Moving into a tiny house requires a lot of decluttering, but unloading all those possessions can offer big rewards.

“It feels good to get rid of things and lighten your load,” said Denise Caron-Quinn, owner of In Order to Succeed, a New York, NY organizing and moving consulting company. “Many people feel more comfortable living with less.”

Are you thinking of living with less by moving into a tiny house? If so, here are eight tips on how to downsize into a very small space:

Block it out.

If you live in a big house, it can be hard to envision how much you’ll be able to fit into a smaller space. Solve that problem by using masking tape to block out the dimensions of your tiny house in a driveway or parking lot, said Francis Camosse, who blogs at TinyHousehold.com and lives in a 155-square-foot home in Niceville, FL. Then measure your furniture and block it out with tape to make sure it fits.

“It gives you an idea of the flow of the house,” Camosse said.

Take time to decide.

Give yourself plenty of time to work on your downsizing project, said Claudia Pennington, who took five months to sort through the stuff in her 1,500-square-foot home before she moved with her husband and three cats into a 536-square-foot house in Lancaster, PA. The couple, who blog at TwoCupHouse.com, went room by room, looking at each item they owned to see if it was really necessary. One example of something that wasn’t: they got rid of most of the dozens of kitschy coffee mugs they’d collected over the years.

“Having the time available allowed us to think through those decisions,” Pennington said.

Nix stuff that does only one job.

Keep items that do double or triple duty to maximize a small space, recommends Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell, author of “Living Large in Our Little House”. For example, Noel Canifax, who writes about building a tiny house at ATinyHouseAdventure, got rid of her pasta maker even though she loves to cook. Fivecoat-Campbell kept a side table with an attached lamp and magazine rack, as well as a storage ottoman with a removable top.

“Make sure everything has not just one function but multiple functions,” Fivecoat-Campbell said.

Rethink hobbies that create clutter.

When Camosse began downsizing, he took a hard look at his hobbies. He loves to golf, for example, but decided to limit his equipment to one set of clubs, a nice shirt and a pair of pants.

“You don’t need five pairs of khakis and 10 PGA shirts,” Camosse said. He also pared down his art supplies, which he kept around in case he got the urge to paint.

“It happened so rarely that I didn’t need expensive oil paints and 50 different brushes,” he said.

Don’t get stuck in storage limbo.

The more quickly you can make decisions about what to give away, toss or sell, the less likely you’ll be left with stuff sitting in storage indefinitely. For example, Camosse had access to storage space in his brother’s barns, so he delayed some decisions about stuff he later decided he didn’t need. And Fivecoat-Campbell and her husband put a lot of stuff in storage because they originally intended to build a larger house but then decided to stay in their tiny one. They racked up a bill of $5,000 storing and moving stuff that ultimately didn’t fit in their home.

Divide items into categories.

As you’re sorting through your possessions, separate items into three piles, Fivecoat-Campbell recommends. One is stuff you don’t use or like, which should be easy to purge. Two is stuff you use sometimes but not often. Three is stuff you love and use. It’s easy to get hung up on decisions about items in category two, so Fivecoat-Campbell recommends starting by getting rid of anything you haven’t used in the past year.

Get rid of some stuff you love. 

But even some things you love may not fit in your tiny house. For example, Fivecoat-Campbell has a china cabinet that has great sentimental value, and she’s storing it with the hope that she can one day squeeze it in her space. But one family she wrote about in her book decided to take photos of and write stories about heirlooms they loved but had decided to pass on to others.

“They have the photo album and the memories without having to figure out where to put a six-chair dining room set in a 320-square-foot house,” Fivecoat-Campbell said.

Digitize as much as you can.

Do you have filing cabinets crammed with important papers like insurance policies, bank statements and old tax returns? By scanning and saving those items digitally, you can save a lot of space, Caron-Quinn said. Apartment Therapy has advice on what to digitize and what to toss.

Once you move into your small home, you might find you can’t even remember what you used to have. That happened to Pennington, who initially resisted the idea of a tiny house because she and her husband had so much stuff. Now, she can mow the grass in six and a half minutes, and the couple saves about 52 days a year by having fewer chores and less stuff to maintain.

“Life is so much easier,” she said. “We have so much time available. That’s the biggest surprise of all.”

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Allie Johnson
  • Julie@ChooseBetterLife

    Thanks for the inspiration. My husband isn’t interested in the tiny house move, but we have emptied out a few closets and are committed to keeping them empty and thinking long and hard before any new purchases. One in, at least one out. Baby steps!