outweighs the bad for sure. Obviously we had to downsize considerably when moving from our small 2 bedroom house into a 34 foot fifth wheel. Even though we don’t buy as much as we used to when living in a standard home, things accumulate. We find that taking a day or afternoon about every 6 months and go through everything and eliminate unneeded items helps to keep our clutter under control. Can’t wait to hear about your adventures this time around.

  16. I started to declutter 2 years ago when we had to flee a major fire up north in Ft. McMurray, Alberta Canada. At the time when you are told to go and you have been living with the smoke for a couple of days, it was hard to just throw things into a suitcase and go. I was sick with worry that our house was going to burn down and I never got a chance to retrieve all my photo books. Our whole life, marriage, kids, grandkids, just gone. A month later when we made it back home and realized our home was ok it was such a relief! It does make you so aware though of what is really important in your life. So many people lost their homes and we still had ours so it was easy to decide to get rid of a lot of things because people really needed everything they could get! Now I am more emergency prepared, with my photos tucked into a container!! I don’t find it too hard now to let things go!!

  17. When I was laid off and decided to move overseas for an undetermined amount of time, I had to reduce my life to two suitcases. (In order to maintain tax free status, I could not own anything in North America). It was scary at the start but like you, it was liberating to not be tied to stuff, even bills! It makes you think about just how much stuff you really need to survive. The stuff I want needs to mean something to me.

  18. We are glad we bought a starter home thirty years ago, even though we could have bought larger. It is slightly over 1000 sq. feet. We have had to purge more often, over the years. Somehow, we have stayed ahead of it so that we never had to pay for extra storage. I think this is the key, temporarily slowing life down enough to purge and recycle most of it.

    Our first home had 500 sq. feet of living area. We lived in that home for nine years. Moving to 1000 sq. feet still feels like a generous size to us. We have five adults living here. We do have an acre of land and a walk worthy neighborhood. Why not go outside?

    We have lots of cheap plastic tables for projects, sewing, studying, games, etc. I have black vinyl on my computer desk over white table. I have a variety of fun fabric prints under clear vinyl on our study/board game table. Another table near dryer for folding clothes. Years ago, I set up a workshop table for my son to use only after 2pm. He took apart and remodeled old toy trains there. This lead to him fixing neighbor’s lawn mowers etc. in our garage, years later.

    One bathroom house. We have everyone carry in their own personal care kits. These are stored, in plastic containers, under the beds for quick access.

  19. We live in a small 900 sq foot house and it is getting really full! I would love to get rid of a lot of clutter and just keep the things we love. I think it would be best for me to go room by room and make piles of stuff to keep and get rid of.

  20. After living in my 30ft trailer for 8 years I was able to give away everything that didn’t fit. What I started to notice was how packed my closet was and every cabinet. I just gave away 2/3 of my cloths. Now on to the kitchen! I forgot the saying “something comes in then something has to go”.

  21. We have been decluttering for about 3 mths now…. I went threw our house room by room & donated about 35 bags of items. I probably threw out about 10-15 more bags. I have been reading a lot about tiny homes and Less is more type of books. This has given me a new drive getting ready for our tiny home retirement which is still 12-15 years away. But until I changed my look on possessions & feeling the need to always have newer, bigger & better… Retirement was probably not going to happen. Thank you for sharing your stories. I continue to look forward to reading more

  22. A wild fire came and took 100% of our things–save only our faith and our lives. This also happened also to 3000 neighbors. Once you get past the initial shock, it is very freeing.

  23. Hi- i have 2 houses in 2 states, and biz archive in 2 locations for 9 companies for my boss who sold the biz. I am the one left to do it all, no help. I have 1yr and 8 months, have been working on it part time and now is crunch time. I am going to get your ebook

  24. Great post! I agree it is all those things & simpler living is less anxiety about stuff!

    You’re most welcome to do by for a cup of inspiration anytime!

  25. I am an admitted packrat! I love my collections! I have been able to let go of my late mother’s belongings more easily by asking myself if it brings me joy. I find it easier to let go if I take a picture of it; I still have it in my memory and in a picture. Often that’s enough. It will let me save my space for stuff that brings me JOY!

  26. Thank you!! I needed this as I’m going through the exact same process right now. I keep reading this and it’s been encouraging as it’s helping me to let go of so much weight. I have so many memories that are attached to my things. What’s helping me is I’m giving a lot away that’s helping others make memories and it helps me to let go.

  27. We are getting rid of seventy five percent of all of our possessions this summer. This includes childrens clothes and toys. I am amazed by how happy my children are despite this intense cleanout. Their hearts of contentment are teaching me so much. It feels good to know I am not the only one. The only thing we have not gone through are our pictures and family memory things we have 5 totes that a friend is going to hold for us. I have found I take less pictures now and I tend to try to be mentally present in a special moment rather than rushing to capture it on my phone. That is freeing.

    1. That’s a great thought about being more mentally present! I for sure have noticed that since we have less to care for I’m much less stressed about being with the kids and doing things with them.

      1. I am glad to see this article, and a part of me is slightly full of anxiety over it! Lol! I have never been able to say “No” to bringing a deceased relative’s boxed belongings to our home- to go thru later. My MIL passed 20 years ago as we moved into our present home. We tried to clear her home out to sell, as we moved our belongings in. We thought we could go thru her stuff, which was out of a 1400 sf house with garage..and it still sits in my basement, and completely packs my spare bedroom, floor to ceiling! My problem is.. the other half! He has many antique toys and gadgets that he “needs to investigate to see if they are worth money now,” and it is making my house a mess, and my nerves a wreck! She was truly a hoarder, honestly, and I was always a very neat house keeper. Now, I live the life she lived, as in-never allowing anyone over for fear they will see this nightmare. I am very isolated, which makes me so sad. Would appreciate any words of wisdom..and ideas on HOW to get this stuff out of my life! I have lupus and R/A now, and I am having trouble even getting energy to take care of the bare necessities in life let alone “Box City.” I am super upset about this situation. Anyone? Thank u!

        1. It’s hard for me to say, not being in your exact situation but I will offer a few words of advice…my great aunt was similar to your MIL, she saved everything thinking it was worth something. After she passed away, leaving no family but ours, we had to deal with all of her things. My parents had an antique appraiser come in and show them what was actually worth something (much of which he bought himself) and then told us the other 98% was not worth anything but face value. We had a garage sale to finish cleaning it out and we each kept a few things (maybe 5-10 depending on the person) and that was it, everything else was gone. Perhaps, if it’s possible, you could find someone to come in and show your significant other what is truly worth money and what’s not and that might be able to begin the cleanout process. I would also talk to him, if you haven’t already, and directly tell him that this is creating stress on your mind and body and that it’s not healthy for someone with autoimmune issues.

        2. Excellent ideas Merissa! I would also add something that has helped me…. take pictures of and scan things. It really does make it easier to get rid of certain items. I have many momentos of my mother’s and father’s and I have been scanning and taking pictures like crazy and archiving. Then they are never really gone then. The memory is there in a picture. 🙂
          Now I am doing the same with all of my grown children’s school paper items. We homeschooled and needed to keep things for verification in our state when we schooled. Now it’s time to dispose!

        3. I am totally feeling you! My husband seems so sympathetic when I complain about the clutter but he just cannot return things to their proper place. I am really sick of it but I feel alone in this. It feels like the only way to declutter is to throw my things out but he can not part with his things. He just believe in “we will do it tomorrow.” We are really trying to not purchase more stuff but he likes gadgets. I will pray for you and you pray for me. LOL!!!

  28. Thank you for sharing. You are so open and refreshing to read. I will be moving to Georgia with my daughter and her husband in four years or sooner and will need a tiny home just like yours.

    Would love to know where to begin to look. How did you find your home? Did you and your husband put it together yourself or did it come that way?

    Have had to purge myself many times, but my only concern is the canned food that I lovingly canned for whatever may come our way. I may consider just buying a small shed and storing it there next to my tiny home when I land in Georgia.

    Is your tiny home on wheels? or is it stationary?
    thanks again and much love in Christ.
    Vivian M.
    Cincinnati Ohio

    1. Ours is a Montana 5th Wheel RV so it’s on wheels and we are traveling in it currently. If I planned to be stationary, I would like a shed could be easily built for cold storage. We are staying in the RV until we build our small home but we aren’t in any hurry 🙂

  29. Moving to a house that’s half the size of our old one. It really stinks, but I now realize that I can downsize. Thanks!

  30. My husband was allways telling me I had way to many clothes!! So with my approval I let him experiment. He put lot my clothes in totes and stuck them away for 3 months.

    He told me that what he left me was still way to much. I was now getting pissed!!!

    He like calim down so after some research the next morning I realized he left me a lot not convinced though.

    Three months has passed I forgot all about those clothes in the tote. So much easier to get dressed and organized?

    I said ok so what’s next he said finally. He said well I bet that 80 percent of stuff we have only gets used 20 percent of the time and 20 percent of the stuff get used 80 percent.

    So our goal
    Rid of 80 percent
    Has to have a place
    Has add value to our lives

    He told me we could easily get rid of 100 items in our tiny bedroom 10 by 10
    Since January 2019
    Got rid of 257 items.
    Total for year so far 1,124 items. Either donate, recycle, trashed

    I did feel lot of anxiety at first but I feel much more relaxed. Long was to go we plan on taking the whole year to down size.

    Hope you all good luck in your on process.

  31. I began purging my things as i was moving to a 529 square foot apartment. It was hard work but worth it for me. I was surprised to how freeing it is to get rid of things you dont use and how I know my daughter will not be overwhelmed and cursing me when she has to handle my final business when the time comes.